Three types of muscular failure

9.11 Consider these three types of conditions—concentric (lifting), isometric (holding) and eccentric (lowering). ^ey are directly related to three types of muscular failure. Using simplified terminology, concentric strength is less than isometric strength which, in turn, is less than eccentric strength. In other words, when your concentric strength is exhausted you still have iso metric strength left. And when your isometric strength is exhausted you still have eccentric strength left. To be able to exercise what eccentric strength you have left you would need assistance to get the resistance through the concentric phase of a rep. When your eccentric strength is exhausted—i.e., when the resistance cannot be controlled in its downward descent—the involved musculature will be temporarily paralyzed.

a. Concentric (or positive) failure occurs when you can no longer lift the weight through a full range of motion under your own steam, i.e., when the resistance gets stuck before the normal end point of a rep.

b. Isometric failure occurs when you can no longer hold the weight statically, and the resistance starts descending despite your very best efforts to hold it still.

c. Eccentric (or negative) failure occurs when you can no longer lower the weight under control. Control can be defined as the ability to keep the descent time to at least four seconds for a single eccentric phase.

9.12 Total and absolute muscular failure occurs only once eccentric failure has been reached.

9.13 Training to eccentric failure is potentially very dangerous, especially in exercises where the resistance is overhead or bearing down on you, e.g., bench press and squat. ^ere is a risk of losing control to such a degree that you get crushed, or the involved musculature and connective tissue are overstretched. It is also not a practical way to train because, at least in the big exercises, it necessitates the use of at least two strong spotters to help you raise the weight through the concentric phase. If the assistance is not provided properly, your risk of injury is considerable. On top of this, to train to eccentric failure in the biggest exercises is likely to devastate you systemi-cally, and produce overtraining.

9.14 A situation where working to eccentric failure on a regular basis can be a good idea is the pullup/chin when the trainee is not strong enough to perform full reps. To build the strength to perform a set of successive full-range concentric chins, stick to a set of slow eccentrics. A bench or box should be used to get into the starting position for each rep, with the clavicles or upper chest touching the overhead bar, and then the pull of gravity should be resisted as much as possible. ^e set should be terminated when the eccentric cannot be controlled. (An alternative way to build the strength needed to perform full chins is to use the pulldown until about 5 % over bodyweight can be used in good form for reps.)

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