Static Exercise for Leg Strength

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed.
Static Leg Exercise

Static exercises are also known as isometric exercises. The definition of static is "pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition" and applies to this form of strength training because the targeted muscles do not change length during these fixed-position exercises.

How to Perform Static Exercises

To perform static exercises it is necessary to hold a position for a designated period of time. You can either perform a high number of sets, holding the position for up to 10 seconds per set, or you can perform a low number of sets, holding the position for 30 to 60 seconds, or until you can no longer maintain proper form. This makes for a quick exercise routine even if you take time to rest between sets. To improve strength through static exercises you'll need to do:

  • Perform each exercise two to three times per week
  • Increase the length of time that you hold the contraction every workout

It's important to note that static exercises only strengthen the muscle at a very specific joint angle and don't increase muscular strength over the entire range of motion of a particular muscle group. For this reason, static exercises are particularly helpful for individuals who want to increase the muscular strength and stability of a particular joint. For instance, an individual with a knee injury may want to perform a static leg extension to strengthen the knee joint.

Static Exercise for Leg Strength

As with any exercise program, exercise selection should be based on your individual needs. In most cases, multi-joint isometric exercises like static squats are more appropriate than isolation exercises because you target several muscle groups at once. Static exercises for leg strength include the following options, but keep in mind that you can turn almost any leg exercise into a static exercise.

Static Squats

  1. With your back against a wall, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  2. Position your feet so your calves are parallel to the wall behind you. Knees should be bent to 90 degrees.
  3. Place your hands on your hips or hold your arms out in front of you. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Repeat the exercise two to three times.

Static Calf Raises

  1. Stand on your right leg behind a sturdy chair, using the chair's back for balance.
  2. Rest left foot on the back of your right calf. Contract your right calf and press through the ball of your right foot to lift your heel off the floor.
  3. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds before repeating the exercise on the opposite leg.
  4. Repeat the exercise on each leg two to three times.

Static Leg Extensions

  1. Using a leg extension machine, adjust the settings to appropriately fit your height.
  2. Choose a weight amount from the weight stack.
  3. Sit on the machine and place the front of your shins against the foot pad.
  4. Push against the foot pad with your right foot only, extending your right leg approximately 45 degrees. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Lower the foot pad to the starting position and switch legs.
  6. You can repeat this exercise using multiple joint angles as needed.
  7. Perform two to three exercises using each leg.

Value of Static Exercises

Benefits

  • Maximum muscle contraction at a single joint angle
  • Increased joint strength and joint stabilization
  • Improved balance due to increased joint stabilization
  • A faster workout
  • Beneficial during rehabilitation because the exercises don't place undue stress on the joint

Drawbacks

  • If you're only performing isometric exercises, you could slow down athletic performance because the strength required for full range of motion movements may be reduced. This is not to say that static exercises reduce full range of motion strength, but that failing to perform full range of motion exercises could compromise the strength you already had. For best results combine static exercises with exercises that require full range of motion.
  • Static exercise raises blood pressure more than other forms of exercise, but only during the course of the exercise itself. This is not a long-term response to static exercises.

Setting Up Your Exercise Program

When setting up your exercise program, consider combining static leg strength exercises with traditional exercises that target your muscles throughout their full range of motion. For instance, you could perform two sets of traditional squats before performing a single set of static squats. This way you'll experience the benefits of static strength training without succumbing to the potential drawbacks. Like any other exercise routine, it's important to remember to breathe throughout each exercise. Take slow and steady breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you perform each set. Start your static leg strength program slowly, incorporating one or two exercises into your strength training routine and increasing the time of each set and the number of exercises steadily.

Static Exercise for Leg Strength