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Thinking Concentric With Your Strength Training Programs

Written on September 24, 2012 at 6:36 am, by Eric Cressey

When it comes to strength training programs, the basics work.  They always have, and they almost always will.  However, sometimes, they don’t.  The more advanced you get, the more often you’ll need to shake things up to ensure continued progress.

Sometimes this is as simple as taking a deload week, changing your exercise selection, undertaking a specialization program, or bringing in a hype guy to pad your ego.

With that in mind, I thought I’d use today’s post to introduce a way you can integrate some variety in your strength training programs to avoid plateaus and keep things interesting.  That strategy is to go concentric-only. Let me explain.

The eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep is what causes the most muscular damage and post-exercise soreness.  A common deloading strategy that many lifters have employed is to reduce the amount of eccentric work in a strength training program, instead utilizing concentric-only (or predominantly concentric) lifts.  These strength exercises include deadlifts (uncontrolled eccentric or dropping the weight), high pulls, step-ups, sled pushing/dragging, and Anderson squats.  Have a look at this video and let me know how much eccentric work I actually did:

Then, consider that a step-up variation under load allows a lifter to attain some of the benefits of single-leg training without all of the debilitating soreness one feels when sitting down to the toilet for the 3-4 days following walking lunges.

And, consider sled pushing.  It might make you hate life and lose your lunch, but it won’t make you sore.

What folks might not consider is that this doesn’t just have to be a deloading strategy; it can also be a loading strategy.  It goes without saying that if you are employing more concentric-only exercises, you can train more frequently.  So, for those of you who are considering squatting or deadliting 3x/week in a specialization block, you might consider getting more concentric-only work in so that you can still groove movement patterns and load considerably, but without the same degree of tissue-specific damage. 

Utilizing more concentric-only variations can also be very helpful with in-season athletes when you want to avoid soreness at all costs, as I wrote here.  However, it’s important to note that this is not a long-term training strategy.  Rather, it should be a short-term change of pace, as eccentric control is tremendously important for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.  Experiencing eccentric stress is crucial to prevent injuries, performing at a high level, and building muscle mass. Nonetheless, start thinking about how some concentric-only work might help to take your strength training programs to the next level.

To take the guesswork out of your strength training programs, check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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8 Responses to “Thinking Concentric With Your Strength Training Programs”

  1. Personal Trainer CT Says:

    Years ago this was almost unheard of. Now, thankfully, it is catching more and more momentum. I love including concentric only movements in my programs. The Prowler is one of my best friends.

    Keep on educating, Eric!

  2. kyle Says:

    loVE the dunk!

  3. Randy Long Says:

    I take a light week every 4th week. Minimal Squatting, but I will either back drag a sandbag, or push a sled. One nasty variation I came up with is a Squatting Sandbag Drag: it’s like a backwards Duck Walk, except dragging the frickin’ sandbag. It gets the quads burnin’ in a hurry!

  4. Jeff N. Says:

    Eric, sorry to see you have been inflicted with SPIVVD. Smart Phone Induced Vertical Video Disease. Videos are meant to be Landscape. See TVs, movie screens, etc.

  5. Eric Cressey Says:

    Jeff,

    Ha! That was the first time ever. It was a little on the fly.

  6. John Says:

    Good stuff. It makes sense and is a great way to break up a month of training.

  7. Oakville personal trainer Says:

    Great post and videos. Definitely helps with learning the concept. I think people still have that philosophy where they need to go hard all the time. Obviously this kind of light concentric only training will still allow you to make gains, and will also provide your body with something it needs….change.

  8. Michael Anders Says:

    Nice. I like the philosophy and especially during the second or third workout in the week this can be quite useful.

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