Contents

What Are Concentric Contractions?

Besides concentric contractions, muscle contractions can be split into two other category types: eccentric and isometric.

Eccentric

Eccentric contractions are lengthening movements of your muscles. During this muscle movement, your muscle fibers are stretched under tension from a force greater than the muscle generates. Unlike a concentric contraction, eccentric movements do not pull a joint in the direction of a muscle contraction. Instead, it decelerates a joint at the end of a movement.

Using the same bicep curl exercise, the force to bring a dumbbell back down to your quadricep from your shoulder is an eccentric movement. You may notice your muscle elongating as it’s activated. Combining eccentric and concentric muscle contractions produces greater results in strength training, as it increases muscle strength and mass. However, you may be more prone to exercise-induced injuries during eccentric movements.

Some movements or exercises that display eccentric movements include:

  • walking
  • lowering a dumbbell
  • calf raises
  • squats
  • triceps extensions

Isometric

Isometric movements are muscle contractions that do not cause your joints to move. Your muscles are activated, but they are not required to lengthen or shorten. As a result, isometric contractions generate force and tension without any movement through your joints.

The best way to visualize this contraction is through the act of pushing up against a wall. When you perform any of these actions, the tension applied to your targeted muscle is consistent and does not exceed the weight of the object you are applying force to.

Common movements that demonstrate isometric contractions include:

  • plank holds
  • carrying an object in front of you in a steady position
  • holding a dumbbell weight in place halfway through a bicep curl
  • bridge holds
  • wall sits

5 Things to Know About Exercise for Your Fascia

The first personal trainers were typically bodybuilders who were hired to help clients develop large, well-defined muscles. For this reason, many traditional exercise programs developed by bodybuilders emphasized only one muscle group or joint at a time. This isolationist approach to program design, which focuses on linear exercises with a single axis of rotation, can help someone look impressive while walking on a stage in a bathing suit. However, most upright movement patterns require joints and muscles to move in multiple directions, often at the same time, so it is not the best approach for improving movement skill or coordination.

Traditional bodybuilding exercises focus on the contractile element of the muscle responsible for generating force, yet it is the fascia and elastic connective tissues (ECT) that control how that force is transmitted throughout the body. The contractile element of muscle contains the actin and myosin protein filaments, which generate force by sliding across one another in response to a signal from a motor neuron. Strength training can improve muscle force output by increasing both the number of motor units (the motor neuron and the muscle fibers it is attached to) that are activated, the cross-width of the individual muscle fibers, or a combination of the two. What is often overlooked is that each individual muscle fiber is surrounded by fascia and ECT, which actually lengthen when the contractile element of muscle shortens. Muscle and fascia perform two different functions. The actin-myosin fibers are the contractile element and generate force, whereas the fascia and ECT distribute the force around the body between various sections of muscle.

Strength training for the contractile element of muscle requires shortening (or contracting) a muscle to apply a force to an external resistance. As the actin-myosin filaments slide across one another, they generate a force that causes the muscle to contract, thereby allowing the limb pulling the weight (or load) to move. The heavier the load, the greater the amount of force required from the muscle fibers. As heavier forces are applied, the motor units adapt to recruit more muscle fibers. These fibers, in turn, increase in size. (Learn more about how muscles adapt to strength training here.) While traditional resistance-training can make muscles strong, the following six considerations explain why training to target fascia and ECT requires a different approach.

