Essentrics is a techniques-based fitness program and, as such, it’s important to understand and master the basics. Proper form during the exercises ensures you’re working the right muscles, and not overworking one area of your body at the expense of another area. For example, exercises executed with a bent arm target different muscles than exercises executed with a straight arm. If you keep your arm bent when it should be straight during a sequence, you’re missing out on the full-body rebalancing benefits that make Essentrics such an effective and feel-good workout.
Same goes for spinal positioning during the Essentrics Trademark sequences. Understanding and correctly executing neutral C, neutral elongation, and the continuous shift between these two basic positions will relieve back pain as well as improve your posture. Neutral C is just that: trying to form your torso into the letter C. Many Essentrics participants have difficulty with neutral C - either as a result of a stiff lower back or lack of body awareness in transitioning through the positions.
Try this at home: Start by bending your knees, tuck your bum under, round your shoulders and push your lower spine - also known as your lumbar spine - backwards. You should look like you’re hugging a large beachball. Your shoulders should line up with your hips. If you’re too far forward with your shoulders, you’ll risk lower back pain, as the load of your body is pushing into your lumbar spine.
Click here to see Essentrics creator Miranda Esmonde-White explain Neutral C ("February Newsletter"). As you’ll see, Miranda stands beside a pipe to demonstrate correct hip and shoulder alignment. To check your alignment in neutral C, stand beside any vertical point and ask someone to take your picture. Mastery of neutral C will enhance your Essentrics practice and allow you to achieve the desired results.
For more information on spinal anatomy, visit this website.
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.