Increase your muscle size and strength with eccentric exercises
I can say with confidence that most men out there don’t want spaghetti arms; they want to have big, burly, strong arms. When in the gym, I see many men toiling away doing bicep curl after bicep curl. I see this same old, repetitive, hackneyed exercise again and again. What if there was a way to do this exercise better though and get superior results?
Before delving further into that though, I would like to first explain two different types of muscle contractions to you.
What eccentric and concentric muscle contractions are
This is a contraction where your muscle contracts and shortens. So say you are curling a 50lb dumbbell. The force generated by your arm is greater than the force of the dumbbell, allowing you to curl the dumbbell.
This is a lengthening contraction where the muscle elongates while contracting. In other words, the outside force, or weight you are lifting, is greater than the force generated by your muscle. Picture curling a 50lb dumbbell again, except this time you start the exercise with your elbow bent. You are slowly lowering the weight and elongating your biceps muscle.
So what do these two definitions have to do with anything? Well, I recently read a research article that comes to the conclusion that eccentric exercises are more effective for increasing strength and building bigger muscles.
The study and its results
In this study done by Hortobagyi T et al, they looked at quadriceps training over a 12 week study for 36 workout sessions. There were 7 people in the eccentric group and 8 people in the concentric group.
So I am going to give a brief summary of their research. The results of the study were that the area of type II muscle fibers increased TEN TIMES MORE in the eccentric group than the concentric group. Also, eccentric strength training increased eccentric muscle strength 3.5X MORE than concentric strength training increased concentric muscle strength. Other than that, the study found that eccentric strength training increased concentric training about the same amount that concentric strength training increased eccentric strength training.
The study concludes with saying that eccentric muscle exercise elicits greater muscle hypertrophy (size) and neural adaptation than concentric exercise.
How you can use eccentric curls to blast your biceps
So taking the results of this research….why not try the same thing on our arms? We can easily apply eccentric exercises to when we do bicep curls.
You can sit on a bench in the gym and grasp a heavy weight that you normally could only curl for perhaps 4 repetitions.
You bring it up to a starting position with both arms and have your elbow bent. You then slowly lower the weight and count to 4. Then you bring the weight back up to starting position with both arms and lower it again. Do this for 8 repetitions. Then repeat with your other arm. Try to do 3 sets with both arms.
I see practically everyone in the gym focusing on concentric bicep curls and getting pretty average results. Why not add some spice to your workouts and do eccentric bicep curls and not only get increased strength, but increased size while doing so?
Hortobagyi T et al. Adaptive responses to muscle lengthening and shortening in humans. J Appl Physiol. 1996; 80 (3): 765-772.