Weight training is all about throwing the weights about right? Even the best bodybuilder of all time in my opinion, Arnie, named his video ‘’Pumping Iron’’ which says a lot. Yet I find myself tearing my hair out when I watch most people in the gym lift weights, to be blunt their form is pretty poor. To be more specific, I am referring to their repetition tempo during each phase of the muscle contraction. Today I wanted to educate you a little on muscle contractions and the importance of utilising them.
Concentric muscle contractions occur when the muscle shortens, so a doing a bicep curl is a perfect example. Many people will perform this part of the repetition with very little control of the weight and instead employ a great deal of momentum to shift the resistance from A to B. This is a great way to go if building a super-sized ego is the main goal, but if building quality lean muscle tissue is something you are interested in I suggest you listen.
During a concentric muscle contraction by performing the repetition correctly you are able to maximise the amount of muscle fibres which are recruited. Using a tempo of 1-2 seconds during the concentric contraction will help you engage the fast twitch type 2b muscle fibres leading to myofibrillar hypertrophy as well as maximising calorie expenditure.
Eccentric muscle contractions occur when the muscle lengthens; the negative portion of a bicep curl is a perfect example of this type of muscle contraction. Almost everyone I watch train fails to incorporate correct training protocol during the negative phase of their repetitions. Too many times you will see people let the weight free fall through this part of the repetition which is not only dangerous, it is also counterproductive.
During an eccentric muscle contraction you should resist the weight, and when you are using heavy weight you should resist it for up to 4 seconds. This will really maximise muscle fibre recruitment as well as help build the mind to muscle connection. Many of the world’s leading power athletes use this method to increase their strength levels over short periods of time.
Isometric muscle contractions occur when the muscle stays the same length. For example, holding the bicep in a contracted position would lead to an isometric muscle contraction. This is even rarer than an eccentric muscle contraction in 99% of the gyms you will go into. This again is a much overlooked training principle which can lead to magnificent gains.
Forcing an isometric contraction at both the top and bottom of each repetition will force the muscle to recruit new muscle fibres, motor units and enhance overall mind to muscle connection. I always insist on my clients doing this.
Gaining a better understanding of muscle contractions will undoubtedly lead to rapid results. This really is one of the most overlooked areas of training and once you grasp that your results will accelerate.