By Thomas Fahey, EdD and Steve Blechman
If you’re like most guys, you spend hours every week doing curls and triceps extensions – but your arms don’t get much bigger or better defined. If that’s the case, it’s probably time for something radically different. Adding a new training method to your program called, High Speed Eccentric Training, may be just what the arm doctor ordered to help you build large, shapely, powerful arms.
Muscle physiologists from Harvard discovered that muscle tension is the most important factor triggering increases in muscle size (i.e., muscle hypertrophy). High muscle tension – particularly during the eccentric (lengthening) phase of the lift – causes small injuries to muscle fibers. The fibers get larger and stronger during the muscle repair process in response to these small injuries. Your training program should attempt to create these small injuries and give the fibers enough time to heal and grow. At the same time, the injuries can’t be so severe that they don’t heal quickly. Effective training is a subtle balance between creating small injuries (but not large injuries) and managing the healing process through rest and nutrition (e.g., post-workout protein supplements).
Savvy athletes know fitness increases best when you change the workout regularly. Soviet researchers introduced the concept of periodization of training (cycle training) in the 1970s. This training varies the exercises, intensity, sets and reps almost every workout and emphasizes general fitness, base strength, or peak strength during different times of the year. Periodization keeps the body off balance, so it adapts constantly to changing stresses. High-speed eccentric training goes beyond periodization – it’s a new, revolutionary, scientifically based training method that works. In just 10 weeks, you’ll see measurable changes in arm size and strength.
CONCENTRIC, ECCENTRIC AND STATIC CONTRACTIONS
Human movement involves static, concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. You should use each of these in your training program to get the best results. Static contractions develop muscle tension without movement and are used to stabilize joints and bones during exercise. Concentric contractions develop tension, which causes muscle shortening and represents the active phase of exercises such as curls, bench presses and squats. Eccentric contractions involve the development of tension as the muscle lengthens. They’re vital for movement control. For example, the biceps contracts eccentrically as you lower a cup of coffee from your mouth to the table.
Muscles create more tension contracting eccentrically (lowering the weight) than contracting concentrically (pushing or pulling the weight). Negatives or eccentric muscle contractions create more muscle tension than any other form of exercise. Also, fast eccentric contractions create more muscle tension than slow eccentric contractions. As stated previously, muscle tension is the most important factor stimulating muscle hypertrophy (growth), so the effective weight-training program should create as much muscle tension as possible. High-speed eccentric training creates more muscle tension than any other form of training, yet few people incorporate it into their training programs. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are missing out on one of the most powerful training techniques for building large, strong, powerful muscles.
For biceps training, high-speed eccentrics involve lowering the weight rapidly using the biceps, stopping suddenly (braking motion) and then slowly curling the weight until the elbows are completely flexed. Triceps training is similar: Lower the weight quickly and eccentrically with your triceps, stop suddenly before the elbows are fully flexed, then extend your elbows slowly using the triceps.
The breaking movement puts a large elastic load on the fibers, which increases the force of the concentric contraction. Scientists call the transition from eccentric to concentric contraction the stretch-shortening cycle. The stretch creates increased force during the concentric or active phase of the lift because of elastic recoil and stimulation of stretch receptors in the muscles, which trigger a power concentric contraction when stretched. The abrupt stop also creates small micro injuries to the fibers, which stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth).
High-speed eccentric training has a large potential for injury if you progress too rapidly. Start off with light weights and progress slowly. Don’t use this technique more than once a week. Also, incorporate all the elements that promote muscle hypertrophy, including dietary protein (timing and quantity), caloric intake, rest, hormone management and training program structure (i.e., don’t overtrain).
High-speed eccentric training is a scientific breakthrough that will bring rapid results. You must use it sparingly and gradually to prevent injury. However, it adds a powerful tool to your training arsenal and can boost your arm size to the next level and separate you from the pack.