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Isometric exercises are one of the best ways to build serious strength (without moving a muscle)

In a world where HIIT workouts, dynamic pilates and Peloton bikes are the trending ways to workout, isometric exercises might not be the obvious choice when planning a fitness routine.

Whether you're exercising at home or in the gym, most workouts involve a hell of a lot of dynamic movement (hello treadmill, my old friend). But we have excellent news: sometimes, the best thing for your muscles is as little movement as possible.

Slightly more productive than lying on the sofa watching Netflix, isometric exercises involve holding a static position, without any contraction or extension of the muscle, in order to maintain tension.

Isometric exercises can be beneficial for blood pressure

Muscle strength results aside, isometric exercises have been found to have extra health benefits – according to a recent study.

Researchers at Canterbury Christ Church and Leicester universities found that isometric exercises – such as planks or wall sits – can be really effective at reducing blood pressure. In fact, the analysis found that that ‘hold still’ positions are up to twice as beneficial when compared with NHS-recommended aerobic activity – which still has its own major health benefits, of course.

According to The Guardian, research paper author Jamie O’Driscoll said that the static muscle contraction involved in isometric exercises could help to squeeze the vessels that supply blood to the working muscles – reducing the flow of blood to the muscle during the exercise and therefore oxygen supply to the muscle.

When the muscle relaxes afterwards, it causes a large flow of blood through the vessels, which is likely to be the key to driving better blood flow regulation.

Why try isometric exercises?

Isometric exercises are predominantly used in strength training, as they're incredibly effective at strengthening specific areas of the body and enhancing performance. They're also great if you're suffering an injury, as they don't add stress to your joints. And, they're brilliant at stretching you out, if your desk job requires scrunching over a laptop most of the day.

"I love including isometric exercises in my workouts because, from holding a seemingly innocuous position, you can really get the muscles working hard and shaking," explains personal trainer Tom House. “They provide a good contrast to the regular isotonic exercises in which you are contracting and lengthening your muscles repeatedly, thus you can make something feel ten times harder quite simply through holding the tension in the muscles for longer than they are accustomed to.”

Top five isometric exercises to add in to your routine

1. Wall sits

Aim for 3 rounds for the perfect lunch break workout…

Squat with your back against a wall, knees at 90 degrees, thighs parallel with the ground.

Hold for 30 seconds.

If you like, add in alternating heel raises for a further 30 seconds, whilst keeping the hips still. The quads are working isometrically, the calves isotonically. Yowch. You can also do these without the wall.

2. Planks

Planks are excellent for core strength, especially if you want to improve posture.

Place forearms on the floor, elbows below shoulders and arms parallel to your body, shoulder-width apart.

Keep your head up and eyes forward, remembering to breathe.

Hold for 30 seconds.

3. Reverse planks

Also great for your core, reverse planks get the tricep firing too, as well as the rest of the posterior chain – lower back, glutes, hamstrings.

Sit on the floor, legs out in front of you.

With your hands on the floor, fingers facing forward, lift your body up until it forms a straight line from head to toe.

Keep your arms and legs straight and your core engaged, without letting your hips drop.

If it's too tricky, go down and support yourself on your forearms, rather than with your arms extended.

Hold for 30 seconds.

4. Glute bridge holds

Lie face-up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.

Keep your arms at your side, palms down.

Lift your hips off the ground, so you form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

Squeeze your glutes and don't let your hips drop.

Hold for 30 seconds.

5. Low press-up holds

Get in a good push-up position that feels comfortable.

Lower your chest to a few inches off the floor.

Keep your core engaged and don't let your hips sag.

Hold for 10 seconds.

You can then try transitioning straight into 10 regular push-ups for an added workout.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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