Our muscles are loaded in 1 of 3 ways…
Eccentric – Muscle lengthening while under load. Eg your bicep is under eccentric load when you lower your cup of coffee to the desk
Isometric – Muscle is under a constant, static load. Eg your bicep is under isometric load when holding / carrying your cup of coffee
Concentric – Muscle is shortening while under load. Eg your bicep when you are picking your coffee cup up
Why does eccentric loading work to build strength?
People can lower a heavier weight than they can lift, with some research suggesting a massive 60% greater yield of strength as a result of eccentric movements, compared to concentric. This additional capacity to eccentrically load allows faster gains in strength, with some studies also showing benefits to speed, power and cardiovascular fitness. This is due to the number of muscle fibres being recruited when a muscle is eccentrically loaded, resulting in a greater amount of small muscle tears created when tissues are under significant load (creating ‘DOMS’, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which as the body recovers, lays down more muscles fibres.
Modifications to common exercises to increase the eccentric focus
Squat – lower slowly into the squat. Try moving down into the squat for a count of 3, then driving up for a count of 1
Lateral pull down – pull down the bar for a count of 1, then slowly return the bar, working against the resistance for a count of 3
Calf raise – standing with your heels hanging over a step edge, slowly lower your heels, then drive up onto your toes. This can be increased further by lowering down on 1 leg, and pushing up with both legs.
Add more eccentric loading into your day-to-day living
Walking downstairs with control, or slowly lowering into the chair to sit, are great ways of adding eccentric loading into your daily living. Some research even suggests that walking downstairs under control is better for your strength and fitness than walking up!
For further help with this, book a gym session with one of our Sports Therapists by calling 01454 540066