  1. Think of the fascia as the rubber coating around an electrical wire. The metal conduit transmits the electricity, while the rubber protects you from being shocked. When the actin-myosin protein filaments slide across one another, they shorten and pull on the fascia and ECT, which lengthen in response. As the fascia lengthens, it stores mechanical energy that is then released when the contractile element relaxes to allow the fascia to return to its original position.
  2. Fascia and connective tissues contain more sensory nerve endings than muscle tissue. Multiplanar movement patterns challenge the tissue to control a load (e.g., a limb and the weight it’s lifting) as it moves through space, which signals more information into the afferent (sensory) nerves.
  3. During most free-weight exercises, muscle becomes stronger by contracting to generate an upward force that moves a load against the downward pull of gravity. Heavier loads help the motor units develop the ability to generate more force as fibers shorten. Fascia contains the protein filaments of collagen and elastin. When fascia is repeatedly lengthened under resistance, it will adapt by creating more collagen and elastin so that it becomes capable of withstanding greater lengthening (tensile) forces and applying a greater level of force when returning to its original position.
  4. In general, the energy for actions controlled by fascia comes from physical, mechanical forces, while the energy for muscle contractions comes from macronutrients in the diet. Muscle metabolizes its own energy by converting carbohydrates or free fatty acids into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the chemical used to generate a muscle contraction. By contrast, fascia uses mechanical energy, not stored chemical energy, to apply a force. Lengthening fascia stores mechanical energy, which is then released as the fascia returns to its starting length. Improving the efficiency of fascia to transition from lengthening to shortening can help improve overall force output.
  5. Lengthening fascia under resistance so that it becomes capable of withstanding greater tensile forces can be achieved by performing multidirectional movements at a relatively fast tempo using either light loads or body weight. Here is a good guideline to follow: The heavier the load, the smaller the range of motion. While it is relatively easy to control a lighter weight as it moves through space, using a heavier weight to strengthen the contractile element of muscle is considerably more challenging. Therefore, it is best to stay in one plane of motion to work directly against the downward pull of gravity. To develop muscular strength, the load should be approximately 80-100% 1RM for one to six repetitions. To develop optimal fascial integrity and resiliency, the loads should be lighter to allow multiple repetitions in multiple directions without fatigue. For example, strengthening the contractile element of the hips could be achieved with heavy barbell deadlifts for fewer than six repetitions. To strengthen the fascia and ECT of the hips, however, a better approach is to perform multiplanar lunges while holding light dumbbells for four to five reps in each direction for a total of 12 to 20 in each set.

Performing exercises to strengthen the fascia can help improve overall force output while possibly reducing the risk of an overuse injury. This does not mean forsaking traditional strength training and performing only multiplanar movements for your fascia. Rather, an effective approach to exercise program design may include a combination of heavy strength training for muscles along with multidirectional movements using lighter weights to improve the resiliency of the fascia and ECT.

Exercise Program Example

Bodybuilding often utilizes split routines that call for focusing on different body parts on different days to allow for optimal recovery and muscular development. A different type of split routine is to rotate between heavy training using traditional exercises for strength on one day; performing light-weight or body-weight movements in multiple planes to enhance fascia and connective tissues on the next day; and on the third day focusing on a specific energy pathway, either ATP-PC, glycolysis or mitochondrial respiration, to improve metabolic efficiency and the ability to produce the chemical energy to fuel exercise.

A word of caution: When starting a client on a program to train the fascia, focus on helping him or her learn the movements. Stretching the fascia in different directions applies tensile (lengthening) forces to the tissues and it could cause soreness following the first few workouts if the tissues are not used to being stretched during dynamic movements.

For more information on fascia, check out the following articles from CERTIFIED, ACE’s monthly publication for health and exercise professionals, and catch the Live Class on September 12, 2018.

Training the Fascia Network, Part 1

Training the Fascial Network, Part 2

The Latest Research on Fascia

As cyclists, we are constantly in motion, so it’s hard to imagine how exercises that require not moving could help your performance. And yet, how many times have trainers and coaches drilled into you the benefits of holding a plank?

A plank is a classic example of an isometric exercise, and there’s a reason that phrase has become such a buzzword in the industry. But can isometric exercises actually help your cycling performance? Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Isometric Exercises?

Most exercises you do involve lengthening or shortening a muscle. Picture a biceps curl: When you extend your elbow, that’s an eccentric contraction of the biceps muscle; when you flex or bend your elbow, that’s a concentric contraction of the biceps muscle.

In an isometric exercise, “you’re generating force with the muscle, but the affected joint doesn’t move and the muscle isn’t lengthening or shortening,” explains Chris Myers, Ph.D., a master coach with Peaks Coaching Group. Basically, you’re putting a muscle or muscle group under stress while holding a static position.

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“Isometric exercises can be very effective because they’re super intense for such a short period of time,” says Jacob Fetty, a senior coach at Cycle-Smart Coaching. You can also hold them for way longer than an eccentric or concentric movement, adds Myers. Flashback to the plank: Tensing your entire body (and especially your core) for 60 seconds can feel harder than doing 8 reps of a eccentric or concentric movement with a heavy weight.

Wall sits, which work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as glute bridges, which work your quads and hamstrings, are also especially good isometric exercises for cyclists, says Fetty. These exercises also workout your stabilizer muscles, which come into play when you’re trying to do something as simple as stay upright on a bike.

