More often than not I witness people speeding through body weight and dumbbell exercising with a primary focus on the concentric action, or the contraction part, of the exercise, like the curling motion in a basic bicep curl. While this does make you stronger initially, often times the muscular changes will plateau and leave you feeling stuck in a rut. There is, however, an easy fix! Slow down and focus on the eccentric actions of the exercises
What does eccentric action mean?
The eccentric action is when the muscle(s) being worked lengthen in the exercise movement, rather than shorten or contract. Take the basic bicep curl for example, the lowering of the weights back to the start position is the eccentric action as it is lengthening the bicep muscles.
How can focusing on the eccentric action make you stronger?
There is substantial evidence that muscle damage caused by working out induces hypertrophy, an increase in muscle size. In essence, you have to “damage” or tear your muscles to rebuild them bigger and better. As such, eccentric actions are beneficial in that the motion of lengthening the muscle while loaded (with body weight or dumbbells for instance) is primarily responsible for creating muscle damage tears and soreness, thus yielding more opportunity for muscle growth.
How can you focus on the eccentric action?
It’s easy! Try focusing on the eccentric action of these two basic body weight movements in at least one workout per week and see if you notice any changes.
- Start in a high plank with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Pull your belly in and find full body engagement.
- Slowly lower down (option to use your knees!) by bending your elbows to the count of 4, 3, 2, 1. Try to get your chest all the way to the ground on 1. Remember to breathe!
- Exhale through your mouth to explosively and quickly press back up to the plank position.
- Do 3 sets of 5-10 reps.
- Start standing with your legs about shoulder-width and slightly point your toes out.
- Weight into your heels, bend your knees, and sit your hips back to slowly lower down to the count of 4,3,2,1. Get as low as you can on 1. Breathe!
- Exhale through your mouth to explosively and quickly stand back up.
- Do 3 sets of 12-15.