Get These Exercises Right or Stay Weak and Injured…The Final Part

 

Here it is!

The 3rd, and final piece to this series.

With part 1 and part 2 already in your knowledge bank (and if they aren’t, read them now), after you soak up the knowledge in part 3 you will have a solid foundation from which you can perform a majority of the exercises you will encounter within a training program, and know how to do them RIGHT!

Once again, it is all about the proper execution of exercises, and where you are feeling them work that is the most important factor to truly enhancing performance, mitigating injury and reaching your overall goals whether that is athletic performance, muscle gain, fat loss, etc.

With that, lets cover the last 3 movements of this series…

 

The Lateral Lunge

The lateral lunge is a key movement to maximize lower body function, strength and size as it challenges the musculature in a way that we typically don’t with other common exercises.

The majority of exercises performed for the lower body (think squats, deadlifts, forward/reverse lunges, step ups, etc.) are taking place predominately in the sagittal plane. This means that most of the exercises performed involve the body going up and down in a backwards and forwards pattern. 

But the body doesn’t just work in a couple different planes, but rather we move in all 360 degrees. So in order to maximize results and limit injuries, we must train in all planes.

 

(pintrest.com)

The lateral lunge targets the frontal plane, or the side to side plane. 

 

(acefitness.com)

While this is a great exercise, many times when we perform this exercise we end up feeling it in the knees and a huge burn in the quads. We also typically end up feeling strain or a massive stretch in the trailing/straight leg. Lastly, many times we end up feeling the low back.

While you will feel the lateral lunge working the quads and achieving a stretch in the trailing leg, these should not be the predominant areas being worked. And just like almost every exercise, you should NOT feel the low back performing a large amount work. 

Why this happens is that first and foremost we are not controlling our hips from dumping into anterior tilt. So you need to focus on using your abs to “pull your zipper up towards your ribcage.” This again helps to prevent the hips from tipping forward and creating overextension in the low back. 

Next, many times we end up staying too tall through the torso and not achieving the proper hinge we need at the hips. This forces us to glide forward at the knee which promotes excessive quad activity and forces through the knees. 

 

(mensfitness.com)

↑ Too straight up and down, not enough hinge backwards.

Instead, try focusing on keeping 80% of your weight in the heel of the moving leg as you push your butt backwards and pitch your chest forward slightly. The back should remain neutral (flat) throughout the movement, but again you should pitch forward slightly in order to achieve a greater hip hinge. This will help you activate and feel the work taking place in the glute of the working leg…where we want to be working!

 

(womenshealth.com)

↑ Thats better!

And when it comes to feeling a massive stretch in the trailing leg, we often leave too much weight in that foot which forces us to utilize that leg more. To fix this, focus on keeping as much weight as possible (again around 80%) in the heel of the moving leg once you contact the ground. 

Lastly, when you go to return to the starting position, focus on pushing through the working leg and not pulling through the trailing leg.

With these cues taken into consideration, you should feel the majority of work taking place in the core, glute of the working leg and upper back. 

 

The Chin Up

The chin up, and all other vertical pulling exercises, are key movements when it comes to enhancing overall performance, strength and fitness. 

When asked, many of us feel this exercise working the biceps and lats, which is a good thing, but we also feel our lower back, neck and the front of the shoulder. 

The lower back experiences pressure because when we go to pull, we do not control the forward tip of the hips. This places excessive pressure on the low back. So here, as with the previous exercises in this series, you must focus on keeping the core engaged to prevent the hips from tipping forward throughout the entire movement. You can also try bringing the legs to the front of the body which helps to keep the hips from tipping forward.

 

(physiodetective.com)

Second, as we approach the top of the chin up we typically end up finishing by reaching the with the chin. This places forces through the neck that can result in unwanted injuries.

 

(strongerleaner.com)

So here make sure to “tuck” the chin, or in other words, try to make a “double chin” keeping the eyes straight ahead. 

