2 Workouts That Build Muscle Without Moving

Use gravitational force to your advantage with these two strength-building workouts.

Whether you're performing Pull-Ups, Squats, Planks, Push-Ups or Bicep Curls, you're confronting an invisible force called gravity. Each time you do a bodyweight or free-weight exercise, your muscles and joints resist this antagonist.

The following two intense full-body workouts test your ability to withstand gravity's effect by holding as long as possible in a fixed position. Using a timer (or watch or clock), record the hold time per exercise between each set on a training log and try to extend the duration in successive workouts to achieve a personal best. You can also challenge other teammates to determine who endures longest in the contracted position for various exercises.

RELATED: Control Your Opponents With Isometric Training

Sports Performance Benefits

  • Holding for an extensive duration in a pulling, pushing, Squat or Plank position taxes muscles, promoting size, strength and endurance gains.
  • Holding Single-Leg Squat and Prone or Side Plank positions enhances balance and core strength.
  • Holding or squeezing a bar tightly (as in a Pull-Up or Inverted Row), or holding dumbbells or a barbell in the contracted position for exercises such as Bent-Over Rows and Deadlifts improves hand, forearm and grip strength.


  • Two moderately heavy dumbbells or a barbell (80% RM)
  • Power rack
  • Bench or chair
  • Chin-up bar (or substitute doing Inverted Rows with a barbell atop safety pins in the Power Rack)
  • Dip station (or substitute Reverse Bench or Chair Dips)
  • Water bottle
  • Timer (or watch or clock)
  • Training log (or notebook) and pen for recording hold times per exercise.


  • Do a dynamic upper- and lower-body warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles and Lunges).
  • Finish with cool-down upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
  • Perform workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x1
  • Hold as long as possible in a fixed position (i.e., pulling, pushing, Squat or Plank) for one rep for three sets of each exercise.
  • Between sets, hydrate and record the hold times per exercise. Attempt to increase the hold duration for each exercise in subsequent workouts.
  • Rest: 30 seconds between sets; 60 seconds between exercises (use the rest time to hydrate and record hold times).

Workout 1 (bodyweight exercises)

Wall Squats

With your back against a wall and your arms extended overhead, lower into a parallel Squat position and hold. The exercise simultaneously works upper- and lower-body muscles, fatiguing the arms, shoulders, legs and hips during the static contraction hold position. Your legs will be shaking at the end before yielding to gravity.

RELATED: Build Muscle for Wrestling With 3 Isometric Combo Exercises

Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows

Pull yourself up toward the bar, tense your biceps and squeeze your shoulder blades together while performing an isometric hold by continuously pulling against the immovable bar and holding tightly for a lengthy period. Feel the burn in your biceps and forearms.

Choose either Bar Dips, Reverse Bench Dips or Push-Ups

Lower yourself a few inches with your arms partly bent and hold the position for several seconds until your arms shake.

Prone, Side and Supine Planks (superset)

Advanced version: Perform Elevated Planks with your feet atop a bench or chair. Hold as long as you can during each Plank position while tightening your abdomen, keeping your back straight and preventing your lower back from sagging.

Single-Leg Squats

Squat on one leg for a lengthy time, then immediately switch legs. Excellent for improving balance, strengthening your legs, hips and ankles and engaging your core muscles.

Workout 2 (free weight exercises)

Bulgarian Split Squats

Hold the dumbbells at your sides with your rear foot atop a bench or chair. Bend your knees and lower yourself until the dumbbells nearly touch the floor and hold. Without rest, switch feet atop the bench/chair and repeat.

RELATED: Dumbbell Isometric Chest Press

Bent-Over Rows

Assume an athletic stance, pull the dumbbells or barbell to your waist and squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold.

Bench Presses

Use a spotter if performing the exercise on a conventional bench with a rack, or set the barbell on safety pins in a Power Rack about two inches from the lockout position at the top of the press. Bring a portable bench into the Power Rack. Press the bar and hold.

Upright Rows

Pull the dumbbells or barbell to chest level and hold.

Dumbbell Squat & Press-Out

Grab one dumbbell and hold it close to your chest. Squat and simultaneously press the dumbbell out with your arms extended at chest level and hold. This exercise strengthens multiple lower- and upper-body and core muscles.

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