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Implementing Isometrics: Pushing vs. Holding

Last week’s blog talked about all things isometrics, and it is a super simple concept: Turn your muscles on to hold a certain static position for an allotted amount of time. Simple. But all isos aren’t the same, and there are ways to play around with them depending on your goals. 


Like there are different modes of muscle contraction (dynamic vs. static), there are two different modes within the static, or isometric, muscle contraction type. These two modes are: HOLD or PUSH (they go by a couple other names as well, which you’ll find below).


Let’s dive deeper into these concepts. 



Pushing (Overcoming) vs. Holding (Yielding) Isometrics

As if having two different types of isometric contractions wasn’t confusing enough, each type also has 2-3 different names depending on the context in which they are used. The terms yielding and overcoming are used more in the sports world, while PIMA (pushing isometric muscle action) and HIMA (holding isometric muscle action) are used more in the research world. 


For the sake of this article, we are going to stick with the terms pushing and holding isometrics. 


The cool thing about having different types of isometrcs is that these mimic the dynamic contraction types (eccentric and concentric), and can be used accordingly dependent on goals. Quick reminder: 


  • Eccentrics → This action tends to have a deceleration component that is important for catching a snatch or slowing down in a sprint. Holding isometrics are associated with this muscle action. 

  • Concentrics → This action tends to have an acceleratory component to them, requiring us to overcome some sort of external resistance. Concentrics range from standing up that heavy back squat to pulling yourself up to that next rock as a climber. Pushing isometrics are associated with this muscle action. 


What is the Difference? 

The difference between the two is summed up really nicely here: 

 “In isometric muscle function, there are subjectively two different modes of performance: one can either hold isometrically – thus resist an impacting force – or push isometrically – therefore work against a stable resistance” (Schaefer et al. 2017) 


Holding is more about resisting forces placed upon you (hence the name yielding), trying not to “let them win.” Holding are more positional ie. can you resist the force being exerted on you? Pushing are more about force output (hence the name overcoming)- how much force can you exert on an immovable object? 


Oranchuk et al. 2019 outlines a few main points on pushing vs. holding isometrics: 

  • Pushing: exerting force against an immovable object. An example of this is an isometric mid thigh pull (IMTP). 

  • Exert force on fixed object 

  • Pull or push against immovable object  (IMTP or push into barbell)

  • Aka overcoming PIMA

  • Transfer to concentric strength


  • Holding: maintaining a joint position while resisting an external force. An example of this would be an isometric weighted lunge hold in which you are trying to resist the force of the dumbbells pulling you to the floor. A plank is another example of a holding isometric. 

  • Exert force against a specific load, resisting movement to it’s load

  • Aka yielding or holding HIMA

  • Transfer to eccentric strength


As seen through this quick breakdown, isometrics can be as simple or as intricate as you want them to be. Interested in working with a PT who will help you find a method that aligns best with your goals? Reach out to frontdesk@made2movept.com today to set up an appointment with a PT at any of our 4 locations!

2 Comments


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han gu
a day ago

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