What Are the Benefits of Isometric Exercises?

Isometric strength training for as little as two to three weeks can actually produce substantial increases in isometric muscle strength and muscle force development, according to recent research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. But isometric exercises aren’t going to suddenly make you swole; the physical benefits are a lot more subtle than that.

If you’ve ever strength trained, chances are you’ve felt a little sore the next day (if not…you’re doing it wrong). That’s because when you exert certain muscles, it causes microtears in the muscle fibers. Muscle growth occurs when your body starts to repair those tissues. “Isometric contractions allow you to produce the same amount of force, if not more, than in doing a concentric or eccentric movement, without doing that kind of microdamage to the muscles,” explains Myers.

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Another major benefit is breath control, which is crucial for endurance athletes. “Your breath really anchors you in the moment, locking in your mental focus,” says Fetty. Holding isometric exercises teaches you to practice conscious, mindful breathing under stressful situations. If you know how to control your breathing before you’re ready to rip a descent on your road, gravel, or mountain bike, that’s going to give you even more control over your body and your equipment.

Plus, you can do isometric exercises literally anywhere, and you don’t have to build a strength-training program around them. Typically, you’re going to have a strength and conditioning program two or three days a week; meanwhile, isometric exercises should be done for five to 10 minutes a day, says Fetty. Do wall sits while brushing your teeth or hold a plank during TV commercials—these exercises can easily be worked into your day so you get the benefits of a resistance workout without a whole prescriptive workout.

And, by the way, isometric exercises are especially helpful for people who are new to strength training or who are coming back from an injury. “With isometric exercises, they can get the same type of neuromuscular activation and efficiency as they would with regular resistance training, but with less damage to the body,” says Myers. “They’re a really good foundational component before someone jumps into a full-blown resistance training routine.”

Should You Be Doing Isometric Exercises?

Sure, isometric exercises can be a part of your training regimen. Think about where resistance training helps you most as a cyclist: power output, right? You rely on that strength when you want to dig deep to climb a hill or sprint strong to the finish. “Isometric exercises, on the other hand, work your muscular endurance,” says Myers. They’re not necessarily going to lead to increased power output, but they are going to help you maintain that power throughout a ride.

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But isometric exercises aren’t a quick fix, says Fetty. You’ll often see them hyped as super time-effective training or a way to get ripped with barely any effort, but they’re not really an effective way to build strength (or pure muscular hypertrophy), he explains. “Isometric exercises are a supplemental part of the strength training, not the entirety of it,” he adds.

What isometric exercises don’t do is work any muscle’s full range of motion—something that’s crucial for cyclists who have limited range of motion thanks to spending so much time in one position on a bike, and therefore have limited strength across that range of motion, says Fetty. So, by all means, hold those planks and wall sits. But in order to fully develop your muscles, you need to be doing isometric training in addition to other kinds of strength training.

Ashley Mateo Ashley Mateo is a writer, editor, and UESCA-certified running coach who has contributed to Runner’s World, Bicycling, Women’s Health, Health, Shape, Self, and more.

Eccentric Vs. Concentric training. Which Is Better?

How should you think about the benefits during lifting (concentric) and lowering (eccentric) of the weight during your workout?

Resistance training involves two types of movements, concentric and eccentric. Concentric movement is when the muscle shortens while producing force (contracting the muscle). This happens when you are raising the weight during a biceps curl.

Eccentric movement is when the muscle lengthens while producing force. For example, when you’re lowering the weight back down during a biceps curl. One can say that you’re often stronger in the eccentric phase of the lift since you’re holding back the weight.

Eccentric Training Creates More Muscle Damage

Both movements are said to lead to increased hypertrophy/muscle mass. Some evidence suggests that eccentric training promotes muscle mass more than concentric. This may be due to a more rapid response of muscle building (anabolic) signaling and induced muscle damage.

The hypothesis is that more muscle damage mediates a greater anabolic response, and that response strengthens the muscle. However, no one really knows the exact mechanism that causes muscle to grow, and we have previously written about the relationship between muscle damage and muscle growth.

Most studies favor the eccentric movement to produce a higher increase in muscle hypertrophy compared with concentric training, however, the difference in effect is very small – on average 3.2% more muscle growth from eccentric movements, without statistical significance (1–2).

