Many people do not focus on the tempo of each repetition. They lower the weight as fast as they pick the weight up and fail to understand that muscles must be stimulated under a specific time under tension to elicit muscle hypertrophy.
There are three types of muscle contractions in a movement:
1. Eccentric contraction is lengthening of a muscle, also known as “breaking” or lowering the weight.
2. Isometric contraction is when the muscle develops tension while its length remains unchanged.
3. Concentric contraction is shortening of the muscle, also known as lifting the weight.
For example, in a squat, when you descend, you are producing force eccentrically, when you’re at the bottom, you hold (may) it isometrically, and you would ascend concentrically.
Between these three contractions, eccentric loading causes more muscle soreness and gain in muscle mass. During the concentric movement, there is more friction due to overlap in muscle fibres. In eccentric movement, your muscle fibres tries to hang on to decelerate, resulting microtrauma in the muscle.
How to incorporate eccentric training
Studies suggest that protein synthesis is greatest after eccentric-enhanced lifting. For example, a simple way to build more muscle is to use a longer tempo for the eccentric motion (4 to 6 seconds) with an explosive or 1-second concentric motion. For example, in a squat, you would descend for 4 seconds, no pause at the bottom and ascend for 1 second for a 4010 tempo. Eccentric-enhanced phase (such as one with longer time under tension) will cause the most muscle damage.
If you would like to gain muscle mass and strength, defy gravity. You should always lower the weight in a controlled fashion and follow a prescribed tempo (a specific number of seconds to lift and lower the weight).
If you don’t change anything in your weight training program besides the eccentric loading, you will see gains. Need help creating an effective training program? Get a free consultation here.