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What is up good people! We’re back at it with yet another article lookin to help you guys out when it comes to training for athletics. Sports performance training can be tricky for those who aren’t actually competitive athletes in the sense that there typically isn’t anywhere for you to go to get top level coaching for your specific sport. I would say that most people play sports to some extent, yet don’t have proper training because they don’t play sports competitively or professionally – it’s just a hobby. But whoever said you can’t be a badass at your hobby?! Not me! I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to train for their lifestyle, so if you play sports as a pastime, you darn tootin better be training for it. Hence why I created PowerLux Fitness, a way for a sports performance trainer to help everyday people reach their sporting goals. Which brings me to the topic of today’s article: eccentric training.
Now, you might think, how the hell do those 2 things connect. I’ll tell you. A majority of everyday people (non competitive or pro athletes) use eccentric training for 1 reason: to get bigger muscles. It’s a bodybuilding tactic that increases time under tension, and thus, causes hypertrophy of the muscles. However, eccentric training is so much more important than that when it comes to sports training. Eccentric training is possibly one of the best ways to build strength. I’m talking pure strength, not just muscle size. Yet, due to the division between typical gym goer training and athlete training, this concept of eccentric training remains solely in the athlete training box. So many people can benefit from this training but with only linking it to hypertrophy, they don’t use it for what it actually is meant for. Let me give you an example. If you have a Porsche GT2 RS, but the speed limit is only 60mph, then what the hell is the point of having the GT2? Just to say you have it? Now, let’s say you have the GT2, but there is no speed limit. You can full send that babe, and now, you’re finally putting him to good use (yes, I refer to cars as guys because cars are sexy as hell, and well, I like guys). That’s kinda like eccentric training. We wanna be the second example: doing eccentric training to take full advantage of what it has to offer.
Quick lesson on eccentric training in bullet point fashion:
• It’s the lengthening of muscles, aka the lowering down phase
• Every dynamic move starts with an eccentric action
• It initiates the storing of kinetic energy to be used during the concentric phase (think plyometrics)
There’s 2 physiological processes of eccentric training that might help to explain those bullet points a little better. These 2 processes are the Stretch Reflex and the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). Both of these are very intricate functions but for sake of time, and honestly because I don’t want to type a whole thesis on them, I’m gonna give you a real quick synopsis.
The Stretch Reflex deals with 2 things: Muscle Spindles and Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs). Both of them deal with sending information from the working area to the brain, but they send different information. Muscle Spindles tell the brain the amount of force acting on a muscle, and how hard it must contract in order to overcome said force. This process wants to stop the lengthening of the muscles before it lengthens too far and the damage is irreversible. GTOs tell the muscle to shut off when the force or stretch is too much to recover from. These are autogenic inhibitors, so they essentially just shut off your muscle to protect it when they feel a force too heavy or a stretch too far. So in summary, muscle spindles say “contract, contract, contract, for the love of God, contract,” whereas GTOs say “oh fuck this shit, we outta here”. While both of these guys are extremely important and help to protect the integrity of our muscles, think of them as an overprotective mom. No one likes an overprotective mom… *barf*. GTOs actually kick in and shut off our muscles prematurely at about 40% below what we can handle. Just think about that… back to the car example. You’re driving your GT2, which has a top speed of 211mph (not to be specific or anything), on a track, no speed limit, nothing, just straight pedal to the metal. But, the car has a built in safety mechanism to protect it, and this mechanism kicks in when the car is at only 60% of max speed. So basically, the safety mechanism that shuts the car off initiates at 127mph…. when the actual top speed is 211 mph…….. YOU’RE LEAVING 85 MPH ON THE TABLE. 127MPH IS THE TOP SPEED OF MY SUBARU FORESTER!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME… WHY HAVE SUCH A BADASS PERFORMANCE CAR IF MY FRICKIN 2011 FORESTER CAN GO FASTER. Woah, sorry, I got a little out of control there. But I think you get the analogy. At the end of the day, muscle spindles and GTOs are good, and they mean well, but they need to lowkey back the fuck up. And that brings us to the goal of eccentric training: desensitize GTOs while improving synchronization of the CNS, muscles, and muscle spindles.
