A regular workout is good for you. Even more so now in the age of social distancing

While strict lock down procedures have been lifted in some areas, many non-essential establishments – gyms and fitness centers among them – are still closed as part of the precautionary measures to lower the number of Covid-19 infections. And there’s no way of knowing when these businesses would be back. Furthermore, everyone is encouraged to practice social distancing and still stay indoors, unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside.

Without a doubt staying indoors is crucial to your safety and the safety of others. But for athletes in particular, this is extra challenging and spurs the need to find ways to workout effectively at home, without their coaches or trainers.

Whether you’re a pro athlete or not, staying fit has never been more important than it is in this “new normal” of keeping everyone – literally – at an arm’s length from you.  Daily exercise, apart from the obvious physical benefits, is proven to reduce anxiety and depression. And in this age of social distancing, you need to do everything you can to be physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.

While exercising every day is easy for some with houses large enough for a fully-equipped gym, many are looking for exercises that they can do within a limited space at home, with minimal – if not fully without – gym equipment. And there is one type that fits the bill: Isometric exercises.

Isometric Exercises: What they are and what you’ll get out of it

Photo of a woman doing a plank exercise

Isometrics are types of exercises that tense up your muscles with little, if not completely without, movement. In other words, you just flex your muscles as hard as you can.

These are exercises where you hold one pose such as a plank or a squat while making sure that the right muscle groups are engaged. You can also push against a wall, using your body weight for resistance to contract the muscles in your arms, shoulders and chest.

Through these contractions, the muscles are engaged and get the workout it needs to build strength.

What you’ll get out of it

Isometric exercises can be as effective in staying fit and building strength as weightlifting or cardio training. Surprisingly, the benefits of isometrics aren’t that well known. Here are some of the things that you’ll get out of doing isometrics:

Convenience – These are exercises that you can do at home, even in small spaces. It doesn’t take as much work as lifting weights or cross training. You can do isometrics with little to no gym equipment, and it won’t take a lot of time to do.

Also, you can do isometrics on your own. No need for a spotter or a trainer to check your form and coach you on what to do. As long as you feel that the right muscle groups are responding by tensing up, you’re doing it right. It’s the perfect social distancing workout.

Optimal muscle activation – One of the great things about isometrics is it helps improve muscle size and strength by fully engaging and activating the muscles. Studies prove that isometrics activate muscles up to 5 times more than any other type of exercise. Over time, this means your muscles use as much of their mass when you’re engaged in physical activities. Your muscles get stronger and can work harder.

Lowers blood pressure – Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases the risk of stroke, and can happen to anyone regardless of age or gender. The typical treatment is taking drugs that lowers blood pressure (beta blockers) and at least an hour of intensive workout every week.

As an alternative approach to extensive workouts, Isometric exercises are recommended to help lower blood pressure. And it’s something that you can do sitting down. Doctors recommend holding a tennis ball in one hand and contracting your hand muscles in short, quick bursts to effectively relax the blood vessels in your hand and arm. Not only does this help with hypertension, it’s a great stress reliever too.

Isometric Exercises You Can Do While Social Distancing

Side view photo of a woman doing a squat

Like we mentioned earlier, isometrics are the ideal social distancing exercises. You get the benefits of a full workout right at your home, without worrying about having full gym equipment or a trainer.

We’ve listed some isometric exercises and three sample variations for every fitness level. We’ve shared videos from fitness pros so you’d know how you can do it right depending on your level, and avoid excessive muscle soreness after your exercise.

The Plank

Probably the most popular type of isometric exercise. It’s an effective way to give your body’s anterior portion the workout it needs. It strengthens your abdominal muscles, quadriceps and shoulders. Oh, and you only need a yoga mat (or a soft blanket or towel) and small space to do it.

High Plank

Fitness Level: Beginner

Body X Plank

Fitness Level: Intermediate

Side Plank with Bottom Leg Raise

Fitness Level: Advanced

The Wall Sit

It may look very easy and simple, but the wall sit will put a lot of pressure on your thigh muscles, legs and glutes. You would feel the burn seconds into the exercise. Cheer up – it’s a great isometric exercise for building endurance and strength.

Basic Wall Sit

Fitness Level: Beginner

Single Leg Wall Sit

Fitness Level: Intermediate

Weighted Wall Sit Hold

Fitness Level: Advanced

The Hollow Body Hold

This isometric exercise stabilizes your core muscles while building strength. It works your abdominals, your arms, back and legs.

Basic Body Hold

Fitness Level: Beginner

Hollow Body Hold with Alternating Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Presses

Fitness Level: Intermediate

Hardcore Hollow Body Mobility Challenge

Fitness Level: Advanced

The Isometric Squat

Next to the plank, the squat is one of the most challenging lower body exercises you can do. Again, no gym equipment needed since you would be using your own body weight for resistance.

Basic Iso Squat

Fitness Level: Beginner

Dumbbell Sumo Squat

Fitness Level: Intermediate

Single Leg T-Squat

Fitness Level: Advanced

Post exercise recovery – social distancing style

Although isometric exercises won’t cause as much soreness as let’s say weightlifting or cross fit, it is still normal to feel a burn in your muscles, especially if you’ve increased the length of time you do each exercise.

Keep in mind that not giving your body time to recover between exercises can lead to overtraining. You’ll have difficulty sleeping, get irritable and may even lower your body’s immune strength – the exact opposite of what you want to achieve through exercising.

So how can you go about post exercise recovery social distancing style?

DIY massages

Studies have shown that post workout massages are effective in preventing the onset of muscle soreness. It’s also a great way to ease anxiety and have many other physical benefits. In fact, massages have become a trendy add-on service in many gyms and fitness centers. But because massages aren’t exactly following the new social distancing norm, going DIY is the next best thing.

Photo of black Hydragun sports recovery tool against a red background

Using a handheld sports recovery tool allows you to get the benefits of a deep tissue massage right at your own home. These devices use percussive force to create vibrations deep into your muscle tissues, which stimulates blood flow and reduces lactic acid buildup that cause you to feel sore. You can use the device on your thighs, upper and lower back, arms and shoulders for up to 15 minutes per area.

Warm bath

If the burning pain from your isometric squat or wall sit still doesn’t go away after resting, soaking in a warm bath is one muscle soreness remedy you’ll enjoy. The warm water helps with blood flow and helps a lot to reduce soreness. Besides, the thought of rewarding yourself with a warm bath will make every exercise routine worth it.

Woman relaxing in bath

Keep water temperature at 30-33 degrees celsius. If you don’t have a bath thermometer handy, test the water with your wrist (not your hand) so you’d know how the water would feel once your whole body is submerged. You can use Epsom salts to “soften” the water and help you relax. Read a book or listen to your favorite tunes, while you’re at it. Don’t have a bathtub? A hot shower would give the same results.

Light Stretching

Sure, you still  have to do at least five minutes of warm up stretching before you start exercising. And you still need to do at least five more minutes of stretching to cool down, just like you would at the gym. We’re talking about doing light stretches the next day, so your muscles won’t feel too sore.

Woman doing stretching exercise

The point of mixing your isometrics with light stretches or moderate walks is to keep a healthy blood flow going through your muscles without putting them through more stress. Listen to what your body is telling you and before you know it, you’ve recovered enough to have another go at these isometric exercises.

Stick to your social distancing exercises

Given the choice we know that you’d rather workout every day in the gym, under the watchful eye of your coach or trainer. After all, what athlete or fitness buff wouldn’t miss the energy and motivation that being inside a gym provides?

Woman doing a body hold exercise on the floor

But in these uncertain times, you need to do everything you can to maintain not just your physical health, but your mental well being too. And since you can’t – at the moment – do that in a gym with fellow athletes and your coach, isometric exercises are the simple, effective and perfect solution for this age of social distancing.

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