Lastly, when you approach the top of the chin up, focus on keeping the shoulder blades tipped backwards, not forward!

When the shoulder blades tip forward, the shoulder joint follows and this creates more force and pressure through the front of the shoulder. This is not good as this force and pressure can end up resulting in injury to the structures of the shoulder. So keep the shoulder blades tipped back at the completion of the chin up.

 

(scholarschoice.com)

↑ I had to, and its a solid pull up!

With that you should feel the chin up working the core, lats, upper back and biceps. If you feel anything else you need to reevaluate the execution of the chin up. 

 

The Overhead Press

The overhead press is an exercise that many of us have been told is not a “bad exercise” because it is “not good” for the shoulders. 

Or on the other hand, we have been told that it is an absolute monster when it comes to building upper body strength and size, and therefore we push through pain in order to complete it. 

First, you should never push through pain, but you should also question anyone who says that any one exercise is inherently a bad exercise…unless you are back squatting on a stability ball!

 

(bodybuilding.com)

As you now know, exercises become “bad exercises” when they are executed improperly, and the overhead press is no different.

With the overhead press (and its many variations) we oftentimes feel the work taking place in the shoulders and triceps, which is good, but we also feel the lower back, and a “pinching” feeling in the shoulder. 

You can probably guess what is happening with the lower back!

As we push overhead we have a tendency to lean backwards, push the hips forward and allow them to tip forward. As we now know, this is bad news for the lower back. 

 

(muscleandperformance.com)

↑ Dude is jacked, just like his back will likely be!

So here too you need to focus on keeping the core engaged, and you can also focus on not allowing the ribcage to pop up as you press overhead. Do not allow the ribcage to follow the arms as they go overhead. 

Once that is taken care of, you need to focus on allowing your shoulder blades to go up and around the ribcage as you press overhead. If the shoulder blades stay pinned down as the arms go overhead you are closing down the space in the shoulder joint and compressing/impinging the structures of shoulder between the shoulder blade and the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). 

This is where you will get a pinching feeling which overtime can result in chronic injuries such as  a labral tear or rotator cuff damage. 

So again here think about your shoulder blades moving up and around as the arms press overhead. 

 

(injuryactive.com)

With these two big considerations in mind you should feel the work taking place in the core, shoulders and triceps without any pressure or pain in the back or shoulder. 

 

The Wrap Up

Over the past 3 articles there was a lot of information about where you should, and shouldn’t be feeling the work taking place during 9 different movements. 

Once you know and understand these you can train more optimally, achieve maximal results and prevent becoming one of the many who have fallen victim to the overuse injury plague wreaking havoc on the athletic and fitness population. 

Use your newfound knowledge to help others and do them a favor and share this series with them. 

Remember it is all about the execution of exercises that really determines the outcome of your training…so execute properly!

Get These Exercises Right or Stay Weak and Injured…Part II

 

If you didn’t read part 1 of this series, stop here, grab some coffee, take a deep breath and read this —> (Get These Exercises Right or Stay Weak and Injured…Part 1)…then come back here to finish off the knowledge bombs in part 2! 

After reading through the part 1 of this series you should understand that it really isn’t  all about the sets, reps, rest periods, or how many back flip burpees you can manage to complete before smashing your face on the ground that truly determines whether or not the program you are on is the best program for you. 

 

 

What matters is how the program, and more specifically, how the exercises are executed. 

With part 1 behind us, where we covered the squat, the deadlift and the row, let’s dive into part 2 with three more common movements that are typically executed in a way that produces suboptimal results and overuse injuries. 

 

The Push Up

One of my favorite “upper body” exercises is the push up. And I put quotes around upper body because if you are performing the push up correctly it is truly a full body exercise!

The most unfortunate thing about the push up is that it is usually absolutely butchered when we are not coached to perform it correctly. 

And because of this, many will usually describe that they feel the work taking place in the chest and triceps, which is good, but also that there is a lot of pressure in the front of the shoulder and the lower back…NOT GOOD!

