Last time out I posted an introduction to concentric-only training, this article will build on these principles and look at its potential application.
Why Use It?
Here’s a quick recap. Ditching the eccentric portion of an exercise makes it less demanding on the body. Training solely the concentric portion still provides a training effect, albeit a slightly reduced one. We can therefore utilise concentric-only training in two ways.
As a ‘Deloading’ Strategy
We can think of a concentric-only exercise as a lower intensity version of the traditional exercise. For example, a maximal box jump is less ‘intense’ than a maximal ‘regular’ jump because of the reduction in eccentric landing forces. The most obvious employment of concentric-only training is to utilise exercises currently within your training programme but to minimise the eccentric component associated with them. Here are a couple of substitutions that could be employed:
- Box jumps for vertical jumps
- Power shrugs/high pulls for Olympic lifts
- Deadlifts (dropping the bar) for regular deadlifts
- Squat/bench from pins (spotters aid with eccentric) for regular squat/bench
As a ‘Loading’ Strategy
We can also employ concentric-only training to increase the overall volume and/or frequency of training. I suggest that the latter is more important. Frequency is a particularly potent stimulator for all forms of training adaption and has a profound effect on general health, wellness and body composition. Concentric-only allows you to train more often without the accompanying soreness and fatigue that would be expected with ‘traditional’ training modalities. This extra volume can be used for a number of training goals:
- Force generation (strength/power)
- Structural (hypertrophy)
Strength is a Skill
Now, here’s a thought. Training to improve force generation doesn’t always need to involve training to improve force generation. How come? Strength (and power) is task specific. To express the actual force potential of the neuromuscular system during a movement (which we really need to do in order to see a transfer to sporting performance) you must be particularly skilled in that movement. Using subtle variations of an exercise, such as concentric-only training, may help improve an athlete’s skill within the exercise and therefore improve the potential for the exercise to overload the neuromuscular system and elicit a training adaptation.
Examples in Sport
- Olympic Lifters
Olympic weightlifters have become the much heralded examples of concentric-only training. If you’ve ever watched Olympic lifters train then you’ll have noticed that they drop the bar after each repetition. This is a deliberately lazy approach. Dropping the bar minimises the eccentric stress on the body helping the lifter conserve energy. It’s not the sole reason why Olympic lifters can survive multiple, daily sessions, but it is an important factor.
Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France on 22nd July 2012 after racing for 20 days out of 22. He then competed in the Men’s Olympic road race on the 28th July before winning the Olympic time trial on the 1st August. Now, there’s no doubting how fantastic an athlete Wiggo is, but he wouldn’t have had a chance of replicating this sort of competition schedule on foot. Cycling is repeated concentric contraction with little accompanying eccentric stress.
- Wheelchair athletes
David Weir – Olympic 800m, 1500m, 5000m and marathon gold medallist. Are any athletes capable of attempting this on foot? Propelling the chair is, you guessed it, a concentric muscle action with little eccentric stress.
These athletes all train and compete with high volumes and frequencies; they are phenomenally well adapted as a consequence. Consider the back of the Olympic lifter, the quads of the sprint cyclist, the upper body of the wheelchair athlete – all highly developed to fulfil their role.
Two down, one to go. The final part of this series will look at the practicalities of applying concentric-only training methods to the big five training goals.