The traditional vernacular sounds something like this, “I’m going to go lift weights.” Authors of a research study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggest that this statement might not be worded as accurately as it could be. In the aforementioned study, German researchers sought to determine the effects of emphasizing the muscle contractions that are involved with lowering the weight (known as eccentric contractions) rather than the muscle contraction involved when we lift the weight (concentric contraction). Researchers concluded that emphasizing the eccentric muscle contraction, the contraction that involves lowering the weight, resulted in adaptations “in direction of a faster, stronger muscle.” Of interest in this particular study was that all of the subjects were very experienced with strength training and that the new emphasis on eccentric contractions producing marked improvements in a myriad of measures. Specifically, the authors suggest that this type of training favorably impacted what they termed “explosive strength” often used in competitive sports. Of course, this expression of strength is not subject solely to sports. Our “explosive strength” diminishes as we age and lose “fast-twitch” muscle fiber capabilities.
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