You may have heard the words concentric, eccentric when talking about exercises, however do you know what they mean and which is best for your training?
Imagine you are doing a bicep curl. Lifting and then lowering the weight back down.
Concentric exercises are where you are using a muscle and it shortens, e.g. lifting the weight.
Eccentric exercises are where you are using a muscle and it lengthens, e.g. controlling the lowering of the weight to the start position after having lifted it in a bicep curl.
(NB: Isometric exercise is where you use the muscle but it remains the same length, e.g. pushing against a wall.)
Concentric and eccentric loading and training
Exercises that involve both motions will create a greater increase in muscle mass and strength than concentric exercises alone. Focusing on both types of movement, eccentric and concentric, also means that you are training your body in a more realistic way for daily and sporting activities.
There are a number of differences in your muscles when they work concentrically and eccentrically. Your muscles are much stronger when working eccentrically. They are more susceptible to microtears (which become sites protein synthesis and therefore muscle growth) than the muscle working concentrically and are more susceptible to greater delayed muscle soreness. With this knowledge it is possible to increase your muscles strength by focusing not only on an explosive concentric exercises but by also incorporating very slow, controlled eccentric exercises.
(If you are looking to increase power rather than just strength and mass, then fast concentric and eccentric contractions with a fast change between the two is important and this takes you into the world of plyometric exercises.)
Additional benefits of eccentric exercises
Eccentric exercises not only help to strengthen muscles but also the tendons. And so Jīròu often uses these during rehabilitation following tendon injures.
The final benefit of eccentric exercises is that they will help increase flexibility (Take care to keep soft joints and not lock out when doing exercises.)
For further information please speak to Rachel