The push up is an exercise that should target the chest, triceps and shoulders, but there should not be a ton of pressure in the front of the shoulder. And there should NEVER, I say again, NEVER be pressure or pain in the lower back.

When it comes to the pressure in the front of the shoulder, one of the most common mistakes we see is at the bottom of the push up, the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) glides forward out of the shoulder socket compressing the structures at the front of the shoulder. 

 

(amazon.com)

This is easy to spot, especially when we see the elbows passing to far beyond the midline of the body. Also, you will likely notice the shoulder blades tipping forward. 

So the goal here would be to stop at the range of motion when the elbows are roughly in line with the back, or slightly behind, and focus on keeping the shoulder and shoulder blades from going forward. 

Next, if you low back hurts, or feels like it is “working” during the push up, really what is happening is that you are relying on your spine and other passive structures to keep your hips from dipping all the way to the ground. 

When you let the hips sag and tip forward, the lower back arches and this places a significant amount of stress through the structures of the lower back. 

 

(greatist.com)

Instead, focus on keeping the hips from tipping forward, as if you were trying to pull your zipper up towards your ribcage, or if you had a tail, try to tuck your tail.

 

(pintrest.com)

This will help you prevent hyperextension of the lower back. Then all you have to do is keep your hips up and in line with the shoulders and heels.

Take these cues into consideration and you should feel your chest, shoulders, triceps and core working during the push up. Not only will this result in more strength and muscle gain, but it will reduce your risk for overuse injury of the shoulder and lower back.

 

The Bench Press

The bench press is very similar to the push as it is also a horizontal pressing exercise. 

Many times we are told that athletes and clients feel the bench press in their chest and triceps (again, a good thing), but here again the front of the shoulder and the low back are commonly felt.

The nice thing about the bench press is that because you are lying on the bench, the bench provides you some feedback to help you stay in better positions.

First, when it comes to the head of the humerus moving forward, and the shoulder blade tipping forward, you can think about pulling both back into the bench as you descend the weight down. 

While you may not actually move the shoulder blades much as they are between your body weight and the bench, you can move them just enough and keep them from tipping forward by thinking about pulling them back into the bench. 

 

(mensfitness.com)

 

Also, you now have the bench as a reference point to not allow your elbow to pass too far behind. Once you feel the elbow approaching the bench you can stop just before it passes behind the bench. 

This helps you feel yourself placing the shoulders in a better position to prevent the forward pressure and excessive tension on the front of the shoulder.  

When it comes to the low back, walk into any commercial gym and you will likely watch guys (and some of the ladies) bench pressing and it may look like they are reenacting a scene from The Exorcist . 

 

(imgflip.com)

(t-nation.com)

↑ Thats gonna hurt!

While this position will allow you to push more weight in the short term, if this position is used throughout your bench press training, in the long term this will leave you with chronic back issues.

Instead, use the bench as a reference and make sure your back stays flat to the bench…or at the very least does not pop further off the bench. 

Here again you can think about pulling your zipper up towards your ribcage to prevent anterior tip at the pelvis and hyperextension of the lower back. 

You should get up from the bench press and feel that your chest, triceps, shoulders and core were working to complete the movement. 

 

The Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is an amazing exercise when it comes to overall lower body strength, size and stability. But here again, there are a few common areas that athletes and clients feel working during the reverse lunge that are not optimal.

First, the quads are usually the first area to light up. And more so, many will feel the work taking place in the back leg quad. While the quads will be working, when performed correctly you should actually feel more of the work coming from the hips (glutes) and hamstrings.

The reason the quads take over is that many of us will lunge to straight up and down.

 

(financeandbusiness.com)

This forces the quads to kick on more as they are in a more advantageous position to apply force. And when we are to straight up and down we will be forced to put more weight on the back leg, therefore the back quad will not only be stretching, but it will also be experiencing a lot more tension.

This is why the day after a heavy lunge day it may be hard to walk down the stairs for fear of your quad ripping and sending you tumbling to the bottom.

