Isometric, Concentric, Eccentric awareness in Yoga and Pilates
iAspire Yoga Main Beach plank to side plank isometric fitness

The importance of careful injury recovery

Having been a competitive runner for a couple of years, any exercise had to make me sweat, make my heart beat faster and put me out of breath. If those boxes weren’t ticked I didn’t feel like I’d had a workout. After 2 major leg surgeries for popliteal artery entrapment requiring a lengthy recovery time, what could I do instead ??

I needed a new training regime a new exercise to become passionate about! Well not too long after that I did my yoga and Pilates teacher training and my previous idea of what exercise WAS came tumbling down!!

What is the relevance of this story you may ask, well this shift in mindset to eccentric, concentric and isometric training has shaped a new strong, injury free and flexible body form. I strongly encourage you to be aware of these components in your yoga and Pilates practice.

iAspire Yoga Main Beach plank to side plank isometric fitness

Isometric exercise is also known as static strength training. Examples in Yoga include the plank and poses such as chair and tree poses. Notice that these are all exercises that involve holding a position.

Isometric exercises are great for building muscles, burning fat and stabilizing muscles/joints. That sounds great so how do I incorporate this in my Pilates program? In Mat Pilates holding a weight at a certain position in the range of motion.
Example: Holding a hammer curl statically at about mid-range for a certain amount of time.
Pushing or pulling against an immovable external resistance. For example a wall sit.

iAspire Yoga Main Beach plank to side plank isometric fitness

So let’s look at how each type asks for a different demand on your muscle fibers in Pilates.

“Pilates uses all three types of muscle activation for different purposes – shortening, lengthening or stabilizing a muscle or limb”.

Concentric

Concentric contraction involves shortening a muscle as it performs work. Think of a bicep curl. When you bend your elbow to lift a weight, your biceps muscle shortens as it works to lift the weight.

Isometric

Isometric contraction entails the static hold of a workload, instead of a movement. I often add this hold to work your muscles to full fatigue at the end of an exercise series “Inhale hold exhale release”. Beginning with an isometric hold is likely to fatigue your muscles and deteriorate the quality of movement during the eccentric and concentric phases of your exercises so try and avoid this.

Eccentric

Eccentric contraction requires a muscle to lengthen as it manages a load and it accounts for the long, strong muscles Pilates is known for building.
On the mat, it is mainly resistance to gravity that creates eccentric contractions.

Examples would be the roll down part of the roll up or roll over, where we intentionally control the roll down, lengthening the torso against the pull of gravity. Another example on the mat would be the challenge to the chest and biceps in the slow, controlled downward moving part of the push up.

Having an awareness of these elements in your yoga and Pilates training will lead to a careful focus on body form and this can be taken off the mat too. Yoga and Pilates is not just about the action of exercise but equally important is an attentive mind. Next time you are on the mat reflect on these components it will take your training to a whole new level!


Amy YogaAmy instructs at iAspire Yoga Main Beach, Gold Coast and is passionate about teaching Yoga plus Pilates and connecting with her clients.

Come and meet her on the mat! Book a class at Main Beach Yoga Classes