Now onto the Stretch Shortening Cycle, and I promise, this will be a smaller paragraph than the stretch reflex. The SSC absorbs kinetic energy within our muscles and tendons. Every time we perform a movement, we’re creating and storing kinetic energy to help propel us to the next movement. Our muscles are elastic in nature, so once they are stretched, they will resume their normal shape, but the time it takes for them to do that depends on how elastic they are. Additionally, the more elastic they are and the quicker they can return to normal shape, the more energy they produce which helps our muscles perform that work. So all of that means that when we stretch the muscles, we have kinetic energy plus our muscle strength working to contract that lengthened muscle back to normal… kinetic energy plus muscle strength means double the power. Think of a rubber band, if you stretch a really tight rubber band and then let go, it shoots forward aggressively. That’s like our muscle: if we stretch them then let go, our muscles rapidly contract and propel us in the direction we desire. Now this is the key to plyometrics, which helps build the foundation for power. Plyometrics works on absorbing force to produce force, so the faster we can absorb force, the faster we can produce force. Also, the more force we absorb overall, the more we’ll produce, as we’ll have all that kinetic energy absorbed in us waiting to be released… that kinda sounds weird. And generally, the stronger you are, the more force you can absorb and the faster you can absorb it. Annnnnd the best way to get really strong… you guessed it… eccentric training!
If you guys are still with me at this point, major props to you. I’m barely hanging on here myself. But fortunately for all of us, we’re getting to the point where I give you an example of an eccentric workout that’ll help your sports performance. First things first though, there’s 3 keys when it comes to eccentric training:
1. The eccentric portion of the movement must be done slowly with a tempo (ex: 6 second count for the lowering down portion). This slow eccentric will allow the GTOs and Muscle Spindles to feel and adapt to high stress (high loads for a long time), which will ultimately reduce their work since they will grow accustomed to high stress.
2. Eccentric training is highly taxing because it uses less motor units, but uses 100% of those working motor units. So, if you’re eccentric training, make sure you give yourself enough recovery time to properly execute the lift. Also, you might want a training buddy or at least a spotter to help you back up after the eccentric portion because in all likelihood, you won’t be able to eccentrically lower and concentrically rise all on your own.
3. Every time you do an eccentric movement, whether it is slowed down with a tempo or just done at normal speed, you always want to finish the move with an explosive concentric phase. That is one of the most overlooked aspects of eccentric training… explode out of the eccentric. We’re training our bodies to absorb a lot of force with heavy loads, in order to what? In order to produce more force faster. If we just work on absorbing force, that’s great and all but won’t lead us to where we wanna go. We gotta work on turnin that absorbed force into produced force. So make sure you’re finishing every eccentric move with an explosive concentric phase. Obviously you won’t be able to move it extremely fast because it’ll be heavy, and you’ll be tired, but move it as fast as possible. Whether it takes 3 seconds and a spotter’s help or 1 second to bring it up, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re moving it as fast as you can.
Now it’s workout time!!! Here we go, the eccentric leg workout is as follows:
1) Eccentric Back Squat: 75% 1RM, 4×4, 6/0/0/0*
2) Box Back Squat: 80% 1RM, 5×2, 3/x/x/0
3a) Decel Step Up: 3×8/leg, 2/0/0/0
3b) RDL: 3×8, 4/0/0/0
4a) Nordic Hamstring Curl: 3×6
4b) Farmer’s Carry: 3x20yrds/side
*0/0/0/0 represents a tempo – eccentric: isometric: concentric: time between reps. Examples: 6/0/0/0 – 6 sec eccentric lower, regular speed for iso, concen, and top phases; 0/2/x/0 – regular ecc lower, 2 sec pause at bottom, x is explode up as fast as possible, and go straight into the next rep.
Alrighty guys well that wraps this one up! Hopefully it helps you out and shows you the true purpose behind eccentric training. When it comes to most sports, it’s all about turning strength into power, and there’s no better way to build a strength foundation than through eccentric training. Make sure you’re checking out our instagram, @powerlux_fitness, and our YouTube Channel for more athletic workouts and ways to train like an athlete for the everyday person! If you’re interested in working with PowerLux Fitness, if you want programming, training, or a consultant, don’t hesitate to reach out! We have top of the line trainers with experience training professional athletes ready to help you!
Until next time, stay rad ??