Well, the answer to that of course is ‘how long is a piece of string?’ – everyone is different, we all have different issues, different levels of fitness, injuries, etc.
However, I can share that some people can notice a difference just after one Essentrics class! I have had quite a few emails after the first trial class with “wow, that’s the best night sleep I have had since I had my back operation”, “I feel so much better”. The reason for this is because Essentrics uses the back muscles all the time, not only do we extend it, but unlike many other modalities, we also do a lot of flexion – thereby rebalancing the muscles.
Let me explain that a bit better –
EXTENSION - Performing a back extension exercise will increase your ability to coordinate movement through your lower back. Other improvements include a stronger back and a back that has more endurance. Overall, these positives lead to better overall back posture, important for the prevention of back injury. (Livehealthy.com)
An Essentrics example is when we do Windmills, front lunges and when we lie on the floor on our stomach and come up onto our elbows. These all extend the back.
FLEXION - Back flexion is a type of stabilization exercise used in back rehabilitation programs that involve bending the spine forward from the waist. ... flexion rehabilitation has shown to be effective in relieving back pain by strengthening the lower back muscles and ligaments of the back. (Spinehealth.com)
An Essentrics exercise example is when we do any pelvic tilts like with the shoulder blast, rolling up the spine or cat stretches.
Feeling taller – that is because we reach up constantly, engaging in our abdominals but also working our back muscles, in particular the erector spinae (these are the muscles that are either side of your spine, the ones that feel so good during back massage!).
On average, it takes about 4-6 weeks to notice a difference. This is when you are doing a class 1x every week, obviously the more you do Essentrics the more you are going to get out of it, the quicker you are going to notice a difference.
When you see a physio after injury the body takes 4-6 weeks to recover, especially when you do your exercises that physio give you (yes I am well aware many people do not do their exercises which delays recovery).
There are all sorts of other factors that need to be taken into account, and after discussing this with my physiotherapist Jordan Liu from Get Moving Physio and from reading a 2017 paper on Hypertrophic effects of Concentric versus Eccentric muscle actions from the National Strength and Condition Association - one thing in particular that many of us overlook is – are you doing anything that is in conflict with Essentrics?
By the way - muscle hypertrophy is a term for the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells. The most common type of muscular hypertrophy occurs as a result of physical exercise such as weightlifting.
Essentrics will compliment all types of sports and exercise BUT if you are using Essentrics for the main goal of flexibility, to rebalance your muscles and help to lengthen them and you are still doing exercise that shortens the muscles (e.g. weight lifting or any other sport where you are doing the same thing over and over for a long time) and that exercise/sport you do more than you do Essentrics, then you will get absolutely nowhere with your flexibility and you won’t notice a difference.
If your goal is flexibility and rebalancing then you need to do Essentrics more than whatever else you are doing. So, if you are lifting weights 3x a week and Essentrics 1x a week you can see the muscles are being shortened more than lengthened and are not balanced at all. For every muscle shortening session, you need a muscle lengthening session (Essentrics) to rebalance, if you REALLY want more flexibility then you need to do 1 muscle shortening session to 2 muscle lengthening sessions.
One thing with Essentrics, is you don’t actually realise how much you are benefiting from it until you stop doing it. I know there are a few of you that over the Xmas break tell me, you can’t wait for class to start up again because you notice that when you don’t attend regularly that you start noticing your body is not functioning as well – myself included!
In the fitness industry, people come and go (it’s the nature of the beast), but I also know, that some of those people that do stop coming to class, (it usually takes a month or 2) come back – why?
Because they notice the effects of NOT doing Essentrics on a weekly basis. Some who have experienced back pain will notice in the beginning they get relief from attending class, can after a while think they are no longer benefiting. They definitely are, but they don’t notice it so much because they are constantly using their back muscles which are strengthening and are being used. But when they stop for a while the pain comes back, they then realise they are in fact benefiting from doing Essentrics on a regular basis. The biggest thing with pain and the body is you HAVE to keep moving! Obviously not all movement is created equal – e.g. running on a treadmill will not relieve pain in your back.
So, even though you may find from week to week you may not be noticing anything, you still are. You can always challenge yourself and push yourself a little more, go to the end of a stretch (all the way, slightly beyond your normal reach) and see if you notice anything different? There are always ways to challenge yourself more, just come and talk to me before class, but something you also have to realise is that sometimes less is more……….this just depends on where YOU are at and what you are trying to achieve.
Slowing things down is so much harder than doing things fast – ok, not when you are doing high impact cardio – that will definitely get your heart rate up and you will feel like you are out of breath – but it’s certainly not a necessity nor is lifting the most heaviest weights. Your body does not need to go to the excess to achieve results – that is the old paradigm the old way of thinking about things. Unfortunately, the main stream gym junkies and cross fit guru’s will disagree – but all I can say is, wait until they get older, wait and see how many more injuries they will have.
In my experience, everyone I have met who has done an extreme sport has major injuries from over use, not stretching properly and not rebalancing, which in turn leads to injury. I myself, lifting heavy weights while teaching classes caused the extra pressure on my knees, hence osteoarthritis AND teaching step classes years ago with limited stretches for the calf muscles left me with extremely tight calves, so tight I won’t let anyone touch them (Jordan and Debby will both tell you how I respond when my soleus muscle is touched). Due to Essentrics over time they have become more bearable.
So to answer the question, how long does it take before you notice a difference? That is entirely up to you, where you are in your life, how much rebalancing of the muscles you do and what else you may be doing that is in conflict with Essentrics.
If you are unsure, please come and chat to me, I am always here to help!