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If you’ve ever done a barre fitness workout, you’ve probably experienced the ‘barre muscle shake’ or heard the term ’embrace the shake’ from your instructor?! But I’ve wondered why should I embrace it? Is it really a good sign? So I’ve done a little research and here’s what I found out about why our muscles shake during a workout, especially during a barre strength training.
Compound vs Isometric movements
First thing first, in order to understand this shaking phenomena when we exercise, it is helpful to know that there are different types of moves and muscle fibers that are activated when we contract our muscles.
Compound high intensity exercises such as squats, burpees, arm extensions and push-ups, make you move your joints through a full range of motion. These traditional resistance trainings mainly activate type II muscle fibers, also called ‘fast-twitch’.
Fast twitch fibers contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue very rapidly, sustaining only short, anaerobic bursts of activity before muscle contraction becomes painful. They contribute most to muscle strength and have greater potential for increase in mass.Wikipedia
Barre fitness low intensity style workouts mainly focus performing isometric exercises which isolate and contract specific muscles. By using one part of the body while keeping the other still, there is very little to no joint movement. Planks, holding still on a single leg, doing little pulses; these isometric tensions activate type 1 muscle fibers also called ‘slow-twitch’ muscle fibers.
When you pulse and hold a certain position, you lift only using your bodyweight as a resistance.
Slow twitch fibers contract for long periods of time but with little force.Wikipedia
For instance, every day we use these type I fibers when we stand or walk, by maintaining our posture and joint position.
3 most common reasons why our muscles shake.
When doing a new exercise, our body has to learn how to coordinate this new movement. It is through repetition that the body learns how and when to contract the muscles at the right time. Our muscles shake because they’re a bit ‘clumsy’ at first, not quite familiar with the new exercise pattern. The more the brain is acquainted with the movement, the more the communicating nerve cells’ signals are competent.
You never hear it enough: drink drink and drink! Water of course… ;D
When we are dehydrated and exercise, our blood flow reduces/slows down and our muscles end up not receiving the right nutrients they need to keep on contracting correctly. That is why dehydration induces muscle twitching.
Furthermore, sweating impacts our performance by reducing our ability to exercise. That is why we need to drink at least 7 glasses of water per day and when we workout, sip water throughout the session.
When we contract our muscles, it is our nervous system that sends chemical signals via motor neurons (nerve cells) which tell the muscle fibers (low-twitch and fast-twitch) to tighten.
Muscle fatigue occurs when we work our muscle fibers to exhaustion. One of the signs is shakiness, notably during barre workouts. When you do an isometric exercise (isolating and working on a specific muscle) and you perform may reps of this same exercise (little pulses for instance) or hold a position for a longer time (30 to 60 seconds), that’s when you can experience uncontrollable trembling.
The muscles start quivering because the nerve cells lack of energy to keep on sending nonstop contraction signals to your muscles. The muscle contractions being interrupted, become less effective.
When working out a muscle over and over again for an extended duration of time, the supply of glycogen (stored carbohydrates) gets drained.
Moreover, we start feeling the burn, when a process called acidosis occurs in the bloodstream. When our supply of glycogen is all used up, hydrogen ions and lactate are produced, increasing the acidity of the blood and provoking the burning sensation. That is why we may feel sore after a hard workout.
In opposition, when you perform a compound exercise, you activate multiple muscle groups. The load and energy used is shared. You’re not draining one particular muscle’s glycogen supply. The muscles fatigue more evenly.
Is it good to ’embrace the shake’?
I’ve come upon divergent opinions that left me quite confused at first.
On one hand, some say that when you start shaking, you should stop or reduce in intensity because when your muscles weaken, they are more prone to injury. If you are shaking the entire time, that means your workout is too tough and you need to quit or work on another muscle group.
On the other hand, others encourage you to go past your comfort zone and push through the trembling because the main goal in strength trainings is to get stronger. By damaging muscle tissue, the body regenerates more vigorous ones. Overtime, your muscle fibers become more tired-resistant.
Also, the more forceful your workout is, the more calories you burn. However, you need to take the time to recover and feed yourself properly after each session.
So this is what I have come to understand. Muscle overload triggers muscle change for the better. As a result, you get stronger and physically toned. My advice is that you should be careful not to get injured. If you push through the shake (within reason), pay closer attention to using proper form. As long as you listen to your body, sip water regularly and breathe during class, you’ll be OK.
Now I am less worried when I start shaking. I know it is a good sign. As long as I am doing my workout properly, I understand that I stimulate my muscles enough to change them for the best! And no matter how strong I become, embracing the shake will always be effective to tone up my physique!
What about your experience? Please, do share your comment below. Thanks!
The Fit Yourself Barre content is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of a physician. You should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.