Most lifters don’t think about the actual names of the techniques they are performing; they just want get to the gym, pump some weights, feel good and get out.
We tend to use simple terms like push, pull, curl, etc. - but the types of lifts we perform do have names. For instance:
- Concentric muscle action occurs when the muscle contracts or shortens.
- Isometric muscle action is when a muscle is activated and develops force, but no movement at the joint occurs, such as a wall-sit. You are generating force, although there is no joint movement.
- Eccentric muscle action (negatives) occurs when the muscle lengthens in a controlled manner. Muscles can only shorten or lengthen in a controlled manner. In simple terms, gravity is trying to pull the weight back to where it started and the muscles must lengthen so the weight does not fall abruptly, which can potentially injure you.
Looking at these, we typically do a lot of concentric types of lifts in the gym, which definitely have their place and work. But, what if we were to add more eccentric movements in? Would this double the work load? Or create a more efficient workout?
Negatives can be used in many ways during a workout.
For example, you are performing a standing barbell curl, and typically you curl the bar up as high as you can then drop it on your thighs. However, what if instead of dropping it fast, you try and hold the bar for 5 full seconds? If you have tried this before, you know it hurts and burns, so why don’t we do more reps like this instead of just throwing the weight around so fast?
Simple answer is EGO.
I think too many lifters like to add on the most weight and do as many as they can, dropping it loud and proud instead of lightening the weight and controlling the entire movement. Also, to do true negatives, you need a spotter to lift the weight off of you. For example, when performing a bench press, you can get excellent gains by having a spotter lift a weight greater than your normal weight off the rack, then resisting it down to your chest for as long as you can. The idea is to trick your muscle memory into believing its doing more weight, and eventually you’ll be able to perform the same weight in a concentric movement. [Note: Please remember that this exercise can be dangerous without an experienced spotter.]
Barbell Curls - Perform 10 normal reps with a medium weight. On the last rep, hold the barbell as it is descending for at least five seconds. If this is too easy, try this on all 10 reps - the pump is amazing.
Bench Press - With a spotter, use over 100 percent of your normal one rep max. Have the spotter lift the bar off the rack keeping his hands on it the whole time. Try and resist the weight for as long as you can and do as many as you can, or have the spotter lift for you.
Leg Extensions - Perform the concentric movement up, then count to 10 while the weight is slowly dropping.
Try these different eccentric workouts and you will see great results.