Eccentric Contraction: The Inner Working of Pilates

Pilates is a great form of workout to build your muscle strength and achieve balance of the body. Developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, a German fitness trainer, Pilates has since become one of the most popular exercise methods around the globe. In its inner workings, Pilates utilises a number of techniques and routines, of which eccentric contraction is very common.

The well being of muscles, both internally and externally, is emphasised greatly in Pilates. This form of exercise not only nurtures the muscles, but also attempts to develop them, as well as to vitalise the damaged muscles in different parts of the body.

To exercise, develop and care for the muscles, a deep understanding of them is utterly essential. Muscle movements are important facets of the body, and these movements can be classified into three major classes. They are: eccentric muscle contraction, concentric muscle contraction and isometric muscle contraction.

All of these contractions have their own characteristics. In eccentric contraction, the muscles increase in length as external force and pressure are put on them. Concentric contraction features concentration of muscles in heaps or bundles as pressure is applied on them. This is a direct contrast to eccentric muscle contraction. And finally, isometric contraction is when muscles are kept in a static state, with the least amount of pressure applied on the body.

In Pilates, eccentric concentration is held with the most significance because it suits the principals of Pilates to the fullest. Concentric contraction of muscles help build muscles in the body in heaps, which is beneficial for people who enjoy heavy workouts including weighted equipment. However, Pilates is more about flexibility of the muscles as well as their development, and eccentric contraction of the muscles provide this opportunity to a great extent.

In Pilates, resistance machines like the Reformer and the Cadillac are used to put added resistance on muscles, which is needed to gain eccentric contractions. In mat-based Pilates, this resistance is achieved by using the user’s own body and gravity. Other hand-held devices like resistance bands and the Pilates magic ball are also used for the same purpose.

So how are all of these devices, as well as regular Pilates routines, able to achieve eccentric contraction? In mat-based Pilates, common exercises of roll up or roll down are perfect examples of this. In these exercises, the body, especially the midsection and the legs, are made to go through a huge amount of pressure for the purpose of exercise. When pressure is put on muscles, for the first few moments, the muscles experience concentric contraction, as the fibers of the muscles are pushed together closely. However, after the initial few moments, the muscles go through a lengthening movement, which is the desired effect of eccentric contraction.

In equipment-based Pilates, contraction is achieved in the final moments of releasing the pressure from the machine. For example, when you are on the Reformer machine, you grab the levers and draw the pressure on your core as well as your neck and shoulder. This is concentric contraction at first, but by the time you release the pressure off your body and the machine, your muscles experience some degree of eccentric contraction, thus increasing in length.

So how does this eccentric contraction help you and your body? As experts say, the best exercises for the body are the ones that provide muscles with eccentric contraction. Pilates can give you long, strong muscles along with flexibility through these eccentric contractions. Also, instead of building inert, bulky muscles, eccentric contraction can provide you with flexible and active muscles throughout the body.

Why not call Happy Physio to see how Pilates can help you improve your body fitness and flexibility, as well as increase your physical strength through the use of eccentric contraction. Call 9272 7359 today!