Spring season is upon us & we can briefly look into two slightly unusual & quite specific training modalities.
Each repetition (from here on termed as a ‘rep’) you execute when completing your strength & conditioning routine is a key component of your exercise.
Your trainer will have prescribed you the number of reps that make up each set & the number of sets that make up that particular routine. There are many variables to the above & just as many in terms of how you execute each rep within the set or sets you complete. So, before anyone tries to tell you there is only one way to execute a rep & one right number of reps & / or sets, know there are innumerate ways for all.
Breaking things down in terms of each rep what cannot be debated is the core basics that each rep has a positive, concentric, explosive, when the muscle is contracting, being rapidly tightened under tension & so performing the working phase where the participant also exhales. A second phase known as the isolation, total contraction, peaked phase, often with breath held. The third part of the movement is the eccentric, negative, more controlled, time under tension being stretched phase where the participant usually exhales. In your average straight strength program the positive is 2 second explosive, 2 second isolation & 4 second negative phase making each rep take between 6 seconds & more likely 8 seconds.
Without delving into the numerous coaching techniques of negative only training, negative accentuated training, double concentric, double eccentric, supers sets, matrix sets, tiered sets, rising resistance, reducing resistance etc this month we are looking at concentric training only or double concentric training & why that might be appropriate at times. Also eccentric or double eccentric only training techniques & rationales.
At times a concentric only program is used for an athlete even though some debate that it is inferior for an athlete seeking to gain strength. True the concentric phase does not provide growth stimulus as it does not break down the muscle tissue like the eccentric phase does. But remember with no eccentric phase you can increase the rate & frequency of the concentric phase.
Hence mostly useful for rehab work in increasing mobility, volume of blood flow, nutrients to that muscle etc. Concentric only may also afford you to hit an area of muscle lagging that would be overloaded if executing the eccentric phase afterwards. An easy example of a concentric phase free body movement would be a chin up whereby you step onto a hydraulic platform or side-ladder to lower yourself for the eccentric phase. Or a face-pull for biceps where you draw a resistance towards your face (discs on a sledge) then walk back away from the sledge & repeat. This enables you to drop the eccentric phase.
Some isokinetic equipment manufacturers produce double-concentric only apparatus, but this is usually only found in rehabilitation centres. Agreed that concentric only training is not as all-encompassing or beneficial as a traditional full rep it can be incorporated into rehabilitating damaged muscles, specific hypertrophy sessions & lend itself to all manner of phases of a well prescribed cycle of training.
Often incorporated into prowler, sledge work for athletes in functional zones or into medicine, smash, slam ball work as well as Bulgarian wrestling bags, power bags & sand bags.
More commonly seen is double-eccentric or eccentric only also often referred to as negative only reps & this technique & system of rep execution is far more commonly applied to hypertrophy sessions. Mostly because the technique affords the athlete to work with heavier weights, bigger resistance over the controlled, elongating, muscle stretching phase of the rep.
The eccentric phase is of course the muscle fibre under tension for longer & so microscopically tearing the fibres creating larger muscle mass when repairing over the ensuing recovery phase hours.
Easily achieved by working in with a training partner who performs the positive, concentric phase for you. This leaves you fresh, slightly recovered & more able to work with a heavier load on the all-important hypertrophy focus eccentric phase.
Typical examples being bench press or Olympic bar squats where spotters lift the Olympic bar for you back to the start of the rep. Easily executed when your partner curls the dumbbell back up for you on biceps work or lifts the dumbbell through the concentric phase of triceps extension etc.
So, the rarer concentric only program or more often utilised eccentric only programs are indeed legitimate training techniques within prescribed conditioning programs to work through with your coach or lifting buddy.
Have a good first month of spring season.