Have you ever wondered what’s really happening when your muscles start to shake during thigh or seat work? Or, what’s causing that unstoppable tremble in your working leg during round back? Teachers encourage it and use it as an indicator that you’re making changes in your muscles, but what’s really going on?
The shake we all love to hate starts deep in the muscle fibers and is a result of the type of exercises and challenges we use in The Bar Method. In most physical activities, your muscles are able to turn on and off as they contract and relax through a cycle of movement; however, in The Bar Method we challenge the muscle endurance by holding sustained contractions for longer periods of time before coming out to change positions or stretch. This sustained stress causes the muscle to burn through its reserves of fuel to the point of exhaustion. Once that local fuel store is almost depleted, the muscle starts relaxing and contracting at a high rate of speed to conserve the remaining energy and help you remain in positions for those last 20 or 30 counts.
As with any type of exercise, your body will adapt to the challenge if you perform these exercises consistently and your muscle endurance will improve, delaying the shake. The beauty of the Bar Method exercises is that you can always increase the challenge. Dropping lower in thigh, shrinking the range of motion down in seat work, or drawing your top leg even closer to the barre in round back all reset the bar and allow you to work through a new threshold of shaking.
Improving your muscle endurance is one of the greatest benefits of the Bar Method and one that carries over into other activities allowing you to ski top to bottom at Vail without feeling your legs burn or to reach the top of Lookout Mountain on your road bike in record time. So, the next time you’re in class and you feel your muscles start to move, embrace the shake. It’s not just a catchy phrase; you really are challenging your body to reach a new level of strength and endurance.
Meghan Dukes, DC, MSPT
Instructor, The Bar Method Denver-Stapleton