So instead of being super straight up and down, think about creating a slight hip hinge, almost as if you were to get into a position to take off for a sprint. 

 

(drjohnrusin.com)

From there, focus on keeping the majority of your weight on your front foot as you step back. 

Lastly, to return to the top position, drive the heel of your front foot into the ground and as if you were trying to rip the ground behind you, pull yourself up from the bottom position. This will help you engage more glute and hamstring. 

Not only will this help you turn on and work the muscles that we are looking to work, but it will also help you prevent knee pain as knee pain usually occurs from excessive tension in the quads. 

Next, a lot of us will finish the lunge and feel tightness in the low back. First you must focus on keeping your core engaged and the zipper pulled up towards your ribcage. 

But also, this can again be attributed to being too straight up and down as when the leg goes back, if you are straight up and down it is more likely for the hip to tip forward and the low back to hyperextend. So by leaning forward slightly you can help this.

Along with the slight forward lean, make sure not to step back too far with the trail leg as this again will pull your hip forward and place your low back into hyperextension.

 

(competitorrunning.com)

Instead focus on stepping back far enough to allow the knee of the trail leg to drop right underneath the hip. This will create a 90 degree angle at the front leg and a 90 degree angle at the back leg. 

All in all, you should finish the reverse lunge and feel the majority of the work taking place in the glutes and hamstrings, not just blowing up the quads, and never in the low back!

The Final Part

Part 3 of this series is next and will be the final part. We will go over 3 more common movements that are also commonly performed incorrectly. 

Please help spread the word and share these articles (FACEBOOK) as the goal is for everyone to be able to train pain free and achieve the body, performance and confidence they want and deserve.

Get These Exercises Right or Stay Weak and Injured…Part I

 

Do you ever wonder if the training program you are on is the best program to help you reach your goals?

If you answered no, you are lying! I don’t mean to call you out, but I myself ask this question quite often. 

It is human nature to wonder if there is something out there that is better, quicker and more effective. We all want results now. Actually, we all wanted results yesterday. 

 

(quickmeme.com)

With that, what you are really wondering is if the exercises, exercise order, sets, reps, rest periods, etc. are structured in a way that are going to get you the biggest bang for your training buck. And while these considerations are important, and something that coaches like myself spend years trying to learn and perfect, it is not the most important consideration that determines a successful training session.

Whether you are an athlete looking to enhance overall performance, an adult looking to lose fat and gain some muscle, or someone who just enjoys being active without pain, the best program is one that is executed properly!

And by executed properly, I am referring to the exercises themselves, and more specifically, where you feel the exercises working.

There is a HUGE problem we see, even with a program that looks absolutely rock solid, has tons of research backing the methods included and is being “followed to a T” (if you ever wondered where that phrase came from, check this out after…http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/to-a-t.html).

That problem is that the individual training does not understand where he or she should be feeling the work take place. And when this happens, even if the movement looks pretty good, compensations can (and most likely WILL) arise. 

This will lead to overuse injury, or at the very least, lack of results. 

 

(humanfitproject.com)

Why, you may ask!

Because when we are simply completing movements rather than understanding and targeting the proper musculature to do so, we are placing stresses on certain joints, and overusing certain muscles to a greater degree. 

We are also not creating the necessary local fatigue to muscles that we are trying to hypertrophy (grow) and because we are not utilizing the most appropriate movement patterns we will fatigue more quickly, thus reducing the amount of work we can complete…not good if muscle growth and fat loss is a goal!

So what you need to do is understand what the exercise is targeting and make sure to create a “mind muscle” connection when performing the movement. <—Ya, bodybuilders hit this one right on the head.

With that, let’s go over some common exercises that we see athletes and clients performing and feeling in the wrong areas…and let’s make sure you know where you should be feeling them work!

 

(keganv.com)

The Squat

Whether you are banging out reps of the goblet squat, upping your front squat or working through the traditional back squat, there are a few areas where you should feel the squat working…and not working!

