Surprise benefits of isometric exercises...
Updated: Nov 24
Surprising health benefits of isometric contractions…
Our classic chair pose is one of my favorite exercises in barre class. It's a great thigh shaking burn and works all the big muscles of the legs and glutes along with the back shoulders and core. One benefit you might not know is that when we hold this pose it's an isometric muscle contraction and isometric contractions when practiced regularly can help with your heart health and help reduce blood pressure over time.
The benefits to our heart health and reducing hypertension were highlighted in an article published in the New York Times recently by Dani Blum and was based on new studies that pointed to the surprising benefits of the simple wall squat (which we call the chair in barre classes).
A team of UK based researchers analyzed 270 previous studies and found that while exercises like running, walking, cycling, strength training and high-intensity interval workouts all helped to reduce blood pressure one of the most effective types of workout (especially for those who already had hypertension) was isometric exercise, which involves contracting a set of muscles without moving. (Planks is another example of an isometric exercise.)
The theory as to why isometric contractions seem to be so effective in combating hypertension is that when you contract your muscles without moving the local blood vessels around them compress and when you release, blood flushes back, causing the vessels to widen or dilate in a way that does not occur for example when your run. Over time high blood pressure results in stiffer arteries restricting their dilation which is where adding in regular isometric contractions can help mitigate vascular stiffness.
Having a good balance of cardio and strength training is ideal for optimal health benefits on all levels but for those that are time poor, adding in some daily isometric exercise can really make a difference. British researcher Dr Jamie J Edwards recommends a 14 minute routine as follows: Hold your wall squat for 2 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of rest, then repeat this 4 times in total. Be mindful not to hold your breath and focus on slow steady diaphragmatic breathing. Alternatively come along to one of our barre classes a few times a week where we combine cardio, strength, flexibility and isometric exercise.
See you at the barre soon - Viv Gallagher