Isometric exercise is designed to maintain existing muscle and strength without emphasizing muscle building. You can incorporate weights into isometric exercise, but the point is to contract specific muscle groups. You engage them as you work.
You might have practiced yoga at home, a common form of isometric exercise. Yoga poses hold a position without changing the length of your muscle groups. You’re still engaging your muscles, but you’re hyper-focusing on one group. In VR, that is usually your arms, your shoulders, or your legs (either your thighs or your gluts).
Isometric training is effective primarily because anyone can do it. It’s a low-impact exercise regiment, but its criticism is that its kind of boring. Plank position is not the most exciting way to tone up, but what if you could tone your arms and shoulders inside a video game?
A few titles in VR utilize isometric style exercise, some more intense than others. We’ve put together this list that will help gamers find fitness titles that provide an isometric experience that is both enjoyable and excellent for muscle building.
Audica is a rhythm shooter, which sounds odd until you play it. You fire laser beams at incoming targets, some of which can really tank some damage. Mixed with the occasional bayonet slash, you’re an intergalactic rhythm vigilante ready for anything. However, this game degrades your score if you drop your arms when you fire at targets.
Scoring really is the high point of this game, as you’re graded on every aspect of play. From how close you are to the target’s center to how quickly you’re able to hit it. Songs are typically 3 minutes of slashing and shooting, which you might not think is a long time until your biceps are screaming.
Some targets come from above or to your sides, so you’re also staying active and constantly seeking out the next shot. Missed targets mean you lose, so the game is also challenging especially in custom modes.
Audica is a good gauge of where you are right now. It also scales well with your routine and can be a well-loved part of your library thanks to its mod community.
Challenge: Fun, Moderate
That distant screaming you hear? That’s a self-destructing mutant holding two massive bombs who is running toward you. Welcome to Serious Sam, where there are no walls and the ammo only barely matters. This game is a constant onslaught that will remind you of the glory days of Doom and Duke Nukem, with later levels that are lengthy and challenging. Expect hundreds of enemies on screen at once, all charging toward your position. Enemies can also fly, so you’re constantly holding your arms up, moving and shooting.
Serious Sam does have a wave shooter edition, known as the Last Hope. The one you choose comes down to whether you want a full-game experience with walking or an on-rails set-piece shootstravaganza.
Fitness nerds will be glad to know there is both archery and swordplay to keep things interesting, in addition to the slew of guns. Swords and bows are quite strong when used well, so they are viable even at higher levels of play.
The Last Hope also boasts one of Steam’s highest counts for multiplayer on a routine basis.
Challenge: Fun to Intense
Climbey is great fun without getting too far into a story. You’ve got hands, there’s stuff to climb. Go and get the flag! You’ll use a mix of climbing and leaping styles to get to your objectives, and a wealth of custom maps keep the experience feeling fresh.
Climbey is great for first time or inexperienced VR players. It’s got the challenge that hardcore gamers want, with the excitement and game-breaking zaniness that speedrunners and casuals love. You’ll do the monkey bars, squat jumps, and rock walls building muscle as you go.
Check out our recommended custom maps.
Challenge: Moderate to Intense
In Death is an aggressive mob shooter where the objectives change and the onslaught is neverending. You can teleport or dodge to maneuver among groups of monsters swarming for your blood. Upgrades make your weapons stronger and provide various new ways to dispatch your enemies. Explosions, anyone?
The pacing here is great for a higher intensity isometric experience. You’ll keep your arms up and at the ready for incoming attacks. You’ll also clock in some steps, and get a reasonable full-body workout pivoting around and dodging incoming attacks. It’s also a rogue-like so every playthrough feels very different.
Challenge: Fun and Free
The Lab is one of those titles you play with on day one and don’t usually revisit, but it’s got a lot going on that works well for isometric exercise. Many of its mini-games are perfect low-impact exercise tools that would fit well for any casual fitness routine.
Take the Archery game, for example. It’s light on the challenge of archery, but you have to stay ready for attacks from multiple angles. The physics are great, and parts of it just feel very rewarding and tactile. I look forward to visiting these environments in an Index someday.
What are some of your favorite titles for isometric exercise in VR?