What Are the Benefits of Using Inversion Exercises?
Inversions give you a whole new perspective. The word inversion refers to the act of being either partially or fully upside down. You can do this either by using an inversion table, which allows you to choose the degree to which you invert, or a bar that hooks to your feet for a complete 180 degree flip. Inversion benches are commonly found in gyms and are similar to regular weight benches, but with one end lowered. Disciplines like yoga have partially or fully inverted poses like Headstand.
There are several benefits to inversion exercises, the most prominent of which is their ability to reverse the strains caused by gravity pulling on your body. When you are upright, whether standing or sitting, gravity is pulling you down. This can cause the joints -- especially in your spine -- to compress, causing pressure and sometimes pain. When you invert, the gravitational pull is reversed, providing relief to the joints and muscles.
The reversal of gravitational pull can also intensify your workout -- for example, with crunches or sit-ups. Traditional versions of each can be challenging, but moving towards a partial or fully upside-down position intensifies them. Not only are you pulling up your body weight, but by inverting, you’re working harder due to the extra gravitational pull. In yoga, the difference between inverted poses is marked. With Downward Dog for example, your heart is only slightly above your head; whereas with Headstand, your head is fully below your heart.
Reverse the Pressure
Besides intensity, the reversal of gravitational pull can help lower the amount of stress and negative impacts exercising -- especially extreme routines -- can take on your body. Since inversion takes pressure off of your joints, inversion exercises allow them to achieve a fuller range of motion. Using an inversion table can increase your strength and ability to perform other exercises. When you're in an inverted position, even if you aren’t exercising, you're still stretching muscles and tendons that allow fresh blood and nutrients into compressed tissues. This gives the muscles and tendons a chance to heal any damage and become stronger. In turn, it can make you a better athlete and can decrease injuries.
While inversion exercises can be useful for many reasons, talk to a doctor before beginning such an intense workout. Inversion causes blood flow to the upper part of your body and head. Inversion can be contraindicated if you have heart or eye problems, high blood pressure, hernias or herniated discs and other injuries or conditions.
- Iowa Health and Physical Readiness Alliance: Decompression & Mobilization Exercises
- Yoga Journal: Everybody Upside-Down
- Energy Center: Benefits of Inversion Therapy
- Yoga Journal: High Blood Pressure and Inversions
- Chronic Back Pain. Health Policy Institute. Published February 13, 2019.
- Wegner I, Widyahening IS, Van tulder MW, et al. Traction for low-back pain with or without sciatica. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(8):CD003010. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003010.pub5
- McMonnies CW. Intraocular pressure and glaucoma: Is physical exercise beneficial or a risk?. J Optom. 2016;9(3):139–147. doi:10.1016/j.optom.2015.12.001
- Kong L, Tian W, Cao P, Wang H, Zhang B, Shen Y. Predictive factors associated with neck pain in patients with cervical disc degeneration: A cross-sectional study focusing on Modic changes. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(43):e8447. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008447
Jeff Herman began his journalism career in 2000. An experienced, award-winning sportswriter, his work has appeared in "The Washington Post," "ESPN the Magazine" and the "Boston Herald," among other publications. Herman has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from West Virginia University.