Three Types of Strength: Concentric, Static, and Eccentric
Concentric strength is your ability to lift a particular weight positively. The up phase of the lift, so to speak. The eccentric portion of a rep is the phase in which you lower the weight, and the static portion would be the phase in which you have shortened, or fully contracted the muscle, for example, the lockout on a bench press.
You need to consciously be aware that each of these plays a major role in your training program. There are several ways to discover if you have adequately strengthened each portion of the lift.
Concentric Ability: The positive phase of a lift is normally the most focused of the three phases. Most likely this is your strongest point. For this reason, many weightlifters plateau concentrically first.
Say you have been stuck with a certain lift for quite a while. You need to understand, that although it is certainly not the only way, progressive resistance, is certainly one of the best tools in building your physique. Which means stagnant phases in this category will not yield optimal growth. If this is the case, I would suggest an all-out attack on your concentric ability. What I am saying is to literally single it out every workout, for at least a period of time, by utilizing concentric overload. This is where you focus strictly on the heavy concentric part of the movement and bringing the weight up.
Use it to get out of that sticking point, and then carry on with the other two. But my point is to pull out all the stops. Naturally, this is not the case with each body part, so you will have to analyze each of your lifts. For example, you may be progressing on your bench press and squat, but not at all on your standing barbell curl. With that in mind, focus on taking on the weak points.
Static Ability: As stated, concentric is usually a strong point in a bodybuilders ability, as such, it must be carefully scrutinized, and perhaps only narrowed down to one body part. Static strength, on the other hand, is usually an overall weak point but it should be stronger than your concentric ability. For example, if you can get 225 on the bench for 2 reps, that would total about 10 seconds max. Statically, you should be able to hold the weight straight over your chest for at least 30 seconds.
That is one way to test static strength, another is to test it after a set is complete. You finish a set on the bench press, and then attempt to hold it statically for as long as possible. If you can only do this for a few seconds, you are weak in this area.
What needs to again be emphasized is that progressive resistance is a vital aspect of your hypertrophy program. Essentially by forcing your muscles to face a new stimulus, they will be overloaded to a point in which supercompensation is no longer a choice!
As weight trainers, it is vital to continually force new stress on our bodies. An adaptation is a change in the body in response to an environmental change. However, these changes are specific. Therefore static strength is specific to the holding the weight, and generally has a low transfer to concentric strength or eccentric strength.
How to increase static strength:
The most general way would be to incorporate what many call static training. Which means, the whole set is performed statically. Choose a weight on whatever exercise you can perform, lift it so that you are fully contracted and then hold it there for 30-70 seconds which optimal tension zone for mass gains. If an area is weak statically, you will find that your load will go up in a quickly. Almost as if it were your first year in the gym again! You can also build up static strength halfway through the movement. Which means that you would squat down about 1/4 way, and just hold the weight until failure. Static strength gains will be specific to the degree you train it. For example, a full low squat will be specific to a full low squat, and not to a 1/4 squat.
Here is a funny video I found of Tony Robbins doing static training back in the 90’s:
The second way to improve this area is to attack it after a normal set has been completed. Let’s say you are performing incline bench presses. After your last rep, hold the weight overhead until you can no longer do so. You will notice a drastic improvement in no time. Finally, you may already have a strong base in this area. If this is the case, examine each body part, and see which one is lacking statically. It may be only a few body parts. However, remember that bodybuilding is a sport of symmetry, treat it as such.
Eccentric Strength: Most of you have heard that the eccentric portion of a rep is where most of the stimulus for muscle growth occurs.
When you lower a weight (eccentric portion) the body only recruits half of the muscle fibres that it did on the positive portion. You end up placing double the stimulus on the way down on the muscle fibres being worked then you did on the way up! That’s a powerful statement right there. And it also highlights the need for negative training!
Anytime you can get twice as much out of a movement, you must use it fully to your advantage. There are many ways to test for your level of eccentric efficiency. You should have a much higher level of strength on the eccentric portion, then the concentric. In fact, up to 150 times the strength.
Most weight lifters, however, are not reaching those types of limits. The first step to knowing if this is a weakness is if you are failing eccentrically at about the same time you are failing concentrically. Take the squat for example. When you reach the end of a set, are you barely able to get an eccentric rep when you are near concentric failure? Are you barely able to control the weight on the way down?
If that is the case, then I can tell you right off the bat, you seriously need to work on this aspect of your training. Basically, your eccentric ability should always be a lot stronger than your concentric ability.
Negative training heavily relies on your ability to control a weight. If you are weak in this area, you need to build up slow. Do not go packing on 150 percent of your normal load. But rather start by only adding 10-15 percent and training that way. Also, heavy negatives should be kept to no more than 6 reps, because it is working beyond your previous limits.
Which, if not addressed properly can lead to serious injury. You may only be weaker eccentrically on one or two body parts or it may be an overall issue. Either way, it needs to be addressed if optimal gains are your interest.