First, most of the time when asked, “Where do you feel that,” the common responses include the lower back, quads, hamstrings and groin. 

While the squat will essentially work every muscle group, you need to focus on keeping the core engaged to reduce the pressure on your lower back. This means focusing on “shrink wrapping” your spine by contracting your obliques and rectus…envision pulling your zipper up towards your ribcage. 

Next, you will feel the squat working the quads and hamstrings, but you want to make sure the glutes (your butt) is your main driver. You can accomplish this by making sure to keep the majority of your pressure through your heels, and you can think about “screwing your feet into the ground” as well as trying to “rip the ground apart” between your feet. 

Read this article I wrote for T-Nation a while back for a more in depth look on getting your glutes activated during squats and deadlifts –> 3 Ways to Power Up Your Glutes

This helps you to engage all three main actions of the glutes (extension, abduction and external rotation) which helps increase the work of the glutes and decrease the work of the quads and hamstrings.  

 

(breakingmuscle.com)

Lastly, envisioning actively pulling yourself to the floor while sitting in between your hips helps to get the glutes going. 

So focus on keeping the core engaged and then driving through the hips (GLUTES) when performing the squat. You will feel the quads, hamstrings and groin working, but if you are feeling the lower back, quads, hamstrings and groin without the glutes, you may be working your way into some unwanted compensations!

 

The Deadlift

The deadlift and all of its variations (conventional, sumo, trap bar, etc.) are designed to strength the hip hinging pattern. 

While the different variations will target musculature in a slightly different way, there are still some constants that you must understand in order to optimize the deadlift.

First, if you have been told that the deadlift is a low back exercise, please smack whoever told you that and forget they ever said it!

The deadlift IS NOT a low back exercise. Yes, you will be utilizing the musculature of the lower back, but you do not want to finish your sets and feel your low back on fire. If you do, you will likely have trouble walking the next day with out the old man limp, and down the road you will be more likely to experience chronic low back pain from overuse.

Instead, you should feel the deadlift working the glutes (yup, there they are again!), the hamstrings and the upper back. 

In order to do so, make sure your back stays neutral throughout the lift and think once again about “shrink wrapping” your spine with your core. 

 

(stronglifts.com)

Be sure to focus on hinging backwards with the hips as you fold over in order to feel a stretch occurring in the hamstrings and tension building in the glutes. Keep the upper back engaged to prevent it from rounding forward.

When you initiate the pull, like the squat, think about driving the heels through the ground as you “screw” your feet. At the same time focus on bringing the hips forward to unfold, do not simply lift your chest or you will be primarily targeting the low back. Finish the rep tall and squeeze the hell out of your glutes…imagine a walnut between your cheeks and crack that thing!

 

(amazon.co.uk)

The Row

Although every rowing variation will target the biceps and shoulders to some extent, you do not want your rowing exercises to feel like they are mainly targeting your biceps, and not the front of your shoulder…even a little bit…not an smidge…nothing…nill…natta! 

If you are completing your rows by driving with the arms (biceps, etc.) you are not allowing the shoulder blade to move appropriately. When this happens you will likely end finishing with the shoulder blade tipped forward, the elbow too far behind the body and you will likely feel pressure in the front of the shoulder…and this is no good!

The pressure is the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) gliding forward in the shoulder socket. When this happens other structures such as the biceps tendon, joint capsule, etc. are compromised and can be irritated or injured. 

This dude probably has some anterior shoulder pain!

 

(youtube.com)

So if this happens you need focus on driving the row through your shoulder blade. Think about initiating the row by pulling your shoulder blade across your upper back and towards the spine. This will engage the upper back musculature, and you should feel most of the work taking place in the upper back (between the shoulder blades).

Lastly, you need to focus on tipping the shoulder blade back and finishing with the elbow in line with the back, not behind it. This ensures that you are finishing the row with the back musculature, and not finishing with the shoulder blade and joint in a compromised position. 

