Essentrics is a full-body program designed to rebalance the entire body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening. When we do the alphabet, we’re focused on rebalancing the hip and leg, and strengthening the leg muscles. It’s a balance exercise - you’re working the standing leg as much as the leg drawing the letters. Essentially, half of the benefits are to the standing leg.
Essentrics is a also techniques-based fitness program, and these techniques are present in the Alphabet Sequence. The leg is being rotated within the joint, which improves mobility and range of motion in the often-too-tight hip joint. The leg is pulled out during the sequence - aka an eccentric contraction - which strengthens those leg muscles in the lengthened position.
The exercise can be varied, depending on the focus of a workout: a gentler version with fewer letters drawn before switching legs is recommended for older participants, and anyone with balance or mobility issues. With some of my young-at-heart populations, I'll have them hang on to a chair for safety. Being on one leg is still working balance reflexes for them, without the risk of falling.
Want to focus more on your quads? Sit on the floor and do the alphabet as part of a quad raiser sequence. Talk about strengthening for the quads!
Changing the speed at which you draw the letters can also train your body in different ways - slower movement works the slow twitch muscle fibres. (1) This is great for endurance and energy, as the slow twitch fibres contain the mitochondria, the power sources for your cells. (2) For power and speed, draw the letters faster to activate the fast twitch muscle fibres.
Amanda Sterczyk & Pixabay.com - copyright-free images
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.