A couple of times recently during my Pilates classes, we have discussed how different exercises work different class members in different ways. This comes about for example when we are working the gluteals, and one person will find that the clam really targets the muscles for them, yet it takes a straight lift for another person.
Why is this? There are a few reasons….
First off, we all have slightly different anatomy, and so the exact alignment of our muscle fibres is unique to each of us. This means the line of pull into tendons and then bone, is also unique. The shape, size and form of our muscles also differs – for example, in some people the sciatic nerve actually passes through one of the muscles in the buttock, whereas in most the sciatic nerve passes by. All this comes together to mean that your individual muscles work very slightly differently to mine; not enough to cause functional differences, but enough to mean that exercises need to be tailored to suit our own muscle activity patterns.
Secondly, we all have naturally – and habitually – different postural and movement patterns. Therefore, we will constantly be using our bodies in a unique way, and be stronger/weaker in ways that are then unique to our bodies. As a result, I may be stronger using my gluteals in certain ways, and you will be stronger in others.
Thirdly, we all carry cumulative injuries and degenerative changes. These once again are specific to us, and will impact on how our bodies function. The phenomenon of pain inhibition has a significant impact on muscle function, so combined with joint stiffness and scar tissue for example, entire or partial sections of muscle may not work efficiently – or even at all. Not surprisingly, this again creates individual differences in how the body responds to exercise demands.
When doing a longer, whole body exercise session it is important to work your muscles in a variety of way, but if you are doing short sessions it can be helpful to be more specific and focus on which exercises are most beneficial for you. I try hard in my classes – and it’s why I keep my groups small – to monitor everyone and ensure that I work out what is the best way to work each muscle and each portion if possible. If you are serious about improving the way your body works, and maximising your muscle function and strength, then it is really worth having an assessment with a Physio or Strength and Conditioning Coach so that you know which parts of your body you need to target, and which exercises you need to do in order to achieve this.
It is also important not to compare yourself negatively with anyone else when you are doing exercises in company. Remember that your body is unique, and you need to work it uniquely.