 

Part II Is Up Next

For the next part of this series we will go over the push up, reverse lunge and lateral lunge. With that you will have a pretty good understanding where you should be feeling some of the major exercises work in order to maximize results, and keep yourself from running into overuse injuries…stay tuned!

And if you want more specific help solidifying your exercise technique, all of the videos I use for my online coaching clients go through the exact cues I use with my in person athletes which helps them ensure they are doing the exercises correctly. Just shoot me a message (FACEBOOK) if you are looking for a program that is designed specifically for you and your goals and utilizes these videos to help take your body to the next level!

Eccentric Emphasis Training: A Method You Should Use…Here is Why and How (and a sample program)!

Whether you are a competitive athlete looking to get the edge on the competition, or you are a general population athlete looking to move better, feel better and achieve a lean and muscular physique, there are certain training methods that can help expedite the process.

One of the best methods to take advantage of is eccentric emphasis training (EET). 

 

What is EET?

The eccentric phase of a movement is the phase where the muscles producing the movement are lengthening while contracting. 

For example, during a squat the quads and glutes are lengthening as you descend into the bottom of the squat. At the same time they are contracting to prevent you from collapsing to the floor. This is the eccentric action. 

 

(https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-squat-4-step-progression-alex-cohn)

 

The quads and glutes would then concentrically contract (shorten while contracting) to get you out of the bottom of the squat and return to the standing position. 

The resistance of your body plus and outside resistance such as a loaded barbell is providing more force than the quads and glutes are producing, therefore they are lengthening during the eccentric portion. 

Another example could be the pecs and triceps during the lowering phase of a push up. They are both lengthening as you are descending, and they are both contracting to prevent you from smashing you face on the floor. 

So eccentric emphasis training would be when you emphasize, or spend more time than normal on the eccentric contraction. 

 

Why should you emphasize the eccentric phase?

There are a few key benefits to EET that regular eccentric concentric speed training does not fully optimize.

  1. Solidifies technique

During regular speed training we descend into a movement, or lower the resistance, in a fashion that is controlled, but not so controlled that we expend more energy than necessary to complete.

While this is conducive to using more resistance during the concentric phase of the movement, it often does not allow us to feel and maintain optimal tension throughout the entire movement. With this lack of tension, form begins to fade as fatigue sets in and we end up looking like newborn giraffe wobbling around as we get deeper into the set. 

As Fang et. al. found in a study conducted in 2001, there is earlier onset cortical activity during eccentric contractions vs concentric contractions, which has been credited to the preparation for more complex movement (1). 

This means by dedicating time to an eccentric emphasis block, technique is shored up as the more time spent under tension provides greater response from the nervous system helping you solidify a movement pathway and coordination. 

 

(theodysseyonline.com)

Motor control and learning is more efficiently achieved with a slower eccentric action. 

This is especially important when you are performing a new lift, or if you are a new to the training game in general. 

 

2.   Enhances Deceleration

In many cases, especially within the athletic world, non contact injuries occur during the deceleration phase of movement. 

The muscles and tendons themselves are not strong enough to properly dissipate the forces produced when decelerating a movement or joint, and therefore they are likely to experience damage, or a strain.

By improving the strength of the eccentric contraction, your ability to decelerate becomes greater. This provides a better base to then control forces and limit the likeliness of an injury during deceleration.

Again this is critical when it comes to sports, but movements such as sprinting, cutting and jumping are incorporated into many of our training programs.  

Also, aside from quick explosive movements, slower eccentrics and deceleration work helps to teach the tension necessary to control heavy loads such as those we experience under a heavy load, especially during more dynamic movements including forward, reverse, lateral and walking lunges, etc. 

 

3.   Increases Muscle Tendon Strength

Closely related to the previous point, eccentric exercise helps to strengthen the entire muscle-tendon unit, allowing it to better absorb force before failure, as was described in an analysis of research in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy (2).

EET allows the tendons themselves to experience an increase in stiffness, making them more durable to the forces exerted on them. 

