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Unveiling the Power of Isometric Exercises for Blood Pressure Management

Dr. Craig Smith, MD

4 Min read

High blood pressure, or hypertension, remains a pervasive health concern globally. Traditional management involves medications, lifestyle adjustments, and regular exercise. Recent scientific analyses, including a comprehensive study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, shed light on the efficacy of various exercise modalities in blood pressure management. Among these, isometric exercises stand out, offering unique benefits. This article explores the science behind isometric exercises and their distinct role in controlling blood pressure, with valuable insights from recent research.

Scientific Evidence and the British Journal of Sports Medicine Analysis:

The British Journal of Sports Medicine analysis delves into data from 15,827 participants engaged in 270 clinical trials between 1990 and 2023. This extensive review concludes that aerobic exercise training, dynamic resistance training, combined training, high-intensity interval training, and isometric exercise training all significantly reduce resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Notably, isometric exercise training emerges as the most effective mode among these options.

The Specifics of the Reductions in Resting Blood Pressure:

The study reveals nuanced insights into the reductions in resting blood pressure following different types of exercises:

● 4.49/2.53mmHg after aerobic exercise training (e.g., running or cycling)

● 4.55/3.04mmHg after dynamic resistance or weight training

● 6.04/2.54mmHg after combined training (aerobic and weights)

● 4.08/2.50mmHg after high-intensity interval training

● 8.24/4mmHg after isometric exercise training (such as planks and wall squats)

These reductions, though seemingly modest, can significantly lower an individual's risk of stroke, as indicated by Dr. Jamie O'Driscoll, a study author from Canterbury Christ Church University.

Mechanisms Behind the Effect and the Unique Stress of Isometric Exercises:

Isometric exercises, as described by Dr. O'Driscoll, place a distinct stress on the body compared to aerobic exercise. The muscles experience increased tension when held for two minutes, followed by a sudden rush of blood upon relaxation. This dynamic increases blood flow, a crucial factor in blood pressure management. Dr. O'Driscoll emphasizes the importance of breathing during isometric exercises.

Practical Applications and Recommendations:

For practical application, individuals may consider integrating isometric exercises into their routine. Dr. O'Driscoll suggests a regimen that includes two minutes of wall squats or holding the plank position four times with two minutes of rest in between, three times a week. These simple yet effective exercises can contribute significantly to overall cardiovascular health and blood pressure control.

How to Perform Plank:

Muscles Targeted:

● Core muscles (abdominals and lower back)

● Shoulders

● Arms

● Glutes


Starting Position:

● Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Transition to Forearms:

● Lower your forearms to the floor, keeping your elbows directly beneath your shoulders.

● Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.


● Engage your core muscles to maintain a straight and strong spine.

● Avoid sagging your hips or lifting them too high.

Hold the Position:

● Hold the plank position for the desired duration. Beginners may start with 15-30 seconds and gradually increase over time.


● Breathe steadily and avoid holding your breath.

● If the full plank is challenging, you can start with a modified plank on your knees until you build strength.

How to Perform Wall Squat:

Muscles Targeted:

● Quadriceps

● Hamstrings

● Glutes

● Calves

● Lower back


Starting Position:

● Stand with your back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart.

● Slide down the wall until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, or as close as is comfortable for you.

Alignment: ● Ensure your feet are directly under your knees, and your back is flat against the wall.

Knee Position: ● Your knees should be directly above your ankles, not extending past your toes. Hold the Position:

● Hold the wall squat position for the desired duration. Beginners may start with 15-30 seconds and gradually progress. Breathing:

● Breathe steadily throughout the exercise, avoiding shallow breaths. Modification:

● If the full wall squat is challenging, you can start by bending your knees to a more comfortable angle and gradually increasing the depth as you build strength.

Tips for Both Exercises:

● Consistency is Key: Aim for 2-3 sessions per week, gradually increasing the duration as your strength improves.

● Form Matters: Focus on maintaining proper form throughout the exercise to maximize effectiveness and minimize the risk of injury.

● Listen to Your Body: If you experience pain beyond normal muscle fatigue, stop the exercise and consult a fitness professional or healthcare provider.

Including these isometric exercises in your routine, along with proper breathing and regular cardiovascular activities, can contribute to overall health and potentially aid in blood pressure management.

As with any new exercise routine, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have existing health conditions or concerns.

About the Author

In 1984, Dr. Craig Smith founded Lifesource. As a coach, he's worked with world-class athletes and guided thousands towards successful weight loss. Driven by a desire to elevate his understanding of the human body, he returned to the rigors of medical school in his 50s, achieving his goal of becoming a physician at 56. Now in his 60s, Dr. Smith leads by personal example, continuing to inspire, educate and empower individuals from all walks of life to achieve their health and fitness goals. If you wish to train and diet online with Dr. Smith, hear his message and schedule a 45-minute consultation on the New You page.