The body is meant to function as a unit, therefore it has developed a system in which it can functionally operate to either stabilize, endure, push, pull, or stretch when doing certain movements. When we break it all down, the body will always need to have both concentric and eccentric strength to properly function. Those who are lacking in either of them will have it show in their fundamental movement patterns. We tend to always have misconceptions when discussing concentric and eccentric based strength training. We also find a lot of individuals developing asymmetry in muscular strength which in turn distorts their physique and performance. So first, let's break down the terms "concentric" and "eccentric" to better understand their roles in strength training.
Concentric Muscle Contractions are when muscles shorten as it contracts against resistance. It is commonly referred to as flexing. For example, during a chin up, the concentric phase is when you lift your body weight off the ground to pull yourself up bringing the upper chest to the bar which would then primarily contract the lats, rhomboids, biceps etc… The eccentric muscle contraction phase would control movement on the way down to where you started, lengthening the muscles as they resists against your body weight.
While both concentric and eccentric contractions are important for overall muscle strength, balance and development, eccentric strengthening often receives less attention despite its significant benefits. Here at SPU we have many reasons why we implement eccentric strength training in our athletes program.
Firstly, eccentric strength training helps stimulate muscle growth and pure strength. The eccentric contractions can generate greater force compared to concentric contractions, leading to greater muscle damage and subsequently greater muscle growth and strength when properly recovered. During the hypertrophy phase for an athlete of the appropriate age, we tend to put some form of eccentric strength movements to help them gain some lean muscle mass in the off-season.
Secondly, eccentric strength training helps with the root cause of injuries and treating symptoms. By putting the joints through certain stress, it helps improve the athletes’ joint stability, reducing the risk of injuries, particularly in activities involving deceleration or sudden changes in direction.
Lastly, eccentric strength training can easily help with improving functional strength. Many everyday movements involve eccentric muscle actions, such as lowering oneself into a chair or descending stairs. Strengthening the muscles eccentrically can improve performance and efficiency in these activities. As we age, eccentric strength becomes much more valuable. With cases of post surgeries, eccentric strength training is often used in rehabilitation programs to ensure a safe recovery.
In all, we can not neglect the importance of eccentric strength training because it helps with the basis of fundamental and functional movements more than just focusing on training concentric movements.
-Coach Andy Louis