FEATURE — Do you know that you can work your muscles without movement? While this doesn’t mean your daily workout will take place while you sit on the couch playing video games, you must admit I’ve got your attention.

Stock image courtesy of St. George Health & Wellness Magazine, St. George News

The muscle-building activity I’m referring to is called isometric exercise. “Iso” means “equal” and “metria” means “measure.” “Isometria” means equality of measure or equal in length.

Isometric exercise is a technique that will engage your muscles without movement. During this type of exercise, you contract a muscle or group of muscles for 10-60 seconds, sometimes using the resistance of a wall, floor or hand.

This type of exercise has many benefits. Let’s discuss a few.

Isometric exercises are safe. They are low-impact and increase your time under tension (TUT). You can feel the exercise working in less time. Although I’m not a fan of the adage “no pain, no gain,” isometric exercises provide benefits without putting unnecessary stress on the joints. 

Isometric exercises increase muscle balance and coordination. Isometric exercises cause the neurotransmitter receptors to “fire” and tell your muscles to engage. Your balance is improved as you become more in control of your body and aware of the forces that equalize your body. 

Isometric exercises lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The International Journal of Cardiology published a study demonstrating that isometric exercise training was effective in lowering systolic pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive individuals.  

Isometric exercises increase bone density. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are silent diseases that cause weak and brittle bones. In the U.S., over 200 million people have osteoporosis, with 80% of them being women.

Data from the CDC for 2017-18 shows that osteoporosis is common. The study revealed that in adults age 50 years and over, 12.6% had osteoporosis of the hip, spine or both. Of the females who took part in the study, the prevalence was 19.6% as compared with 4.4% of males.

Isometric exercises reduce arthritis pain. During isometric exercise, your joints remain still, thus maintaining strength and minimizing fatigue. This is important because arthritis can be painful when a muscle moves the joint through the full range of motion, causing irritation. 

Stock image courtesy of St. George Health & Wellness Magazine, St. George News

The following are a few basic isometric exercises: 

Wall sit

Stand against the wall, walk your feet away from the wall, and bend your knees as you slide your back down the wall. Make sure your knees are directly over your ankles or laces. You can progress this by going lower in the position and building up to a 90-degree angle in your knees and hip. Listen to your body, and start out slowly (10 seconds). Increase as you get stronger.

Plank from knees or toes 

This can be done from the floor or on a wall. Position your elbows in line with your shoulders. Keep your core tight and create a “plank” or straight line with your body. Allow your head to be in neutral alignment on your spine. Watch your lower back so that it doesn’t arch. Hold for 10 seconds and increase as you get stronger. 

If you would like a customized exercise prescription to help you live the healthiest life possible, our team at Intermountain Health in the LiVe Well Center can help. Call 435-251-3793 to schedule an appointment, or stop by for a tour.

Written by Tiffany K. Gust. MS, NBC-HWC. 

This article was originally published in the January/February 2024 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.

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