Written by Coach D
As if squatting wasn’t hard enough, we are about to make you squat SLOWLY, and HOLD the bottom position! Why would we do such a mid-evil, torturous thing?!
Because it helps make us stronger, and we know you are all about those GAINZZ.
If you haven’t already been introduced to eccentric or negative training, you will be in the next few weeks at the gym as it is going to be a central part of our next strength cycle. First, I will explain the difference between the concentric and eccentric contraction of the muscle during a lift. Next, in simple terms I will explain to you what happens to the muscle on a cellular level. Lastly, I will cover the effects of eccentric training and why studies have shown that it is more beneficial than concentric training alone.
First, let’s discuss the two different contractions. There is a concentric phase and an eccentric phase, also known as the negative. We will start with the one most of you are familiar with and that is the concentric phase. The definition of a concentric contraction is when the muscle shortens when it acts against a resistive force (in our case a barbell for this strength cycle). Eccentric contraction occurs when the muscle lengthens while producing force. Think of the eccentric phase as the phase where you “put on the breaks.” Another easy way to think about it is that the eccentric contraction acts in the same direction as gravity. Let’s take a back squat for example. The eccentric phase of the squat would be lowering from the standing phase to the bottom of the squat, and the concentric phase would be from the bottom of the squat to the standing position.
Take a second and think about what portion of the bench press would be the concentric portion and what would be the eccentric portion. If you said that the eccentric phase was lowering the bar to your chest and the concentric was pressing the bar from chest to arms locked out above the chest, you are correct. When we lower the bar to our chest, we are “putting on the breaks” as we go down (eccentric) and accelerating as we press up (concentric). If this doesn’t make sense, don’t fret, it will soon.
Now that we understand the difference between the two contractions, let’s discuss what actually happens to the muscle when we lift. In a nutshell, when we lift, we cause skeletal muscle damage. When we workout, we cause microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. With rest and proper nutrition, these tears in the muscle fibers repair and regenerate, adapting to the demands we place on them. This allows us to handle future bouts of similar work while experiencing less muscle damage. When we force our muscles to do more work, the repairing process repeats and our muscles get stronger. In short think: lift, muscle damage, muscle repair and regeneration, muscle adaptation, STRENGTH!
Finally, let’s discuss why we should not only be focusing on concentric contraction but also eccentric contraction. Studies show that the eccentric motion causes greater muscle damage and hypertrophy than the concentric motion does. Why? Because during eccentric contraction the muscle fibers that are recruited are mainly fast twitch fibers. Only specific muscle fibers are used during this contraction which means not all the available fibers are being used in that motor unit. Therefore, each muscle fiber we use is subject to more tension/stress per motor unit, which causes more muscle damage and leads to more muscle adaptation and growth.
Along with increased hypertrophy, eccentric contraction is also found to increase power. It may seem odd that slowing down the eccentric portion of your lift is going to increase your power. However, as we just discussed, eccentric contractions recruit more Type 2 muscle fibers. If you aren’t familiar with the difference between the two, all you need to know is that your Type 2 fibers are your fast twitch, explosive fibers.
Now the question becomes, should we focus on eccentric training alone? No. Studies have found if you are going to choose one or the other, that eccentric training is more efficient BUT these studies also show that training both concentrically and eccentrically will provide the most strength gains. And we love GAINZZ, which is why we will be focusing on eccentric movement combined with concentric movement in our next strength cycle. Get excited!
If you have any questions about all of this “science” or would like to get started with us on our new Strength Cycle, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org