The Essentials of Essentrics: Mastering the Art of Aging Backwards

May 30, 2022

Miranda Esmonde-White (born May 9, 1949) knows a thing or two about aging. A Canadian fitness trainer, former ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada and the author of several books on aging, health and fitness, she created a dynamic stretching and strengthening workout that formed the basis for the long-running fitness TV show, called Classical Stretch.

A combination of ballet, tai chi, and physiotherapy, Essentrics is designed to relieve pain and increase flexibility by gently working the muscles of the full body. Continuous movement is fundamental to Essentrics and is typically – but not exclusively – performed whilst standing.

Unlike yoga, it’s an exercise program that deliberately excludes weight-bearing exercises that can stress joints such as the wrist.

Increasing numbers of fitness clubs across Canada,such as the one near us in the Laurentians in Quebec called Fusion, offer Essentrics programs – and they’re well worth looking into.

Simple, Safe, & Effective

The movements of Essentrics are simple, safe, effective and appropriate for all ages and fitness levels. They’re especially recommended for the over-sixties, many of whom suffer from flexibility, bad balance and posture problems.

If you’ve ever taken a pilates, barre, or yoga class, there’s a good chance you’ve heard an instructor talk about strengthening your muscles while lengthening them at the same time, resulting in a longer, leaner body shape.

In some cases, promises of a dancer-like body are what attracts people to these types of workouts, especially if studios and instructors advertise using “long and lean” language. You are advised to be sceptical about this, for the simple reason that it’s physically impossible to change the length of your muscles through any kind of training program.

Muscles have two points, where they attach to bones through tendons. Those two points are fixed, and can’t be moved, so creating “length” in a muscle is not something that can happen without surgery. That said, carefully executed stretching exercises can change your body’s appearance through changes in body fat percentage and muscle size.

Also, barre and other low-impact workouts that make use of isometric movements or otherwise known as dynamic tension (check out our May 2020 blog on isometric exercises). Essentrics is a great example  – it can be effective at strengthening muscle tissue and usually result in more defined muscles. Muscles grow as they gain strength, but you can’t manipulate the shape your muscles take on as they get stronger. That’s a myth.

Find Classes Coast-to-Coast

Essentrics classes are now being taught coast-to-coast throughout Canada by certified instructors. While we don’t want to unnecessarily boost the Essentrics program, we’ve signed up for it ourselves and it seems to be working. You too can possibly find a class where you live by searching here:

A Quick Summary of How You Can Benefit from Essentrics:

1. Strength & Health

  • Strengthens your hips, legs, arms and core
  • Creates a feeling of effortless movement and space in your joints
  • Boosts your mood, and relieves stress and anxiety
  • Hydrates and lubricates your joints, fascia and connective tissue
  • Rebalances your full muscular structure

2. Flexibility & Mobility

  • Increases flexibility in your hips and hamstrings
  • Improves upper body mobility – neck, shoulders and chest
  • Unlocks tension in your muscles
  • Rebalances your body for optimal back health
  • Helps increase full body range of motion
  • Reinforces your posture by improving spine health and mobility

3. Age Reversal

  • Relieves aches and pains, and helps reverse chronic conditions
  • Safely restores movement in your joints
  • Boosts your metabolism and immune system
  • Reawakens your 650 muscles
  • Improves balance and mobility

Last, but Not Least

Essentrics is derived in part from the well-established principle of eccentric contraction, which is the motion of an active muscle while it’s being challenged under load.

For example, in a biceps curl the action of lowering the weight back down from the lift is the eccentric phase of that exercise – the weight is lowered slowly rather than letting it drop (the biceps are in a state of contraction to control the rate of descent of the weight). Eccentric training focuses on slowing down the process of muscle stretching and contraction which can result in stronger muscles, faster muscle repair and increased metabolism.

Eccentric movement provides a braking mechanism for muscle and tendon groups that are experiencing concentric movement to protect joints from damage as the contraction is released. It’s particularly good for the elderly and patients looking to rehabilitate certain muscles and tendons.

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