Friday, February 22, 2013
Another set of components to having success with ST is an understanding of the phases of lifting.
Concentric - when the muscle is contracting or shortening, as in the lifting phase of a bicep curl.
Isometric - when the muscle is under tension but there is no joint movement - this would be the case if you tried to lift your car with one hand - no actual movement, but the muscle is under tension.
Eccentric - when the muscle is extending or lengthening, as in the phase when returning the dumbell to the start position with a bicep curl.
Why is this important? It is all part of getting the most out of workout sessions while avoiding exposure to injury. Moving the weight too quickly in either the concentric or eccentric phases can stress the muscle and cause injury - it is also a recipe for creating poor form - slow and controlled allows the muscle to carry the weight and adjust to the changing stress points.
There is some research (I don't have it for reference, but I recall when I read it that it was coming from a credible source) that indicates the concentric and eccentric phases are equally important in building size and strength.
For most exercises a good rule of thumb is that the motion phases should be done at a 3-count pace in both directions (some trainers advocate a two count for concentric and a 4 count for eccentric).
I wouldn't worry too much about 3 - 3 count or 2 - 4 count. The concept is to go slow in both directions. If you are letting the weight drop back down or trying to do as many reps as fast as you can, you are risking injury and probably not maximizing your lifting sessions.
You might not be able to use as much weight on the bar or do as many reps, but you will build more muscle (the salient point from my last blog - it is not about how much or how long - it is about going to muscle failure - safely that determines muscle and strength growth) and avoid injury and undue stress on joints.
Happy, and safe lifting.