Whether you’re going through rehabilitation or just adding mass to your pecs, you might overlook an uncommon but useful type of chest exercise: isometric chest exercises. In these exercises, you contract your chest muscles and maintain the contraction, as opposed to putting your muscles through constant motion. But adding isometric chest-contraction exercises to your regimen doesn’t require you to learn a whole new set of exercises; you can alter the chest exercises that you are already familiar with to create isometric versions.
The Half Bench Press On a Full Bench
When thinking of a chest exercise, many exercisers find that the bench press comes to mind first. The bench press is a popular exercise because it works the largest muscle in your chest, the sternal muscle. But what many do not know is that the bench press can be isometric. To perform an isometric bench press, perform the bench press as normal, whether using a barbell, dumbbells, level a machine or a Smith machine. When you perform the bench press, stop about halfway through the exercise, while your elbows are bent at a 135-degree angle. Hold this position for 15 seconds. This turns the standard bench press into an isometric exercise. From the hold, return to the starting position.
Changing the Angle
The other large muscle in your chest is the clavicular muscle, which lies directly above your sternal muscle. Working this muscle requires you to put your body at an angle so that you are pressing upward at roughly a 45-degree angle from your torso. Incline bench presses and chest presses put you into this position and can provide opportunities for isometric exercise. Choose your favorite or most familiar incline bench-press exercise, such as the Smith machine incline bench press, the level incline bench press or the dumbbell incline bench press. Perform the exercise as normal, stopping halfway through the movement. Hold the position for 15 seconds. This hold converts the incline bench press into an isometric exercise. After the hold, return to the starting position.
The Black Sheep of Chest Muscles
Few exercises work the serratus anterior, the chest muscles responsible for moving your shoulder blades forward and away from your spine. But one particularly easy exercise proves useful for training the serratus anterior and works well for isometric exercise: the incline shoulder raise. You can perform an incline shoulder raise with a barbell, dumbbells or on the Smith machine. Sitting on an incline bench, press the weight upward, just as you would for an incline bench press. At the end of the movement, push your shoulders up, raising the weights along with them. Hold for 15 seconds. The hold turns the shoulder raise into an isometric exercise. After the hold, return to the starting position.
Your Pecs’ Little Helpers
The pectoralis minor works in tandem with the serratus anterior, moving your shoulder blades forward. Because of its small size, no exercises target it specifically; exercises for the pectoralis minor will necessarily engage other muscles. However, exercise directories, such as ExRx.net, recommend the chest dip to work the pectoralis minor. You can perform a chest dip on dip bars or on a level chest-dip machine, the latter being more suited for beginners. Whichever option you choose, you can turn the chest dip into an isometric exercise by pressing down with your elbows until they are bent at a 135-degree angle. Hold this position for 15 seconds. With the hold, the chest press becomes an isometric exercise. Return to the starting position after the hold.