This method basically refers to lowering, under control, a load nearing (or at) the point of maximum strength.
I have included three basic techniques in the NM/M eccentric class of methods:
1. The 2/1 technique: Using a load that is 100-150% of the concentric strength of a single-limb exercise, do the eccentric/yielding portion with just that one limb (e.g. with only the right arm) and the concentric/overcoming portion with both limbs. For example if you can use 40lbs with one arm on the machine curl station, use 40-60lbs for your set: lift it explosively with two arms and lower it slowly with one arm. Perform 3-5 reps per arm (alternate on each rep).
2. Ecentric/concentric contrast: This form of training revolves around contrasting a relatively heavy or hard eccentric (lowering) phase with a much easier or more explosive concentric (lifting) one. The weight during the concentric phase should be around 7080% of your maximum and extra loading is added during the eccentric phase either via a set of weight releasers or manual (partner) overload.
3. Maximal pure eccentrics: In this variation, commonly known as "negatives," you only perform the eccentric portion of an exercise and have a spotter lift the bar back to the starting position for you. Since this is not a supramaximal method you use 90-100% of your maximum and lower the bar under control in 5 seconds for sets of 2-5 reps.
In all three cases the purpose is always to lower a load close to your maximum capacity. The methods only vary in the way that you bring the weight back up to the starting position for another rep (or to conclude the set).
The 2/1 technique
This technique can be used quite effectively with exercises such as the seated row, cable rope curl, cable rope triceps extension, and most exercises that can be done using the triceps rope. It also works on most machines. The way it works is pretty simple: you lift the weight (overcoming/concentric portion) using two limbs (both arms if you are doing an upper body exercise, both legs if it's a lower body movement) and you return the weight (yielding/eccentric portion) with one limb.
So the load during the yielding portion of the exercise is twice as high as during the overcoming portion. The load to use should be light enough so that you can accelerate it during the overcoming portion but heavy enough to make the single-limb yielding portion hard to do. A load of around 70% of your "two-limb maximum" is a good place to start.
The overcoming portion should be done as fast as possible while the yielding portion is to be executed in 5 seconds. Sets of 3-5 reps per limb are performed (so 6-10 total reps per set).
This form of training revolves around contrasting a relatively heavy or hard eccentric (lowering) phase with a much easier or more explosive concentric (lifting) one. The best way to do this is to use weight releasers which are "hooks" suspended to the bar that unload as you reach the bottom portion of the eccentric phase.
Weight releasers are one of the most important tools that a coach can buy. Furthermore, they're inexpensive, which makes them a great deal! You can get them online at www.elitefts.com. I personally use this tool in the training of almost all of my athletes, and it constitutes a significant part of their yearly program.
Releasers are quite simple to understand. Basically we're talking about hooks which are attached to the bar and loaded with weight. The hooks hang down lower than the bar, so as you lower the bar, the releasers will make contact with the ground, allowing them to "unhook" from the bar, thus releasing the additional weight from the bar.
They thus allow an athlete to lower more weight than he lifts. As it was mentioned in the second principle section of this book, the eccentric portion of a movement is responsible for a lot of strength and size gains.
An alternative to the weight releasers is to have a partner push down on the bar during the eccentric portion of the lift. I've used this technique myself and it does work. However, it becomes very hard to quantify the training progress. How much resistance did you add
during the eccentric portion? 35lbs, 45lbs, 100lbs? You can't really tell. So this method can be useful, but it has its limitations.
Releasers on the other hand allow you to add resistance during the eccentric portion of a lift and know exactly how much more you've added. This makes training quantification possible.
For example, below the first athlete has 455lbs on the bar, plus 65lbs of releasers per side (total of 130lbs). The second athlete has 315lbs on the bar plus 65lbs of releasers per side. Both perform 5 singles with that load. So they would write down the following in their journal:
As you can see, by using weight releasers you can know exactly what is going on with the athlete's training.
The first method of eccentric/concentric contrast is the 80% method. With this method you simply use a bar weight that is 80% of the total load. For example if the combined weight the releasers and the bar is 400lbs then 80% of that is 320lbs. So that means that you should put 320lbs on the bar and 40lbs added as releaser weight on each side (each releasers weights 15lbs so you add an extra 25lbs on each one). You execute the eccentric portion under control, in 5 seconds or more. If you cannot lower the bar in 5 seconds, then the weight is too heavy. If it's easy to lower it in 5 seconds you can add some weight.
So to recap, our athlete with a max of 400lbs choosing to train at 80% would use a bar weight of 320lbs and add 25lbs to each releaser. This way he lowers 100% and lifts 80% of his maximum.
This training method should be performed for multi-rep sets. Since the releasers must be replaced on each repetition I suggest two approaches:
1. Cluster training: perform 5-8 single reps with around 5-10 seconds of rest between them. After each rep you rack the bar and replace the releasers (or have a partner replace them).
2. Paused training: perform 5-8 reps, but after each rep hold the bar at arms length while two partners simultaneously replace the releasers.
I prefer option 1 myself. Option 2 is a bit riskier, because if the releasers are replaced with even a slight delay between them an injury may result. However, option 2 has the advantage of keeping the muscles under load for a longer period of time, which may be slightly better for hypertrophy purposes.
As I previously mentioned you can use a manual overload instead of the releasers: your partner will have to push down on the bar during the eccentric portion of the movement then release it as you execute the lifting portion. While this method has the shortcoming of being less precise than the weight releasers (because you don't know exactly how much pressure the partner is applying) it does have and upside too; since you don't have the pause between reps, the manual overload method is probably better for stimulating muscle growth. It also allows you to perform more reps per set as your partner can decrease the amount of pressure he puts on the bar to accommodate your fatigue accumulation as the set progresses.
This method uses loads that are between 90 and 100% of your maximum on a given lift that you only perform the eccentric portion of the exercise; your partner generously helping you to bring the bar back to the starting position. The eccentric portion should be performed in 5 seconds or more, you continue to perform reps until it is no longer possible to control the weight for that long. Normally that will be 3-4 reps with 90-95% and 1-2 reps with 95-100%.
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The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.