Eccentric and concentric contractions: Get more muscle growth out of your reps NOW!
Bodybuilders, like many gym goers, are constantly seeking out new ways to improve their routines, shock new muscle growth, and push themselves to the extreme day in and day out. However, in every gym in every city, guys are ignoring a huge opportunity to shock their muscles like never before. While methods like negatives and forced reps have been used for years, bodybuilders tend to focus more on simple drop sets or negatives without a partner to assist. The following will explain why it is vital to incorporate more forced reps and negatives into your routine and see an immediate increase in muscle growth!
First and foremost, it is important to understand the two main types of contractions in every rep:
1: Eccentric Contraction; the muscle elongates while under tension due to an opposing force being greater than the force generated by the muscle.
- Examples: lowering phase of a squat (from top to bottom)
2: Concentric Contraction; muscle contraction in which the muscles shorten while generating force.
- Example: upward phase of a squat (from bottom to top)
Understanding this may be crucial to an athlete or bodybuilder once they realize the benefits of controlling both contractions. While studies have long shown both phases are necessary for muscular growth, bodybuilders may want to pay special attention to their Eccentric Contractions for the following reasons; skeletal muscle is %40 stronger during the eccentric phase than then concentric AND the eccentric contraction is almost solely responsible for muscular damage and delayed onset muscle soreness while the concentric is primarily when the lifter is building strength.
So in summary;
Eccentric; increases skeletal muscle size
Concentric; increases skeletal muscle strength
It really is as simple as that. Although not suggested, a lifter could do an entire routine of just concentric movements and not be sore. A routine based only around eccentric movements would result in almost the same amount of soreness experienced during a normal workout routine. However, in order to develop strength and size, a lifter must perform both contractions to get the full benefit of each rep, set, and workout. But this is where the fun comes in;
If a skeletal muscle is %40 stronger in the eccentric contraction, take advantage of it and end your workout with a few heavy negatives or forced reps with a partner to assist you. Here are a few exercises you can end your workout with to shock the hell out of the muscle.
*** Perform these at the end of the routine accordingly to whichever muscle group you are doing that day. Also, this is a pretty advance overload method so make sure you and your buddy rotate it into your routine twice a month at the most and NOT every workout.
- Leg extension; 2 sets x as many reps as possible on your own (shoot for 12-15 each set). Once completed, increase the weight by about 10-40% and have your partner assist you on the way up, or the concentric contraction. Control the eccentric phase with all your might for about a 5 count. Do this for about 4-8 reps and your quads will have an immense build up of lactic acid.
- Lying Hamstring Curls; Same as above. Make sure to NOT swing or bring your hips up on this movement.
- Lying EZ bar extensions; For triceps, perform the same number of reps and sets as above. When completed, have your partner add about 20% more weight to the bar and have him assist you on the way up of the movement. Fight the weight as hard as you can during the eccentric phase and makes sure your partner is paying close attention throughout the entire rep every rep.
- Seated EZ bar preacher curls; Same as the triceps. You can also have two EZ bars ready to go and start with the lighter one. If you start with the 60 lb EZ bar, simply have your partner take it from you and immediately hand you the 80 lb EZ bar. Minimal rest time is important when switching to the heavier weight! Do not rest for more than a few second when switching to the increased weight for the eccentric overload, partner assisted reps from hell!
These are just a few examples so please feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments! I DO NOT recommend you perform this type of overload for the following exercises;
- Squats of any kind, Lunges, barbell bench press of any angle, overhead shoulder press, upright rows, stiff leg raises, good mornings (DEFINITELY NOT good mornings), and most compound movements that are multi-joint exercises!
Lastly, let me say again this should only be done with a partner. Attempting this type of overload alone could result in injury. Have fun and welcome to assisted, eccentric overload contractions!