Before we start, make sure you’ve checked out my introduction to concentric-only training and the first part of this double header. A bit more practicality for this instalment, we’ll be looking at how to apply concentric-only training to the big five training goals. Again, whether you implement these ideas as a loading or deloading strategy depends on the situation.
I guess that this is the sexy part of S&C so that’s where we’ll kick off. Let’s look at some examples for strength first:
- Squat/bench from pins – not really a true concentric-only exercise unless you have spotters to assist you with the eccentric, however, removing the stretch shortening-cycle reduces the weight that you’ll be able use and is therefore somewhat of a self-limiting exercise.
- Heavy sled push/tow – if you’re aiming to improve strength then the emphasis is definitely on the ‘heavy’ here. Pile the plates on the sled and then either push it along or attach a harness to it and start towing.
- Heavy sled row/pull – same principle as above, make sure this is heavy. Two options here; attach a cable and perform repeated rows (shuffling backwards in-between reps) or attach a rope and pull in the strongman hand-over-hand style.
- Concentric chins – start from a dead hang, pull yourself up, drop down. Here’s a tip – placing a small box either side of your feet will allow you to step off at the top of the chin, avoiding jumping down to the floor, but still maintain straight legs during the exercise.
- Olympic lifting variations – as long as you drop the bar in-between repetitions then this pretty much fits the bill. You can further minimise the eccentric by performing pull only variations.
- Box jumps – don’t set the box too high, the point is here is solely to reduce the height from which you land. You should be landing in a quarter-squat ‘power’ position.
- Throws – a great way to train at the speed-strength end of the velocity that’s also friendly on the body. You can utilise med balls, kegs, sandbags, kettlebells, or whatever else you fancy.
All of the strength exercises listed above can be used effectively to target structural adaptation with some modification of load and set duration. A couple of notable mentions for exercises that I don’t think work well for strength but do seem to fit the bill here:
- Backward sled drag – throw some straps on the sled and start dragging it backward. To really hammer the quads sink down into a squat position and keep the tempo nice and slow.
- Pull-throughs – a great choice for the hammies if you can perform them correctly. Make sure you have tension on them as you begin to movement and keep the back out of the equation.
- Straight-legged sled tow – another nice hammy inclusion. Keep your legs straight and stay up on your heels as you walk forward.
- Face pulls – simply drag the sled toward you in the same way you’d perform a face pull. You can play around with this and start using some YTWL-type variations too.
The best bet is to set a time goal for your sets – for example, sled push with 60kg for 60 seconds. Time goals facilitate more consistency between sessions compared to repetition or distance goals and are a better indicator of overall time under tension. And, if you’re as anal as myself, you can even set a metronome to control the tempo of the movement.
When you think of the Prowler, something akin to this video here is probably the first thing that springs to mind. Sleds are great for conditioning as they’re brutal in the short term but won’t ruin you for too long afterwards. They’re not the only option though. Here are my top 3 concentric conditioning choices:
- Sled push – don’t care too much about the specifics, just push it until your lungs explode.
- Cycling – few things are better than cycle sprints to get them old quads pumped, but it may cause subsequent soreness if you don’t cycle often.
- Hill sprints – find a hill, run up it, walk down, repeat. Again, may make you a little sore if you’re unaccustomed to them.
Weak links in the kinetic chain typically require some additional volume to bring them up to par and concentric-only training is one way to do this. The sled is a great tool to use in this manner because athletes find it enjoyable; it’s much more ‘hardcore’ than typical rehab/prehab modalities. Anything listed in the structural section fits the bill here as you’re generally after the same sort of adaptation.
Recovery is whatever you want it to be. Pick exercises that you enjoy, as you’ll get more out of them, and just don’t overdo it. I’d suggest that you incorporate a low volume power exercise to keep the CNS ticking over. Use this time to incorporate some mobility and tissue quality work too.
By no means an exhaustive list of concentric-only exercises – although it may have felt like it! – but hopefully enough to illustrate that it can be adapted to target any training goal. Why not give it a try and let me know how you find it…