The Eccentric Contraction – the Muscle Action that gave Essentrics® its name!
Essentrics® offers a unique muscle-strengthening method that focuses on a specific muscle action called an eccentric contraction. These contractions, known for their ability to lengthen and strengthen the body, result in sculpted, long and lean muscles while enhancing overall strength.
Understanding Eccentric & Concentric Contractions
Muscle contractions are simply how much a muscle changes in length while generating force. There are 2 main types – isometric (does not change in length) and isotonic (does change in length). Within isotonic contractions, there are 2 types of muscle actions: eccentric & concentric.
To better understand the difference between these 2 types of actions, let’s begin by imagining lifting a heavy bag and bringing this heavy bag towards you. This action creates a concentric contraction in your bicep (like the classic bicep curl!). Reversing this movement – placing this heavy bag back down onto the floor – creates an eccentric contraction in those same bicep muscles.
By contracting our muscles while they elongate — an eccentric contraction — we ensure a controlled descent of the heavy bag. This eccentric contraction acts as our body’s natural braking system — like how the brakes of a car help us control our speed while driving.
This example is easy to visualize because the heavy bag acts as an external weight. Essentrics® does not use external weights, so we need to use the power of our brain to ensure we are engaging the correct muscles.
Here are 3 ways the eccentric contraction is helping build strength in your Essentrics® workouts:
1- Lengthening muscles by pulling up & out of your joints: Due to the force of gravity, our body’s natural inclination is to slowly shrink over time. But by pulling up and out in your workouts, the muscles strengthen in lengthened positions (that eccentric contraction!)— helping to actively fight against the effects of gravity on our joints. Bonus: a reduced risk of osteoarthritis pain due to decompressed joints.
2- Work to the end of your stretch: During your workouts, instructors may cue you to reach further. This technique actively lengthens your muscles to their fullest potential. In concentric contractions, a muscle can shorten up to 30% of its length. But in eccentric contractions, a muscle can extend up to 70% of its length! By working to the end of your stretch, you increase your muscle’s potential for power and strengthen it more effectively.
3- Increase resistance via imagery: You will often hear Essentrics® instructors cue to “push a heavy piano” or “lift a cement ball overhead” — imagery that helps you create resistance automatically to help strengthen and tone your muscles. One study found that when people visualized exercising their muscles, they had increased their strength by 35% compared to the group that did not visualize. Now, combine that result with the group who physically did the exercises that were visualized (increasing their strength by 53%), you have the potential to strengthen your muscles even more effectively by utilizing imaginary resistance during your Essentrics® workouts than by just doing the movements alone!
Eccentric contractions play a pivotal role in the effectiveness of Essentrics® workouts, allowing for the development of long, lean muscles and improved overall strength. By incorporating techniques like lengthening muscles, working to the end of your stretch, and increasing resistance through imagery, you will enjoy a stronger, healthier, and more vibrant body.
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