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August 02, 2023 3 min read

Are isometric exercises in calisthenics key to better health outcomes?

15 isometric exercises you can do in calisthenics for lower blood pressure and better health 

A systematic review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) in July 2023 suggests that static isometric exercises like wall squats, plank holds and calisthenic arm balances may be the best type of exercises for lowering blood pressure.

As high blood pressure is closely linked with a number of health risks, including stroke and heart attack, this is great news for those of us who already enjoy doing calisthenics style bodyweight exercises.


Why does science say isometric exercises are best for lowering blood pressure

In July 2023 the BJSM published a large-scale metanalysis of randomised controlled trials from 1990 to 2023, with the aim of exploring links between exercise modes and resting blood pressure.

The outcome of the review was that whilst various training types improve resting blood pressure, isometric exercises seem to have the best results. This is probably because isometric holds increase muscle tension, restrict circulation, and then causes movement of blood when you release the hold.


How is blood pressure linked to better health and fitness

High blood pressure (hypertension) puts excess strain on blood vessels, the heart and other organs including the brain. High blood pressure has been closely linked to significant health risks, including heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. These are some of the biggest risks to health and mortality, so it’s definitely worth exploring how we can use exercise to reduce our risk.


Best exercises for blood pressure and health 

The good news for us fitness folk is that any activity, plus healthier eating, will have a positive impact on blood pressure. Regular walking and increased NEAT, consistent training, and a diet with lots of fibre will put you in a good position. But if you want to know how to optimise your training time for lower blood pressure, isometric exercises might be the key.


What are examples of isometric exercises

Isometric exercises mean exercises that you hold in a static position, contracting the muscle without moving the joint. Some examples are wall sits, plank holds and side planks, glute bridges, overhead holds, and isometric ring rows. This means that calisthenics and bodyweight functional training is a great way to do more isometric raining in your workouts.


15 isometric exercises you can do with calisthenics 

  1. Isometric pull up hold
  2. Isometric ring row
  3. Isometric dip
  4. Bottom half push up hold
  5. Plank hold
  6. Side plank hold
  7. Front lever
  8. Hanging knee raises
  9. Dead hang
  10. Wall sit
  11. Glute bridge
  12. Static lunge
  13. Tuck hold on parallettes
  14. Handstand against wall
  15. Human flag

You don’t need any equipment to do isometric exercises in calisthenics, but if you want to get a set of wooden gymnastics rings, a pull up rack, or a set of parallettes you will be able to take your isometric work to the next level.


Is calisthenics the best workout for lowering blood pressure

The BJSM systematic review suggests that isometric exercises are better than other forms of exercise for lowering high blood pressure. But we doubt you’ll want to just do isometric holds for the rest of your life. As always, the best approach is a balanced one.

Build your training plan around some resistance or strength training (with some isometric holds built into that), some cardio or extra activity (walking is great), and some stretching or mobility. Exercise as a whole is very good for looking after your heart health and blood pressure, and the best exercise is the one you enjoy so much you’ll keep doing it.


Best calisthenics equipment for isometric exercises

Calisthenics is a great way to learn more about isometric holds and practice them in your own workouts. 

Gravity Fitness is the leading supplier of top-quality, athlete designed calisthenics equipment you can use at home, in the gym, or on the go. Check out our online store for the best calisthenics equipment for isometric exercises.