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Why you should add eccentric contraction weight training to your workout regimen.

Mixing up exercises is a great way to break through plateaus when you are in the gym year after year, everyone knows this. What many people do not consider is that changing the “way” that you lift can be as valuable a tool as which exercises you do when it comes to breaking through barriers to progress . Facts…. 1. Muscles will pump/hypertrophy with strain. 2. Muscles will undergo growth/hyperplasia after any strain if they are given time to heal. 3. Heavy weight lifting has it’s place to be sure (some of the benefits actually come from hormones such as insulin like growth factor{IGF-1} being released after heavy full body workouts) but… sustained very heavy lifting stresses the heck out of your joints…. not just your muscles. Eccentric contraction protocols are a good way to take some pressure off of your joints from time to time ( I would suggest a month or so a couple of times a year). Heavy lifting, though excellent and helpful in achieving strength goals, pushes some of the lubricating synovial fluid out of the overloaded joints and is likely to contribute significantly to joint wear and tear. Too much of this, it stands to reason, will not lead to a happy old age. Think of it this way… if you put hair gel between 2 books it is likely that there would be a good deal of gel left between the books for at least a short time. Now put 20 books on top of that and the books would squeeze out all the gel in an instant.. this is the same as a joint… too heavy a pressure and you are squishing cartilage against cartilage..pushing out and sabotaging the body’s natural joint lubricants,  then scraping the joint ends through a range of motion…. So that sounds bad, right? A way to give your joints a rest and to help them have a chance to heal is by switching to an eccentric contraction workout regimen. In other words, letting the weights down very slowly. The strain comes from the slow elongation of the targeted muscles against resistance instead of trying to “lift” it up. A good example would be a squat…. the portion of the exercise that you would focus on would be the squatting down portion, or for a biceps curl you would focus on the straightening of the arms motion. Each of these would be performed at a painfully slow rate (emphasis on the painfully) You will find that you can get an extreme amount of strain on the muscles even with much lighter weights… leading to pump and growth. Usually you can use light enough weights that bringing them back up to the ready position isn’t too difficult except that your muscles are screaming, because none of us are cheating of course. Performing weight resistance exercises this way, inertia and swinging of the weights is what you are resisting, not what you are inducing. You can use lighter weighs and avoid beating the snot out of your joints for a change. The fact is, if you look at a force curve over the full range of motion you will see that the load on the muscle is more consistent through the entire range of motion with the eccentric type of exercise,and there is even some research that suggests that this type of training has a beneficial effect on the neurological control of the muscle as it is challenged through the full range of motion (something to consider if some of you are trying to get back in the gym after an injury). To my way of thinking, this is a great way to “rest” your joints for a couple of months while not actually resting at all. The benefits of exercise are too many to mention in a short article, but in all things, smarter is better. Long term health is better. An apple a day might work with the family doctor but considering this change periodically might keep the rheumatologist away later….and they can be WAY scarier than the family doc when you are approaching middle age……..   Peter W. McManus, D.C.     pic for website A bit about me… I am a Graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College (Iowa 1995) and am now in practice in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I have trained in various topics- neurology, sports injury, gait analysis, rehabilitation, treatment of extremities, standards of practice, whiplash injuries and various other topics since I have been in practice. I have worked closely with university health clinics and hospital rehabilitation departments in Boston, have lectured to state regulatory agencies as an expert in standards of practice and have been a teaching participant in the orthopedics rotation of family practice medical doctors. I specialize in traditional treatment methodologies and I firmly believe that  a combination of rehabilitation and a proper short care plan of chiropractic treatment is the best approach for almost any musculo-skeletal condition.   Visit www.drpetermcmanus.com or www.facebook.com/PeterWilliamMcManusDc for more information or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and to stay plugged in with its healthy tips and current relevant research links.

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