By Raymond Shipley
There are myriad training styles. Some work, some don't work as well, but we've already established consistency is key in developing a great physique. But which of the many styles of bodybuilding shouldn't be overlooked as a mainstay of any successful routine?
Eccentric training, or focus on keeping the weight moving slowly during the negative portion of the lift, has been shown to produce amazing gains in size and strength. Studies have shown that a muscle can, at times, tolerate up to 1.75 times more weight eccentrically than concentrically. More weight should equate to more size and strength, and it does. By focusing on the negative portion of the lift, more stress is added and thus more adaptation and growth.
In addition to bigger muscles, eccentric training helps grow stronger ligaments and tendons, which help prevent injury. The body, in striving for homeostasis, desires to do the least amount of work possible. Change is brought about by adding increased stress to the body which, in turn, causes the body to adapt to the amount of stress in order to make it easier the next time. As with muscles, this also happens with connective tissue.
Flexibility is also increased with the use of eccentric training. The negative portion of the lift causes growth of muscle fibers. This growth increases the length of muscles by increasing the sacromeres, a structural unit of a myofibril in striated muscle, consisting of a dark band and the nearer half of each adjacent pale band. This leads to greater flexibility and, as with strengthened connective tissue, assists with injury prevention.
Last for today, a quick lesson on one way to perform eccentric lifts. As I tell clients, the majority of trainers insist on perfect form, often at the expense of reps and weight used. Once a person can no longer, with good form, perform a lift on the concentric portion, the set is over and it is time to rest. However, using this logic the client has just wasted an average of 40% more strength that could have been used during the eccentric half of the repetition. The solution is to continue beyond positive failure in order to tap into this additional strength. This is easy when done with a spotter that assists through the concentric portion, but what happens when there is no spotter available, or one trains alone? With proper training a lifter is able to use momentum on the concentric portion of the lift to bypass the sapped strength and is thus able to tap into that additional strength, and muscle gain, by controlling the eccentric. This is an advanced technique, but one which I show all my clients after they learn proper form. Nothing wrong with using momentum in a lift as long as the benefit is substantial and the risk is essentially negated.