Here’s proof that Sacramento gyms are in high demand: the American Fitness Index ranked Sacramento the fifth fittest city in the country in its 2015 annual report. So how exactly are residents staying in shape? Many fitness clubs in Sacramento offer Pilates—a great way to build muscle strength and definition without unnecessary bulk.
Beginning Pilates students often experience muscle soreness the day after a deceptively easy workout. But to understand why five slow, perfectly controlled roll-downs are more productive than a quick set of 50 crunches to a Pilates instructor, it’s important to know the three types of muscle contraction. Use our guide to better understand how Pilates instructors use eccentric exercises to force muscles to work their hardest.
The Three Types of Muscle Contraction
Anatomists identify three types of muscle contraction: concentric, eccentric, and isometric.
Isometric contraction occurs when a muscle resists a force without moving or changing its length.Concentric contraction can be exemplified by a set of rapid crunches. The ab muscles repeatedly shorten during the emphasized upward movement and often don't revert fully to their relaxed state until the set is complete.Eccentric contraction is what happens when the muscles resist a force as they lengthen—as they do in the Pilates version of a crunch, the roll-down.To build any muscle, you need to do some controlled damage to its fibers, prompting the body to generate new muscle cells to make repairs. And eccentric muscle contractions are especially good at doing this. Pilates, like almost any form of exercise, involves all three types of contractions, but in characteristic movements such as the roll-down the emphasis is on the downward movement. Students carefully control their abs and resist their own body weight as they slowly relax back onto the floor, challenging the muscles in their elongated state.
Eccentric exercises force muscles to work harder than they would in a concentric state—which is why five roll-downs are deceptively easy, compared to a set of 50 crunches. Besides trying to prevent addiction to IcyHot, Pilates instructors limit rep quantities because muscles tend to revert into concentric contraction as they tire, which can counteract any gains in flexibility.
In the Sacramento area, there are plenty of Pilates studios where you can test the power of eccentric exercises. Here are just a few:
Body Heat Hot Pilates & Yoga | 6624 Lonetree Blvd., RocklinFigure 8 Women’s Workout Gym | 1900 28th St., SacramentoFormula FITT | 5814 Lonetree Blvd., RocklinThe Dailey Method | 3523 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento