Updated: Apr 11, 2019
When I first started in the gym, I started to focus on nothing else but just to lift the weight. I did not even pay attention to squeezing the muscle at all, neither to lowering the weight. Just like most people, if you are new in the gym, you don't have any idea what to do. You will try to mimic a person who seems to know what he or she is doing. Unfortunately, copying someone in the gym does not usually help. You actually have to execute the exercise properly to see good results. This is one of the most important lessons I learned over the years of my training experience. This is also one of the things I would advise a client as a Personal Trainer.
To provide you with a better idea, let's take the classic dumb bell curl which is a great workout for the arms, targeting the biceps. Imagine how the movement is done. Now, let's split the movement into three parts - concentric, isometric and eccentric. First of, you lift the dumbbell close to your shoulder. This results to the contraction of your biceps. This is called concentric. Secondly, if can you hold the weight up there, that muscle contraction of your biceps is called isometric. Lastly, when you slowly release that muscle contraction, your biceps lengthen. This results for the dumbbells to go back down. This is the phase called eccentric action.
According to Wikipedia, An eccentric contraction is the motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening under load.
It is usually easier for people an exercise to focus on concentric and isometric phase. Little we know that we do not see positive results because we are lacking out on the eccentric movement. If you were to ask or observe body builders, the tend to take more time on the eccentric movement than the two other contractions. This is a secret of successful muscle growth - eccentric training. Eccentric training basically focuses on the "lowering of the weight" or the stretching of the muscles.
In body building, it is important to create healthy micro tears through weight training. The body heals the micro tears in your muscle by feeding it with amino acids (smaller version of protein) and many other factors. This process results into a stronger and bigger muscle. This is the reason why nutrition plays a key role in fitness.
In our bicep curl example above, the biceps are contracted during the the concentric and isometric phase. However, most of the micro tears happens when you slowly lower the weight. Another way of illustrating it is with a rubber band. Imagine that the rubber band is your bicep muscles. Pay closer attention to the rubber band (just be careful of it snapping off), you will notice that the material of the rubber band seems to be breaking apart. That's how it happens in the muscles, except that it happens in the microscopic level.
So if you want a good technique for muscle training, try performing with emphasis on the eccentric movement. Lift the weight, hold it shortly, then let the weight down slowly. This is not only applicable to bicep curls but also for most muscle training exercises - chest press, squats, deadlifts, ab crunches, pull ups, you name it! When I learned about this, I felt I wasted a lot of time back then because I seen drastic results performing the eccentric training.
Note: Do not overwork your muscles in hopes to create too much micro tears. The body needs time to recover and grow. This process takes plenty of time. Patience is virtue #slightedge.
Would you try paying more attention to your eccentric movement in your next gym session? Let me know. Leave a comment. Please like and share! Thank you.