Exercises don’t have to look impressive. In fact, often the less cool it looks, the more effective an exercise is.
That rule certainly applies to the One-Sided Barbell Isometric Hold. It might sound intimidating, but it’s one of the simplest core exercises you can do that actually works.
When I first saw it performed by Matthew Ibrahim, strength coach and massage therapist at Boston Physical Therapy and Wellness (Medford, Massachusetts), I was shocked that I’d never seen it before in over five years at STACK.
It turns out, Ibrahim had a similar reaction when he learned about the exercise from Mike Perry, owner of Skill of Strength (Chelmsford, Massachusetts). Afterwards, he immediately added it to his training.
All you need to do is hold a barbell with a plate loaded on only one side. There’s not much to it, but there’s a lot going on in the move.
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“The simplicity of it is amazing to me. It’s one of those unsexy, boring but legitimately challenging exercises,” says Ibrahim.
The One-Sided Barbell Isometric Hold is based on the principle of creating a stable and rigid core, unlike common ab exercises such as Sit-Ups and Crunches. The uneven load on the barbell naturally pulls you to one side, and you have to tighten your entire core to maintain an upright position.
“The most important thing is we need to train the function of the abdominals and other core muscles is to brace, stabilize and protect the spine,” Ibrahim says, “You are breathing and bracing under stress and really learning how to engage your core muscles not just your six-pack muscles.”
The resulting added core strength will make your heavy lifts easier to perform, protect your spine and make you more powerful in sports skills by eliminating wasted movement in your body.
Although it’s simple to perform, the move is fairly challenging for your core, so it’s important not to jump right into it. Ibrahim recommends mastering the Kettlebell or Dumbbell Suitcase Hold and then Carries before you try it. To simulate holding the barbell, squeeze a tennis ball as tightly as possible in your non-working hand.
How to perform the One-Sided Barbell Isometric Hold
Load a barbell with a plate on one side and position it on a rack at hip height. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and pick it up off the rack. Tighten your core as forcefully as possible for the specified duration before returning the bar to the rack. Complete your sets on one side, then switch the plate to the opposite side of the bar.
Sets/Duration: 3-5×10 seconds each side, resting for 10 seconds between sets
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