 

(leanshapes.uk)

With an increase in tendon stiffness and an overall ability to absorb and dissipate force, the muscle-tendon unit becomes more resilient and your risk of injury decreases.  

 

4. Provides the Opportunity for Greater Force Potential

It is no secret that you can handle more weight on the eccentric portion of the movement than you can on the concentric. 

During a maximal lift no one ever fails lowering the weight, but instead when trying to reverse directions and accelerate the weight. 

The potential force production during eccentric movement has exceeded loads of 120% of the concentric maximum. This is favorable when it comes to strength gains as you can overload the musculature and nervous system to a greater degree during the eccentric portion of the movement than you can with the concentric portion. 

The tricky part is you will often need a spotter (or two) to effectively and safely use these loads during most compound movements.

You can lower the weight in a slow and controlled fashion and when you are ready to reverse directions your partner(s) simply assist you in lifting the resistance.

You can also have your partner apply additional resistance during the eccentric phase only such as pushing down on the barbell as you lower it to your chest during the bench press. Your partner then releases from the bar and you push the bar away from your chest. 

However, you don’t necessarily need a partner as you can use methods such as the 2/1 or two movements technique as described in this article by Christian Thibaudeau. 

However you choose to use it, the eccentric portion of a movement can handle greater forces than that of the concentric portion, therefore helping to better improve strength outcomes. 

 

5. Increases Muscle Hypertrophy

Possibly the greatest benefit of EET with regards to the majority of lifters is the enhanced result in muscle hypertrophy.

An earlier finding by Vandenburgh (1987) proposed that the greatest stimulus for muscle hypertrophy occurs when a muscle is stretched under load (3).

The stretching of a muscle while under load increases the mircrotrauma to the contractile and structural components of the muscles. This subcellular damage signals physiological responses that are responsible for the repair and growth of muscle tissue (4).

 

(pickthebrain.com)

With that, you can see why emphasizing the eccentric portion of a movement is best to maximize hypertrophy as it is going to stimulate a greater repair and growth response. 

6)   More Effective Tissue Remodeling / Tissue Lengthening

Closely related to the last point, muscles will grow when stretched under load, and they will also lengthen as there is a need for the muscles to add sarcomeres in series (the contractile unit of a muscle). 

In the simplest form, this means that the muscle, when lengthening under load, will have to adapt and add length so the next time the muscle experiences the same forces, it has a greater range of motion to do so. 

This effectively helps to solidify the new range of motion that is found with exercises and stretches throughout your program. 

 

Eccentric Emphasis Training…Where We Go Wrong

As with every training method, there is a point where the return on investment with will diminish. And past a certain point, EET will limit your ability to train hard, recover and adapt.

With this in mind, there are two major components to EET where many of us go wrong.

1) Since it has been shown that the eccentric portion of the movement is responsible for a majority of the strength and size gains you we experience with training, it is human nature to think that spending more and more time on the eccentric will beget greater results.

Although this thought process seems to make sense, it was actually found that faster eccentric contractions result in greater strength and hypertrophic adaptations. It was concluded that it was likely do to a greater amount of protein remodeling (5). 

This would occur as a result of more micro trauma from a faster eccentric movement vs the slower eccentric movement.

So slowing the eccentric movement down significantly will not create a greater stimulus, and is likely less effective than a quicker eccentric phase.

With this in mind, I suggest spending no more than 5 seconds on the eccentric phase of a movement.

Another benefit of keeping the eccentric phase of the movement to 5 seconds or less is the fact that you will be able to utilize a higher load. The more time under tension there is, the more fatigue will accumulate and this fatigue will limit the amount of resistance you can use…no good when you are trying to maximize strength and size. 

2) Along the same lines of a longer eccentric phase, many of us overdue the total volume of EET.

EET not only creates a greater amount of micro-trauma, but it also places a significant amount of stress on the nervous system. 

Although the anatomical damage and neural stress are beneficial to stimulate growth and adaptation, if the stimulus is too large, recovery will be compromised and subsequent training sessions will suffer.

