Hi FP50 readers. I learned about an interesting term recently that I wanted to share with you. Group Fitness Instructors know of this phrase, I’m sure but I had not heard about it before and it is called the “pressor response” The pressor response is the nervous system’s reaction to stress put on the body. This also applies to exercise stress, such as resistance training exercises, particularly isometric exercises or those where the muscle(s) are contracted and held steady without physically moving the body parts against the resistance. An example of an isometric exercise would be the bicep curl held in the upward phase of the movement or the plank wherein we are contracting our core muscles and holding the body steady. So what happens with the pressor response is that the heart rate rises disproportionately in reaction to the particular stress being put on the body.
So why do I bring up the pressor response anyway? Have you ever taken a group fitness movement class where you engaged in certain types of exercises that made you feel woozy or light headed? One exercise in particular comes to mind where the pressor response may be invoked is those where you have to keep your arms raised above your head for a prolonged period of time, like “switch lunges with arms raised steady overhead”
I was just reading in my ACE GFI manual how important “control and balance” are in group fitness movement classes because it is key to making sure class participants have “kinesthetic awareness” or a sense of where they are in their time and space around them and control their bodies in that space. And there are certain exercises that should be avoided or modified to avoid the “pressor response”. So for example, getting back to those switch lunges with the arms overhead, instead of keeping the arms steady overhead, one can move the arms in momentum with the legs to help with control and balance. It is better to move the arms and legs in a momentum to actively engage all the muscles. So while one may think it is better to challenge the body by eliminating one of the control resources, it also compromises the correct form, which increases risk for injuring oneself. So I think I am a new fan of modifying certain exercises not only to avoid the pressor response but also to ensure physical control and balance of the movements.
So I am thinking of another exercise that I would modify and that would be the overhead isometric shoulder press with a squat. Instead of making it one movement (squat while holding the dumbbells still overhead), I would break the move up into two: 1) go into the squat holding the dumbbells at shoulder level 2) then press the dumbbells up overhead after coming up fully from the squat. That way you don’t hold the arms overhead for the entire movement (safer) and the movement is controlled and in sync. Sigh, you learn something every day. Back to the drawing board….
Teaching A Group Exercise Class. (2011). In C. Bryant, Ph.D., FASM, D. Green, & S. Merrill, M.S. (Eds.), ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual, A Guide for Fitness Professionals (Third ed.). San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise.