Abandon all weakness, ye who enter here.

Isometric Bodyweight Workout

The results of isometric bodyweight workouts can be incredible.

Isometric bodyweight workouts can truly accelerate your overall calisthenics skill to a new level. To me, it’s a no brainer; when you look at the skill of high level gymnasts and calisthenics geniuses, their various powerful movements revolve around powerful, static positions. The hollowback is a powerful, isometric contraction of the rear shoulders, scapula, and thoracic spine; the maltese and planche are strong isometric contractions of the chest, shoulders, arms, and tightening of the whole body. All in all, strong tendon and ligament contractions are connected with incredible locked joint strength to synergistically allow the body to perform incredible things.

I mean, look at the old time strongmen. They would often do heavy support holds with locked joints, and heavy partial lifts in the strong range of movements. Anyone seen today doing a partial lift or a “fake rep” is slaughtered by dudebros online who see zero benefit in performing an exercise that is not full range. Yet, these old time strongmen were often also some of the best hand balancers of their time, largely in part to the heavy supports and partials. Tendon, ligament, and joint strength is all but ignored in the world of strength with the two most prominent exceptions being gymnastics/calisthenics, and martial arts.

When it comes to calisthenics, the upper back is a key that opens many doors of strength for you. Without training anything else but the scapula and the thoracic spine, you’ve already tremendously improved your overall  ability to perform advanced bodyweight exercises. As I said, support holds and partial lifts are phenomenal workouts to accomplish this, but being primarily a trainer with isometric bodyweight exercises, I’ll show one of my favorite isometric exercises to train the upper back.

The thick muscled back of Maxick, developed solely through bodyweight exercises.

Lock your hands together above your head like in the picture of Maxick above and try to pull your hands apart while focusing your grip on not letting that happen. When you pull, don’t try to just pull your hands apart with arm strength; focus on pulling with your scapula. Do this for 7-12 seconds with maximal intensity. After those 7-12 seconds, with your hands still locked above your head, try to make your elbows touch behind your back, which should squeeze your shoulder blades together. While doing this, arch your upper back hard to engage your thoracic spine, and apply that force for another 7-12 seconds. Doing this regularly will show improvement in overall calisthenic skill.