June 1st, 2012 by Digestive Detective
Strength training is essential in improving lean muscle tissue and enhancing metabolic response. Whether performed with free weights, cables, machines, suspension training or other tools, resistance-based exercise should always be a component of a well-rounded exercise program. Resistance exercise can target both slow twitch (Type 1) and fast twitch (Type 2) muscle fibers through applied techniques. Type 1 muscle fibers allow us to perform endurance-based activity - minimal intensity/effort over a long period of time. Type 2 muscle fibers are recruited for more maximal efforts of high intensity that we can only perform for a short duration. For most, the goal with resistance training is to improve muscular strength and boost metabolism via an increase in the size of muscle fibers, specifically type 2 fibers.
By now many exercisers know the importance of moving slowly and deliberately when performing strength exercises (unless training for power). Focused, controlled movements during resistance exercise help ensure proper form and prevent the potential for injury. While slow, controlled movements are beneficial with strength training, when looking to maximize our efforts and create the most efficient response to lean muscle adaptation, specific techniques can be applied. Enter eccentric exercise.
Eccentric exercise involves an action where the muscle elongates while under tension, due to an opposing force (such as a weight) being greater than the force generated by the muscle. This type of training is commonly referred to as "negative training" where the emphasis is on the lowering phase of the particular motion. Widely known in bodybuilding circles, eccentric training is prized for its effect on muscle hypertrophy and often dreaded for the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that it creates.
Eccentric training; however, is not relegated to the big boys in the gym. It can and should be a part of a comprehensive strength training program when the goal is to improve lean muscle tissue (tone up) and increase energy expenditure (burn fat/calories). Simple to incorporate, eccentric exercise involves a new stimulus to the muscle that if never trained in such a way before, can elicit dramatic benefits. Research has found that doing exercise with an eccentric emphasis can acutely and meaningfully raise the resting energy expenditure of both untrained and trained individuals after a total body workout. In the study, total body eccentric emphasis training (i.e., 1-second concentric and 3-second eccentric contractions) elevated resting metabolic rate about 9% for a short period of time post-workout (up to 2 hours). The effect is not only reserved for those that are "young and fit" - in fact eccentric exercise has been shown to increase the size of type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers in men (18-80 years of age) and significantly improve the strength of women (20-74 yrs of age).
Sample Eccentric Exercise
To incorporate eccentric training, follow the example below:
- Start with a weight you normally use for the particular muscular fitness goal
- For instance, if you normally do a 10-RM (repetition maximum), meaning you perform 10 repetitions using a weight where you reach 'momentary muscular fatigue' at the 10th repetition (but cannot do an 11th repetition)
- Perform the concentric contraction, lifting the load in a 1 second up
- Then perform the eccentric contraction, lowering the load in 3-5 seconds (thus emphasizing the eccentric phase of the exercise)
- Complete 10 repetitions; you may need aid with the concentric lifts as you start to fatigue, so consider working out with a trainer or friend who can assist
- Progress with increased time during the lowering, eccentric emphasis phase
- The number of sets is individualized to your goals
You will undoubtedly feel sore after first including eccentric exercise, but the soreness lessens with each repeated bout of exercise, so be sure to include another bout within 1 week. Not only will your soreness dissipate, but you'll begin to reap the benefits to your muscles and metabolism.