For over 16 years, Discover Strength has been touting the benefits of “eccentric” muscle contractions— the lowering of the weight (often called “negatives”). Authors of a brand-new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology shed new light on the importance of eccentric strength training. Specifically, their study revealed two key findings.
Firstly, eccentric-only training (a trainer lifts the weight for you, and you perform the lowering portion) was just as effective for increasing muscle strength and size as performing both the concentric and the eccentric (lifting and lowering). This lends further evidence that the most important part of lifting weights is truly lowering the weight.
Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, the study revealed that the final few degrees of a range of motion, when a muscle was in a more extended or stretched position, was the most valuable part of the range of motion for stimulating muscle growth.
Imagine doing a bicep curl: You curl the weight all the way up and your trainer tells you to lower the weight for 30 seconds (and you try to evenly pace it). As your elbow gets closer and closer to being straight, the eccentric contraction becomes more valuable. Stated otherwise, the bottom half of the “negative” on a biceps curl is more result-producing than the top half.
Apply this to your next workout: When you reach muscle failure and your trainer has you lower the last rep for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, really focus on controlling and “fighting” the last few degrees of the range of motion.
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