Using Eccentrics To Improve Your Strength
Improve your strength with eccentrics
During an eccentric muscle contraction, your muscle is lengthening under tension. A good example of this is the lowering phase of a bicep curl. The bicep is contracted as the elbow joint extends. If the bicep was relaxed, there would be no control of the movement. Bodybuilders have used this method for decades to induce as much muscle damage as possible to elicit as much growth as possible. Other than inducing a lot of growth, training with eccentric muscle contractions can provide a huge strength stimulus and improve the control of your movements. In this article, we will talk about using eccentrics to improve your strength.
THE VIDEO: Using Eccentrics To Improve Your Strength
If we look at our typical concentric, shortening of the muscle, isometric, a static contraction, and eccentric muscle contractions, lengthening of the muscle under tension, on a spectrum, force increases from left to right respectively. A concentric contraction occurs when the stimulus is smaller than the muscles force production capability resulting in a shortening of the muscle. Imagine a deadlift that is anywhere up to 100% 1RM. You would be able to lift it off the ground. A true isometric contraction occurs when the external stimulus is equal to or above the force production of the muscle resulting in no movement at the joint. An example of this may be a deadlift that is 100%+ 1RM. You would set up for the deadlift and produce as much force as you can but there is no movement at the joints. This type of contraction will evoke higher a mechanical tension than concentric contraction.
True eccentric contractions produce the highest amount of force of all three contraction types. Even though the muscle is unable to maintain the force equal to the stimulus, the weight, the muscle is working at its absolute maximum capacity. This provides a huge central nervous system response creating more efficient neural pathways, increased motor patterning and an inhibition of the restrictive capacity of the Golgi tendon.
Because the eccentric contraction provides the highest amount of force, it also produces the highest amount of muscle damage which, may seem alarming but one mechanism of hypertrophy, muscle growth, is related to repairing muscle damage. The body will repair the tissue that becomes damaged during training and provide a compensation of muscle fibres so that the body is able to better handle the same training stimulus the next time around.
Furthermore, it is highly documented that eccentric loading improves the health of bones, tendons and joint health. The constant tension encourages collagen cells to bind and create thicker, healthier tendons and ligaments. Many rehabilitation programmes involve an eccentric loading phase. Apply eccentrics to your training, if you are starting to feel some joint pain. Within 4-6 weeks, the problem should be resolved.
Loading the bar up supramaximally and attempting to do eccentric work is obviously very taxing on the body, can be dangerous and isn’t very practical. So how can we apply eccentric muscle contractions into our training? One method is to use a weight 80-90% 1RM, 5-3RM, and use slow and controlled descents during movements. During the descent phase of a movement, the primary muscles will be lengthening under tension, in the same manner as a supramaximal eccentric contraction where, the load exceeds the force production capacities of the muscle but now the eccentric contraction is voluntary. With each rep, fatigue will settle in and it becomes harder to control the descent of the movement. We can create the same stimulus in a more practical and safer manner. The lifter must have the intent to control the movement slowly to reap the benefits of the eccentric contraction.
RELEVANT: Building A Better Foundation Of Strength For Performance
Improve your strength, build muscle mass and perfect your technique by taking 3-6 seconds during the descent phase of your main lifts, squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls. If you have hit a plateau in your training and you are struggling to beat your previous best, use eccentrics to improve your strength. Remember that this type of training is very taxing on the body so I recommend only performing eccentric focused movements once a week.