Three people doing forearm planks on yoga mats
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are planks & wall sits the best exercises for lowering blood pressure?

It’s well known that regular exercise can help lower blood pressure. But it seems some types of exercise may do that more efficiently than others.

In good news for fans of core strength workouts, planks and wall sits are among the best way to bring down your blood pressure, according to new research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Until now, the prevailing wisdom has been that cardio sessions are the ultimate blood-pressure-lowering workouts. But it seems exercising without breaking a sweat may in fact give you the edge when it comes to heart health.

Researchers analysed trials of 16,000 people and found that isometric exercises like the plank and wall sits led to significantly greater falls in blood pressure than even aerobic exercise.

What are isometric exercises?

Isometric exercises involve holding the body in one position, contracting particular muscles in order to do so. As well lowering blood pressure so efficiently, they have other benefits – David Lloyd Clubs Level 4 Personal Trainer Jack Claxton already recommends them to his clients.

“I think isometric exercises are good for overall stability and muscular endurance,” says Jack. “I also think they’re a way for a client to train without any impact, so therefore it can help prevent injury.”

What is a wall sit?

Wall sits, also known as wall squats, are when you have your back against – you guessed it – a wall, with your legs bent and thighs parallel to the ground. The idea is to incrementally increase the amount of time you hold the position, building strength and endurance, particularly in your legs and thighs.

How do you do a plank properly?

To do a full plank, also known as a high plank, you hold yourself in a position that’s pretty much the top of a push up: arms underneath your shoulders, back in a straight line, heels reaching back, neck straight. This works your core, shoulder, upper back and leg muscles.

My top tips for doing a plank with good form are to keep your hands apart, have your shoulders over your elbows and more towards your wrist,” says Jack.

“You want to keep your hips slightly lifted to engage your core better and almost push your weight up onto your tiptoes, therefore creating a really tight squeeze in the stomach.”

As with the wall sit, the main point is to increase the amount of time you can hold the position and/or the number of repetitions you can do, all while keeping your form – if your hips are dipping or your neck is crunched, you could be doing more harm than good. Start off at around 10 seconds, take a break, then aim for another two-three 10-second holds.

There are different versions of the plank, ranging from the difficult – side plank – to the beginner-friendly – knee plank.

“I always recommend doing planks on your forearms as well if possible,” says Jack. “Try to focus on pulling your stomach muscles in tight, and keeping your neck and shoulder muscles relaxed and pulled down.”

What other isometric exercises are there?

Planks and wall sits certainly aren’t the only isometric exercises to consider. Glute bridges and squat holds, for example, can also help you build strength – and, it turns out, potentially lower your blood pressure, too!

“Another isometric exercise you could do instead of plank is a v-sit hold,” says Jack.

“This often performed by leaning back, balancing on your coccyx, and lifting your feet off the floor.

“Good for beginners, this isometric hold creates tension through the stomach but also relieves stress on the upper body.”

How do you fit isometric exercises into your routine?

There’s no suggestion you should abandon your running, weightlifting or favourite cardio class in favour of a daily plank session. Researchers found that you’ll still see reductions in blood pressure from those forms of exercise. But it’s worth adding some isometric moves to your exercise toolkit.

The beauty of isometric exercises is that you can do them almost anywhere – in the gym, at home, in the park – and fit them in alongside your existing fitness routine. After all, doing these exercises could have a real impact on your health, without taking up too much of your time.

Check out our guide to the 9 best core exercises, which includes isometric exercises and expert videos that show you how to get into the right positions.

Find a club
Skip to content