I wanted to finish passing along all the information I collected for my talk at SWIS. I won't repeat what I said there, that was for everyone who paid to come out and hear it, but the videos should be available soon.
I left off on the subject of pauses and eccentrics and how the athlete should think about them. From there I wanted to expand on the subject of eccentrics not only for strength, but also for tissue remodeling purposes.
Eccentrics are ubiquitous but I don't adopt a training practice just because everyone else is doing it. I like to know exactly why I do something, the effect it will illicit, and how to manipulate that effect.
I had Joseph Coyne, one of the strength and rehabilitation coaches for the Chinese national track & field team, come out to my facility last year. In his seminar he hit on characteristics of muscles that are the most resistant to injury. There are 4 characteristics, and you can fall into one of four Punnett squares. Weak and short, weak and long, strong and short, or strong and long.
Weak and short - like the forearm muscles of a desk jockey
weak and long - like a swimmer with no strength training
strong and short - like the pecs of a powerlifter without intelligent training or recovery
strong and long - like the hamstrings of a world class sprinter
Strong and long are the most resilient traits a muscle can have, but how do you train them?
Strong is easy. You get a muscle stronger through concentric training. What happens is the sacromeres in the muscle fibers get damaged and during repair they lay more down in parallel. This increases the pennation angle at the tendinosis aponeurosis. With the larger angle increase, the muscle belly will increase, but the distal ends get little to no effect. This is where eccentric training comes in. With eccentric training, more growth is seen in the distal ends of the muscle, where is typically attaches to the joints and ligaments. Excuse my crude drawing in paint, but the illustration should help (hopefully).
The 1st drawing shows a small pennation angle in the muscle with the tendinosis aponeurosis being 0 degrees. The 2nd drawing shows the effects of concentric training with the angle increasing, but this leaves the muscle strong and short and more prone to injury. The 3rd shows both an increase of muscle growth in the belly as well as the distal ends, leaving the muscle strong AND long.
While we are on the subject of reshaping muscles and tissue, eccentric training also reigns supreme here as well and there are important reasons why everyone should incorporate eccentric focused blocks in their yearly training.
When it comes to reshaping tissue, and therefore muscle patterns, eccentrics are key with satellite cells. For those that don't know, satellite cells are cells whose fate have not been determined yet and therefore can be used by the body to help repair virtually any tissue type in the body. Now when it comes to satellite cell ACTIVITY, concentric training is no doubt the best type of contraction and training. However, what was interesting in the research was that eccentric training only increases the POOL of satellite cells to pull from. This is the classic yin and yang situation here. To gain the benefits of one type of training, you must sow the seeds in the other training first.
Now anyone who trains with me knows, I do not litter my entire training with 40X0 types of lifts. I dislike assigning a tempo to every exercise and prefer to go into eccentric training with purposeful intent. I would also like to point out that the effects seen in these studies are always seen under an ECCENTRIC ONLY type of training program. I believe that in order to illicit the same type of response these studies are getting, you too also need to design a program so that it is very obvious you are eccentric training and not just throwing a 3 or 4 second lowering tempo here and there.
Now there are many types of people and many types of eccentric training protocols you can use. Not everyone is ready to handle 120% of their 1RM. Instead of coming up with a metric of my own, I would like to point you in the direction of Charles Poliquins website, Strength Sensei. In there he has a brilliant article called " The Role of Eccentric Training in Building Maximal Strength ". In there he lays out several types of eccentric training based on ones training age and strength.
No matter where you are though, you need to incorporate this into your training for maximal progress. This was echoed by ever presenter I sat in at SWIS. Whether it be Heather Pearson, Dr Leahy, or Dr Leaf, they all assign their clients "homework", or exercises, after they work on them. Not without reason too. In addition to all the above benefits, eccentric training also induces the greatest rise in the extra cellular matrix (ECM) basal lamina and fibrillar type collagen fibers, and (in a rat study) transformin and mechano type growth factors as well as connective tissue type growth factors.
Bottom line is, if you are trying to stay injury free, be the strongest you can be, reshape tissue after inury or surgery, or repattern a movement then you need to incorporate an eccentric focused block in your training.