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The Positives and Negatives of Lifting | The Arena Club

Posted by The Arena Club on October 24, 2017

When hitting the gym to lift weights, most exercisers concentrate on achieving proper form and performing the exercise correctly, which is great!  But there are a lot of things happening in that movement that supports muscle growth, and learning more about them can help you understand what is happening in your body and provide you with knowledge and purpose behind those lifts to help you achieve better results.

dumbbells.jpegScientifically speaking, the two phases of any lift are referred to as the concentric and eccentric phases of strength training exercise.  The concentric (or positive) phase of a lift is the action or direction of a lift where the muscular tension increases as the muscle shortens. Think of this in terms of a bicep curl. When you lift and curl the weight up, the bicep muscle shortens and contracts concentrically.  

Most gym goers focus mostly on concentric exercises when lifting.  Giving yourself some TLC and paying attention to the eccentric phase of a lift, however, is important for overall strength development.  The eccentric (negative) phase of a lift increases tension as the muscle lengthens – usually by returning from a concentric position to a resting position.  In the example of a bicep curl, lowering the dumbbell back down maintains a level of contraction during most of the movement and gradually stretches back out as you return to a resting position (an eccentric motion).    

Generally speaking you are 30-40% stronger on any eccentric phase of a lift.  Therefore, you are able to handle more weight than you can in concentric phase.  For example, you may only be able to lift a 10-pound dumbbell in the concentric phase of a bicep curl, but may be able to hold or lower a heavier dumbbell in the eccentric phase.

Paying attention to the eccentric/negative movements in your lifting program can improve strength and performance.  Next time you’re at the club, give it a try.  It just might be what you need to push past plateaus and see new results!

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