Have you been training for some time and not seeing the progress that should follow? It can be because you are leaving a little extra on the table during each training session. This information is just as applicable if you are just beginning to work out! What I am talking about is not necessarily the exercises you are performing. More so how you are performing them.
During any exercise there is a period of contraction, where the muscle fibers begin to shorten known as a concentric contraction. The process of the shortened muscle fibers beginning to lengthen or elongate is known as eccentric contraction. The muscle absorbs the energy of external load and this is why eccentrics are referred to as “negatives”. Opposed to concentric contractions which are referred to as “positive” work. During a contraction speed and ability to exert tension are inversely related.
Eccentric contraction produces greater force, with less motor units activated. Essentially requiring less oxygen and energy compared to a concentric contraction for that given muscle. After many years of research, sport specific training has now included an eccentric regime to enhance maximal strength, muscular power and coordination.
Over the last 15 years it has increased significantly as a primary form of rehabilitation training for a wide variety of injuries that include tendinopathies or tendonitis, muscle strains and post reconstructive ligament surgeries. Increasing evidence shows benefits of eccentric training when applied specifically to treatment of strained hamstring muscles. Ligaments such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are prone to injury which may often require reconstructive surgery. It is common for rehab to involve eccentric training to help strengthen that ligament. It is important to note that in this article we are not aware of the cause of the injuries or the origins of “pain”. We are simply stating its useful benefits in building strength and combating injuries.
As amazing as eccentric training is, a great workout program includes concentric training as well. The author is not advocating to exclusively train and focus eccentrically but to build a complete workout program that works best for you! People will debate on what they believe are the best exercises, how they should be performed, and in which order. The best workout plan is the one you can stick to. However, focusing on additional time during the deceleration or extension of an exercise can increase the stretch in the sarcomere. Which are essentially the functional, contractile unit of a muscle fiber.
Hopefully this information was useful and provided motivation for your next workout. For various examples of eccentric exercises click on the link below.
Nima Dakhili Young fitness enthusiast looking to improve the lives of those around him. Currently working towards completing my Personal Fitness Training Diploma through Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. I have been passionate about improving my own health and fitness for the last 9 years. I aspire to help as many people on the road to living their best life.