In order to build the kind of strength which goes right down to the bone, building muscle and bone density you need weight – lots of weight. As we mentioned in our last Sarcopenia post ( https://wefit.ca/2016/09/20/sarcopenia-weight-reps-sets/ ) a big problem with lifting heavy enough to be effective is risk of injury. In that post we recommended reducing momentum/cheating by moving fairly slow, slower than you would train without a plan.
Here we want you to use a technique for making the weights feel heavier and reduce down time during reps. It is a fact, that our ability to put weights down, as we let our muscles stretch after a contraction, is a fair bit greater than our lifting strength. This is an evolutionary trait for safety. You wouldn’t want to pick up a heavy weight (contracting your muscles) and then as you fatigued suddenly drop the weight as your muscles stretch and release (the contraction is called the concentric part of the rep and the release is the eccentric). The extra eccentric strength allows you to have a reserve to control putting heavy things back down even when tired.
What happens during a standard rep is people lift then relax to let the weight back down. Some relaxing is a must because…well the weight wouldn’t come back down if you didn’t! The problem is as we fatigue and the muscles burn, we tend to relax too much. It is a natural mistake because the extra eccentric strength you have makes it all so easy, you just gravitate towards resting for a moment. This leads to a weakened stimulus for strength and many times people then increase their weights too much, too soon doing what we call ‘chasing gains’. Too much weight even if you think you can lift it will see you losing proper form and further diminish real strength increases. The eccentric part of the rep should not be a rest period!
Video demo: a simple smart way to combat all this is to add sets where you stop during the release of the weight. We recommend, at least in the beginning, you stop at about the midway point of the eccentric for a full ‘1 Mississippi count’. This will force you to control the release and make you work harder in total. The video makes it easy to visualize with a few different examples. Later you can add a second even third stop in your movement to keep things fresh.
Next post we will talk about workout structure, until then be well, be strong.
Andrew and Tierney