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Strength training: the BIG positives of negatives!

What is ‘eccentric training’ why is it effective, and how can you incorporate it into a training routine?

In my program this week the Strength With Weights workouts are all about eccentric movement. Here's the link to the video workout:

What is eccentric training?

So what is this negative training thing then? Well, imagine picking up a dumbbell and curling it upwards as you would in a biceps curl. If you watch your biceps muscle, you’ll see it contract and shorten while force is being exerted to raise the weight during this ‘lifting’ phase. When muscle fibers shorten and contract as they exert force, the muscle contraction is known as a CONCENTRIC CONTRACTION. Think of the parts of resistance exercises you perform in the gym where the weight is rising against the force of gravity – the muscle contraction is concentric or positive. For most people, this is what they think of as the ‘useful’ part of the movement.

However, there is another type of muscle contraction that can occur. Known as an ECCENTRIC or NEGATIVE CONTRACTION, this movement occurs when the muscle fibers are being lengthened under load. In the example of the biceps curl, the negative or eccentric contraction occurs if the dumbbell is lowered slowly and under control – the biceps muscles having to exert force to stop the weight falling freely.

Why eccentric training?

A little nerdy, but keep reading! Research has shown that both the positive (concentric) and negative (eccentric) contractions in resistance training confer strength gains to the muscles. However, more recent studies have demonstrated that eccentric contractions are particularly effective in this respect (1-3). This is because the physiological ‘micro-damage’ induced in muscle fibers after eccentric muscle contractions strongly stimulates the release of a signalling molecule called ‘mTORC1’ – and thanks to the advances in molecular biology, we now know that mTORC1 switches on genes in muscles, instructing them to grow. Awesome, Right!

What to expect

If you haven’t trained like this before, you’re in for feeling that you worked out! Expect to feel totally jellied. You’ll also notice more a little more soreness the day after because negative contractions cause more of the microfilament damage thought to be responsible for post workout soreness than do positive contractions. Remember though, this is a ‘good’ thing as it’s the micro-damage that stimulates muscle growth via mTORC1.

With the above in mind, it’s wise to limit your negative sessions to no more than a few sets per body part or to just add one negative set after your normal sets. These same reasons also make negative training unsuitable for beginners. However, don’t be put off by these caveats, because used sensibly negative training can help to produce dramatic gains in strength, especially for those with some experience under their belts. Throwing in some negative training can also help you get over those sticking points when you feel as though you’re ‘stuck in a rut’ or you need something to lift your intensity.

I'm working on my pull-ups, by lowering slowly. And soon, one day I'll be able to do a pull-up without assistance.

All My Best,

Coach Kellie

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