Trainers have been keeping trade secrets for years, but we’re here to leak one that will seriously alter your workout. If you want to look and feel stronger than ever, just try pausing at the right times while you lift.
That’s how simple it is.
In most exercises, there’s an up (concentric) and a down (eccentric) movement. These two complex terms relate to the most popular types of muscle contractions, so let’s narrow them down.
We’re talking bicep curls. The movement where you lift the weight up is the concentric movement, which is when your muscle swells.
It’s the exact opposite of a bicep curl. From the time you pause at the end of a concentric movement to the moment you bring the weight down to the initial position is the eccentric movement. Avid gym-goers often call this a “negative phase,” and many neglect it. Too few know that the secret to muscle growth actually lies within the eccentric phase.
So if you’re looking to build muscle, focus your attention on the downward motion of each set.
“In a normal training session, when performing the eccentric movement, the weight we lower is the same we lift, except when we lower it we are using less muscle fibres,” Prozis says. “Therefore, each fibre we use is being subjected to more tension, which means they are also being more damaged and this extra damage can enhance the muscle growth process.”
Personal trainer Kendal Wood and co-author of Core Fitness Solution believes that letting the weight fall slowly is half the exercise. Those that neglect the eccentric movement lose serious muscle gains.
"Many people allow the weight that they carry on the second part of each rep to simply swing down, and lose a lot of the benefits of the exercise in doing so,” Wood says.
Wood recommends lowering the weight slowly into the start position instead of quickly dropping the weight. Halfway down, pause for one count.
“This ensures that you harness all your muscle to hold the weight at its weakest point," Wood said. "And only greater benefits come from that extra exertion. Doing this pause method for one of each set you do for every muscle group every week is almost like doing two sets instead of one."