You’re sitting in chair pose at the barre, shaking like a leaf and your instructor shouts “one last set of pulses” and you can’t help but think “why all the pulses?!”. It’s not some twisted form of barre torture being performed by your favourite barre tender, we promise. There is a reason for all the pulses! Let us explain.
What is a Pulse?
A pulse is a small movement that is less than an inch in either direction. This type of movement is called an isometric movement. Isometric movements occur when a muscle tenses without changing its length, almost like a small contraction. This contraction is then followed by the release of the muscle, resulting in a small one-inch movement back into the original position. An isometric movement is the opposite of concentric and eccentric movements. These occur when a muscle stretches then shortens - think bicep curls or plies. At BBS we use a combination of both. After several sets of pulses, you feel that deep burn in your muscles and you may have a case of the shakes – your muscles are at the point of exhaustion. This is where the concentric and eccentric movements come in. The pulses are often followed by a set of singles (full plies, squats, lunges etc), which help flush out the lactic acid that built up during the isometric movements.
Why all the Pulses?
So, now that you know what exactly a pulse is we can tell you why we use all those pulses. Put simply, an isometric movement helps maintain muscle strength. It strengthens muscles without adding bulk. Isometric exercises target specific muscles that are often not targeted in other types of exercise, as well they work multiple muscle groups at once. There is less strain on ligaments and tendons during isometric movements, preventing injuries more common in traditional strength training. A benefit of isometric exercises is that you can hold a position while continuously engaging your muscle. The pulse acts like a mini-recovery allowing you to hold positions for longer and perform a higher number of sets, increasing both strength and endurance.
To sum it all up, we know that a pulse is an isometric movement and isometric movements are small movements that tense muscles without changing their length. This targets specific muscle groups which builds strength without adding bulk and increases endurance.