Eccentric focused resistance training has been associated with increased levels of pain, decreased levels of fiber excitability and acute muscle weakness (6). 

Again, while these results will lead to an environment that encourages hypertrophic adaptations and increases in strength, if taken too far the initial negative effects can be detrimental to long term progress.  

Therefore instead of falling for the “more is better” that many lifters find themselves becoming victim too, utilize EET conservatively.

Start with a 3-4 week block where you implement EET into the first major lift of each session. If you are working on a full body split, you can utilize EET on the primary lower body as well as upper body movement. 

Follow that up with some lower intensity, moderate volume assistance work and get out of the weight room and onto recovery. 

While we all enjoy a good bout of DOMS from time to time, don’t be that jackass who chases soreness and thinks the session was worthless if the next day you are not walking down the stairs sideways for the fear that you might tear your quad and grind your face down the remaining stairs. 

 

Sample 3 Day Full Body Program (Intro into EET Training)

Day 1 (Lower Push Upper Pull)

1a. Front Squat EET 3×5 with 3-4 second eccentric

1b. Chin Up EET 3×5 with 3-4 second eccentric

2a. Forward DB Lunge 3×8/side

2b. Chest Supported DB Row 3×8

3a. Single Leg Squat from Box 2×12/side

3b. Single Arm Cable Row 2×12/side

4a. Abwheel Rollout 2×10

4b. Facepull 2×15

 

Day 2 (Lower Pull Upper Push)

1a. Deadlift EET 3×4 with 3-4 second eccentric followed by 2×2 with 2-3 second eccentric

1b. Bench Press EET 3×4 with 3-4 second eccentric followed by 2×2 with 2-3 second eccentric

2a. Single Arm Single Leg DB RDL 3×8/side

2b. Alternating Incline DB Bench Press 3×8/side

3a. Single Leg Hip Thrust 3×10/side

3b. Push Up 3×10

4a. TRX Tricep Extension 2×10

4b. Slideboard Leg Curl 2×10

 

Day 3 (Full Body)

1a. FSG Reverse Lunge 3×5/side with 3-4 second eccentric

1b. Single Arm DB Row 3×6/side with 3-4 second eccentric

2a. Landmine Front Squat 3×8

2b. Incline Bench Press 3×8

3a. Goblet Grip Lateral Lunge 3×10/side

3b. TRX Inverted Row 3×10

3c. DB Floor Press 3×10

 

Hopefully you are convinced that you should be using EET to help you achieve the fitness and performance you are looking for. If you want more help designing a program that incorporates EET as well as many other quality training methods, shoot me a MESSAGE HERE and I’ll help you get started (or continue) building the body you want.

 

References

  1. Y. Fang, V. Siemionow, V. Sahgal, F. Xiong, and G. H. Yue, “Greater movement-related cortical potential during human eccentric versus concentric muscle contractions,” Journal of Neurophysiology, vol. 86, no. 4, pp. 1764–1772, 2001.
  2. P. LaStayo, et. al., “Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Their Contribution to Injury, Prevention, Rehabilitation and Sport,” Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 33, no.10, pp. 562, 2003. 

3.   H. H. Vandenburgh, “Motion into mass: how does tension stimulate muscle growth?” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, vol. 19, no. 5, supplement, pp. S142–S149, 1987. 

4.   V. G. Coffey and J. A. Hawley, “The molecular bases of   training adaptation,” Sports Medicine, vol. 37, no. 9, pp. 737–763, 2007.

5. Shepstone TN, et al. Short-term high- vs. low-velocity isokinetic lengthening training results in greater hypertrophy of the elbow flexors in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 May;98(5):1768-76.

6. N. Hedayatpour, D. Falla, L. Arendt-Nielsen, C. Vila-Chã, and D. Farina, “Motor unit conduction velocity during sustained contraction after eccentric exercise,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 41, no. 10, pp. 1927–1933, 2009.