My son is only 14 months old, but he does the world’s best impression of The Incredible Hulk. He clasps his hands at waist level, presses them together hard, grits his teeth, strains his neck, and even gives the signature growl, “Aaaarrrrgh!” Our friends, family, and doctors are convinced that he may be the strongest baby on the planet. Thank goodness he doesn’t turn green like the Hulk --- I’m so proud!
The little guy is on to something: Isometric strength training. Isometric muscle contractions occur when there’s no shortening or lengthening of the muscle group -- just a static pressure held for a few seconds at a time. Isometrics can’t take the place of traditional full-range resistance training, but they can increase strength quickly, simply, and quietly (if you omit the growling). This makes isometrics ideal for a naptime workout. Here are a few exercises to try (after clearance from your health care provider, of course):
Iso Chair-Flye (for legs, chest, and shoulders). Press your back to a sturdy wall, walking your feet out from the baseboard about the length of one of your leg. (Make sure you won’t slip -- wear shoes!) Bend your knees no more than 90 degrees, until you feel your thighs beginning to work. Continue pressing your back flat to the wall as you sit in this chair position. Next, bring your forearms and palms together in front of your face, fingertips pointing up. Hold for 15 seconds, then slowly push through your heels to stand up and release your arms.
Iso Reverse Flye (for legs, back, hips, shoulders, abdominals). Balance carefully on your left leg, reaching your right leg behind you; both hips should face forward. Lift your chest high and clasp your fingertips in front of your breastbone, forearms parallel to the floor, right palm facing your chest and left palm facing out. Keep your fingers locked but pull the elbows apart by squeezing your shoulder blades behind you. At the same time, keep your right leg lifted by squeezing the glutes. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side -- balance on the right leg, lift the left leg, and reverse the hand grip.
Countertop Iso (for biceps, triceps, and abdominals). Standing in front of a countertop, press both palms evenly on the counter. The fingertips should point straight ahead and the elbows should lock in tightly to the ribs. Concentrate on keeping your shoulders down and back, away from the ears. Push the counter down and away to work the triceps; activate the abs with a slight pelvic tilt. To reverse and work the biceps, make fists with both hands and place the knuckles under the counter ledge. Keep the wrists straight and strong as you pull upward on the ledge, as if to lift it, and maintain the pelvic tilt to work the abs. Hold each grip at least 10 seconds per repetition.