Great question! As an Essentrics instructor I hear this question - or a variation of it - every so often. There are so many terrific workouts available online, including Classical Stretch and Essentrics, that people can workout wherever and whenever it suits their schedule. Don’t get me wrong - I’m all for people fitting home-based exercise into your busy schedules.
But it’s also beneficial to supplement your own workouts with an instructor-led live class.
Are you coachable?
Participating in a group class has a lot to do with your coachability. Being coachable means you have a willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction. One of my regular students had been practicing Classical Stretch on her own for years before she joined my classes. A few weeks after joining, she approached me after class to say how much class was benefitting: “I had no idea I was doing these moves incorrectly all these years!”
Not incorrectly in my view - my corrections and cues to her were to tweak her positioning and thereby enhance her workout. You’re still enjoying great benefits with your home-based workouts. What an instructor will do is correct your positioning so you’re not overloading one area of your body while another area is neglected.
An Example in Action
Take an Essentrics side-to-side lunge sequence. The main goals of side lunges are to strengthen arms, and tone the waist and hips. Depending on the type of sequence during the side lunges, there can be any number of secondary goals. What, exactly, does it mean to “tone” your waist and hips? In order to tone your muscles, you need to strengthen them.(1) This is where the “strength” part of “stretch and strengthen” of an Essentrics workout comes into play. We’re moving throughout the side lunge sequence, lifting and lowering our own body as we move through specific positions. Basically, it’s a type of calisthenics: “a form of exercise where you use the weight of your own body to build muscle.” (2)
- exercises consisting of a variety of gross motor movements
- often rhythmical and without equipment or apparatus
- to increase body strength, body fitness, and flexibility,
- using only one's body weight for resistance (3)
To strengthen all of the muscles in your waist requires a sequence that challenges all the muscles along the circumference of your waist - front, back, and sides. Too often, people lean into the movement, reducing the work of the sides and overloading the back. But the biggest challenge I’ve seen is people who struggle to keep their hips down and engage the sides - aka the internal and external obliques.
Side Lunge vs. Triangle
Once in class, a person yelled out, “this is a triangle from yoga!” Actually, no. But I realized that people can erroneously believe this and position themselves accordingly. Let’s examine the goals of a yoga triangle pose: core strengthening, open the hips and shoulders, stretch the legs. The first goal is great and in line with an Essentrics side to side lunge sequence. But “open the hips and shoulders” means flexibility - aka, another term for stretch. That’s why a triangle is typically a position that is held - it’s a form of static stretching. With an Essentrics side to side lunge sequence, we’re working strength and flexibility dynamically - by continuously moving through the sequence.
I do regularly see participants lift their hips up as if they’re in a yoga triangle. The key with Essentrics lunges, though, is to keep the hips down. But what exactly does it mean to keep the hips down? Imagine you have to keep your hips parallel with the floor - both hips, that is. As you can see in the images below, the hips are not parallel to the floor in a triangle pose, but they are parrallel to the floor in an Essentrics side lunge.*
Yoga Triangle vs. Essentrics Side-to-Side Lunge
Am I doing this right?
Is my explanation clear as mud? Not to worry - that’s what our group classes are for! I’ll help you improve your technique and enhance your workout.
*Thank you to my friend and fellow Essentrics instructor, Cassandra McCoy, for providing me with a photo of an Essentrics side to side lunge!
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.