This simple tweak will totally transform your workouts—and results.
I love lifting heavy. I live for workouts when I realize that, yes, I'm ready to go up in weight. It makes me feel so strong and accomplished.
But over the last few years working as a fitness writer, constantly interviewing smarty pants researchers and exercise physiologists, and, most recently, becoming a certified strength and conditioning specialist myself, I've learned that my strength-training workouts ignored one very important thing: focusing on the way I'm lowering that weight.
So lately, I’ve been way more concerned with lowering whatever weight I’ve got. And doing so as. Slowly. As. Possible.
To understand why I can spend five to 10 seconds lowering into a squat—and why you should, too—you first need to understand a few things about those muscles you’re trying to build in the gym. First, muscle fibers perform three different types of actions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. A concentric muscle action is a contraction or shortening, which is what’s happening in your glutes when you go from a squat to standing. An isometric action involves your muscles working in a super-still position, like your glutes when you’re trying to hang out in a wall sit for 30 seconds.
Right now, you're probably wondering, "What about eccentric actions?"
An eccentric movement is the lowering part of a move. It's when your muscle works as it’s lengthened, like those glutes do when you’re lowering into a squat, or like your biceps do as you're lowering a dumbbell after a curl. And, in turns out, every muscle fiber in your body is the strongest as it moves eccentrically.
It's not just because of gravity. When muscles work eccentrically, more of the parts of the muscle used for contracting remain attached to each other at any given time, so together they can produce more force. There may also be increased tightness in some proteins within the muscle fiber during eccentric actions, which make the muscle more taut (aka strong). Hence why lowering into a squat feels a heck of a lot easier than getting back to standing.
Through eccentric training, you turn the focus of every rep away from the concentric (contracting) portion to the eccentric (lengthening) portion. Why should you do such a thing? Check out these five body-rocking benefits of eccentric training:
1. Faster muscle gains
Rep per rep, eccentric training is superior to concentric training at building both muscle size and strength, research shows. After all, since your muscles are strongest as they move eccentrically, if you want to push your limits, you’ve got to work eccentrically. Warning: Eccentric exercises increase delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that soreness you feel up to 72 hours after a tough workout, in a big way. That's because in eccentric actions, the weight is greater than the amount of force produced by the muscle, so it creates more microscopic damage to the muscle.
2. Greater metabolic boosts
To recover from your sweat sessions, especially those that leave you riddled with DOMS for days, your body has to work super hard to recover. Although the studies are small (fewer than 20 subjects), some research shows that found that slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the number of calories you burn at rest binge-watching Kimmy Schmidt. One study of 16 participants in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eccentric training boosts RMR for up to 72 hours post-exercise. In the study, subjects performed the concentric phase quickly over one second, and slowed down the eccentric over three seconds. Another study of 16 male participants published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found significant increases in RMR for up to 48 hours after leg presses that stressed the eccentric movement. Even though the research is limited, the mechanisms make sense: Eccentric exercise does more muscle damage, which then requires more energy to repair it.
3. More flexibility
Perform eccentric exercises, and you may reduce the need for performing dedicated "flexibility" workouts. After all, in one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study of 75 athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger. A research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that eccentric training is an effective way to increase flexibility, although it noted that more research is needed to determine how eccentric strength training compares to static stretching or other types of exercise.
4. Lower risk of injury
Eccentric exercises strengthen not just your muscles, but also your body’s connective tissues, helping to both rehab any aches and pains as well as prevent injuries ranging from tendinitis to ACL strains, per one comprehensive review in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. It notes that eccentric exercises are vital in sports rehab settings and are great even for people sidelined with exercise injuries.
5. Better sports performance
Eccentric actions aren’t just something you do in the weight room. They are a given in any workout—from beach volleyball to 10K races. (Eccentric actions are why your quads feel destroyed after a long run downhill.) So, by performing strength training routines and focusing not just on concentric or isometric, but also eccentric moves, you better prepare your body for any challenges to come. Plus, a 2015 review in BioMed Research International shows that eccentric moves are critical to increasing your body’s ability to produce power, which is critical to delivering hard-hitting volleyball serves and setting new race PRs.
Here's how to add eccentric exercises to your routine:
Hitting your muscles eccentrically can be as easy as slowing down the eccentric portion of your regular strength-training moves. In most lifts, including virtually all bodyweight exercises, that’s the lowering phase. Good examples include squats, lunges, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, biceps curls, shoulder presses, rows, and the list goes on. Every now and then, you’ll find an exercise in which the eccentric phase is actually up, like lat pulldowns, so here, think of it as returning the weight to the starting position. Or, look at the weight stack, and realize the weight itself is actually lowering down as the bar goes up.
The next time you perform any of these exercises—or any exercise for that matter—try to extend the eccentric portion for the count of three. So, if you’re performing a bench press, lower for 3 seconds, and then push back up in one second. If three seconds feel doable, try lowering for five or 10 seconds. Seriously. It can be that simple. And, since, in real life, we move both eccentrically and concentrically, this is a great way to work both muscle movements to their max. Pause at the bottom, and you’re hitting your muscles isometrically for a perfect trifecta! (That’s my favorite method of really working my muscles in the most well-rounded, functional way.)
That said, since slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts makes things much more difficult (which is why slowing down the eccentric phase of a given workout can be a great way to progress that strength move!), you may find that you need to decrease the weight you use. Don’t get discouraged by going down in weight. You’ll get more out of lowering 15-pound dumbbells slowly than you will by letting 20-pound dumbbells drop with each rep.
Slowing things down isn’t the only way to hit your muscles eccentrically, though. For example, if you get super into eccentric training, every now and then, it can also be fun to play with exercises that are 100-percent eccentric.
How do you do that? Well, going back to our squat example, you would lower into it, and then not come back up. You could accomplish that by holding a kettlebell in between your legs and just releasing it onto the floor when you get to the bottom of the move. I don’t do this a lot, but it can be fun when you want to mix things up or are just having a fun “play day” in the weight room. I like to give myself one training-plan-free day per week to experiment and check out new things in the gym.
You could also try one-legged pistol squats (more on how to do them, here), lowering your butt onto a box or bench, putting both feet on the floor, standing back up, and then lowering your butt down with the opposite foot planted. Remember, your body is stronger eccentrically than it is concentrically, so even if you haven’t been able to perform a full single-leg pistol squat yet, you might still be able to perform eccentric ones with picture-perfect form. Over time, you’ll build the strength needed to perform them both ways.
However you choose to integrate eccentric training into your existing workout routine, it’s important to remember that since eccentric training increases DOMS and muscle damage, it also increases your need for proper recovery. That might require performing fewer reps, sets, or exercises per workout, or even giving yourself an extra active recovery day between big lifts. Eccentric training requires checking your ego at the locker room door.
But trust me, once you do, you’ll never go back.
Article Source : www.self.com