So you’ve tried cardio, weight training, plyometrics, martial arts, sports, and more – but you’re still looking for a new challenge or untapped method for enhancing your physique. The answer is actually simpler than you think. It’s not about doing more reps or heavier weight or pushing harder... it is about doing less and finding the power in stillness.
If you’ve spent any time doing yoga or Pilates, you already have an inkling of what we’re talking about. Exercises like plank position, downward dog, or any other pose where muscles must maintain a specific angle or balance engage muscles in eccentric and isometric contractions.
Eccentric contractions lengthen muscles as they overcome a challenge or force. In the case of stillness and stability exercises, the force being overcome is usually gravity or the body’s own weight. With repetition and practice, the body gets stronger and leaner at the same time. Similarly, isometric contractions maintain the muscle at a constant length as weight or force against the muscle matches the effort the muscle must put forth to resist or overcome the challenge. Again, the result is leaner, rather than bulky muscles.
Not sure lean muscle has the aesthetic benefit you want? Consider this – lean muscle often shows definition and detail a lot faster than just plain bulk. As well, with less bulk, you’re more likely to find yourself with better cardio endurance, more flexibility, better balance, and less risk of injury. If you’re struggling for those last couple inches around your waist, or looking more cut and defined in your shoulders, arms, and back, try a couple of the following moves:
- Plank: This is push up position, with arms extended. The key is to keep your shoulders, hips, and ankles in a straight line with one another. You will feel the effort in your shoulders and core muscles.
- Chair: Either with the aid of a wall or on your own strength, lower your body into a seated position, as if in a chair. Try to get your legs into as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. Hold while keeping back almost vertical. Effort will be in your lower back and quads.
- Lunge: Bend front leg to 90 degrees while extending other leg completely behind the body. Keep back leg straight and toes planted against floor. Hold hands against hips or extend arms out to sides. Challenge will be felt in quads, glutes, and lower back.