How can we lift weights in-season without pulling up sore? During a regular lift, there are 3 phases: the eccentric, isometric and concentric phases. The eccentric / lowering phase is when our muscles lengthen under tension. Think of a squat – on the way down our muscles are lengthening under the load of the bar (with gravity). This phase is where most of the muscle damage occurs and it’s likely why you pull up sore following a heavy lifting day. The isometric phase is the transition between the eccentric and concentric. It’s the pause at the bottom of the squat before you start coming back up. Then we have the concentric / lifting phase (against gravity). The concentric phase is important for athletic performance and getting stronger through this phase can help us jump higher and accelerate faster. This phase won’t result in the kinds of soreness that the eccentric phase will. So, how can you implement this into your training? What we like to do for our lower body lifts during the season is a heavy deadlift – generally 1-3 reps and we get our athletes to drop the bar at the top of each rep. This allows our athletes to generate high amounts of force (a.k.a get stronger) without pulling up sore the next day. This way, we’ve hit our key lower body lift, gotten the strength stimulus we were looking for but avoided the muscle damage and soreness that generally accompanies heavy lifting. Our athletes are then able to train effectively the next night on the track.
In saying that, there is absolutely a time and a place for the eccentric phase as it’s great for putting on size, decelerating, getting stronger, improving injury resilience and many more benefits. And it’s not to say we never load our athletes ‘eccentrically’ during the season. We often perform exercises like banded good mornings, single leg RDL’s and other less intensive (low weight, low muscle damage) exercises as part of our warm-up or accessory work. But with our heavy lower body lifts in-season, we’ll do 1-3 ‘concentric only’ reps to improve strength without pulling up sore. #one22