How to engage all 650 muscles in one workout
There are plenty of oddball fitness regimes to sink your teeth into, and ironically, essentrics is not one of them. It's a therapeutic and functional fitness programme that lengthens muscles to improve joint mobility, balance and relieve tension. Interested in all of those things, Stephen Heard signed up for his first class of not yoga, not pilates, not ballet and not tai chi.
There are three types of muscle contractions possible with the human body: isotonic, concentric and eccentric. Created by dancer-turned-fitness maestro Miranda Esmonde-White, essentrics focuses on the latter, engaging all 650 muscles in a gentle full-body workout. The technique uses the body's natural movements to simultaneously lengthen and stretch muscles — rather than contract them to generate force. It draws, not wholly, on the fluid movements of tai chi, the core work of pilates, the rebalancing nature of yoga, the pressure-less stretching of physiotherapists, and the strengthening properties of ballet. Think of the motion when putting down a bag of groceries; now repeat several repetitions without the prop using the same kind of muscle contraction. Voilà.
GIVING IT A BASH
One of the basic essentrics postures is compared to flaunting a gold medal on your chest. The position was reiterated several times during the class by our instructor Jeanne Wright, New Zealand's highest level instructor, as a helpful reminder to hold better posture. It was one of several relatable visions that popped up during the class. Other motions were compared to things like pushing walls away to the side, holding and pushing a low hanging roof, and washing a window with one large swoop— all came with the objective of contracting the appropriate muscles. The movements use natural body weight to work muscles, and class members are encouraged to use the amount of contraction they feel most comfortable with. It's fast-moving though spends enough time in each pose to entice a pleasant burning sensation in the muscles — particularly when moving in and out of various lunge and ballet-style pliés. After an upright section of choreography to focus on the arms, legs and balance, the class moved down to the floor for some light core work. A resistance band was available for assistance if required.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT
The founders of essentrics state that the benefits of the technique stretch as far as, "improving posture, flexibility, mobility and range of motion, rebalancing the body, relieving pain and reducing any existing scar tissue in joints and muscles." By incorporating the technique into a regular workout they also suggest that it will help to improve your overall performance in other activities. A 23-minute essentrics workout will burn on average around 75-125 calories.
The possibility of injuring yourself in an essentrics class is highly unlikely. It's a low impact workout with fluid movements that intend to strengthen and stretch the body. Essentrics founders suggest that first-timers and participants with injuries should approach the workout with limited contraction or "loose like a ragdoll".
Upon the conclusion of the class, instructor Jeanne suggested that I may feel some muscle fatigue the days following. Given the low impact nature of the workout this didn't seem entirely plausible. She was right.
For more information visit essentrics.com.
- Sunday Star Times