Why do I shake?

You can crush indoor cycling classes, lift heavy at the gym, and run 5 miles like it’s NBD. (We get it—you work out.) Then you sign up for a barre class. Suddenly, you’re shaking, sweating, and silently cursing the instructor as you pulse, hold, and lift basically only your bodyweight. 

Ever wondered why even fairly fit people seem to flounder at the barre? You’re not alone. While those workouts may not seem as demanding as high-intensity interval training classes or intense cardio sessions, one more set of those micro-movements can feel way more painful than running another mile or banging out another set of squats.

We asked the experts to explain what’s going on—and if there’s any way to make it easier. (SELF)

"In most physical activities, your muscles are able to turn on and off as they contract and relax through a cycle of movement," says  Kiesha Ramey-Presner, VP of teacher development and master instructor at The Bar Method. Barre classes challenge your muscles' endurance by "holding sustained contractions for longer periods of time before coming out to change positions or stretch." Basically, you're holding a difficult position for longer than you'd normally hold it in another exercise.

And then, as you'd imagine, your muscles get tired as hell! "This sustained stress causes the muscle to burn through its reserves of fuel to the point of exhaustion. Once that local fuel store is almost depleted, the muscle starts relaxing and contracting at a high rate of speed to conserve the remaining energy and help you remain in positions for the last reps." Read: they're tired, they're more tired, they're exhausted, then they shake. A LOT.

"As with any physical endeavor, your body will adapt to the challenge if you perform these exercises consistently and your muscle endurance will improve, delaying the shake," Kiehsa said. So the better you get at the workout, the stronger your muscles become, and you might shake less or not as early into the move. "But you can always increase the challenge by dropping lower in thigh work or shrinking the range of motion in seat work." By doing so, you'll "reset the bar and work through a new threshold of shaking."

Kiesha reminded us that whether you shake or not, "improving your muscle endurance is one of the greatest benefits [of barre]" and "one that carries over into your other athletic pursuits." Looking to improve your running time without adding more running into your schedule? Try barre. "We consistently hear from runners who take class regularly that their race times improve," she said. "Every time you take a class, you're challenging your body to reach a new level of strength and endurance and changing your body positively." (POPSUGAR)


Michelle Nigro