If There is a Benefit it is Probably Very Small

There is no difference in muscle hypertrophy between concentric and eccentric training, according to several studies with the same conclusion (3–5). There may be a slight advantage to eccentric but if there is, it’s a very small one and probably not significant.

It Might Just Be the Weight!

Loading differences between the two movements can contribute to the small advantage of eccentric lifting. During eccentric lifting one often tend to use a heavier weight. It may also be because you’re nearing your maximum and therefore lifting more weight. Growth-related effects of eccentric training appear to be related to the higher loads developed during eccentric contractions (6–8).

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Is your workout plan actually working? With Dr. Muscle, you won’t have to worry about that. Let us handle all the logistics. Relax, enjoy your workouts, and focus on lifting heavy and getting buffed.

Take Home

Both concentric and eccentric movements seems to be equally important for muscle growth during resistance training. So go out there a lift! (1).

Article written by Maria Ekblom.

Sources 1. 1519/JSC.0000000000001983
2. 1007/s00421-011-2078-x
3. 3389/fphys.2017.00447
4. 1111/apha.12225
5. 1111/sms.12104
6. 1007/s11357-012-9405-y
7. 1016/j.jsams.2015.12.431
8. 1136/bjsm.2008.051417

Eccentric vs Concentric

Muscles are fibrous tissues that are powered by fat and carbohydrate oxidation and anaerobic chemical reactions. They are what produce force and cause the motions of the body by causing the changes in the size of cells. The process of producing force causes muscles to contract.

Contraction happens when motor neurons help the muscle fibers generate tension that can either be fast or slow. It can be involuntary such as in cardiac or smooth muscle contractions which are very important for survival. Skeletal muscle contractions, on the other hand, are voluntary because the forces that they generate can be controlled.
There are several classifications of muscle contraction and they are:

Isometric contraction wherein the muscles have the same length such as in holding up something and not moving it.
Isotonic contraction wherein even if the length of the muscle changes, the tension remains the same.
Isovelocity or isokinetic contraction wherein the forces may change but the velocity remains the same.
Concentric contraction wherein the muscles are shortened when they contract, and the force that is produced is enough to overcome resistance.

When a person lifts weights, such as in a bicep curl, the force which is generated is more than enough to carry the load and causes the muscles to shorten because the force is less than the muscle’s maximum capacity.

Eccentric contraction wherein the muscles are lengthened when they contract and the force that is generated cannot take on the resistance of the external force.

These contractions happen while a person is doing normal movements such as while walking. When the muscles are active, they lengthen because the external force caused by continuous walking can exert more force than what the muscles can generate.
This is also what happens when lifting weights that are too heavy. While the muscles are still contracting, they do not produce enough force to carry the load, and it causes them to stretch out and lengthen.
Eccentric contractions are more common than concentric contractions because they occur during the carrying out of normal activities. They are more associated with soreness and injuries, though, and for this reason it is important to strengthen the muscles through exercises which can in turn cause concentric contractions.

Summary:

1.Concentric contractions are muscle contractions that cause the muscles to shorten while eccentric contractions are muscle contractions that cause the muscles to lengthen.
2.Concentric contractions occur when the force generated by the muscles during activity is more than enough to overcome outside forces or resistance while eccentric contractions occur when the force generated by the muscles is not enough to overcome the load or resistance.
3.Eccentric contractions are more common than concentric contractions.
4.Eccentric contractions occur while doing normal activities such as in walking or moving the arms while concentric contractions usually happen during exercise.
5.Eccentric contractions are usually the cause of muscle injuries and soreness because they cause strain on the muscles while concentric contractions do not.
6.More studies are being done on eccentric contractions than concentric contractions due to their association with muscle injuries.

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5 Examples of Isometric Exercises for Static Strength Training

Isometric training is essentially a fancy way to categorize exercises that recruit muscles and exert tension without actually lengthening or shortening the muscle. In other words, your muscle is flexed, but it’s not expanding and compressing. It’s a stagnant way of placing a demand on a desired muscle or group of muscles.

This type of training includes a number of moves that can target your entire body. As always, you can make the best use of your time if you perform moves that engage both your upper body and lower body at the same time. Any of the exercises listed below can be combined with an upper or lower body component to make sure all major muscle groups are being worked.

Isometric exercises are ideal for those with limited workout space, existing knee discomfort, or anyone simply needing a change in their typical fitness routine. Because these moves are improving strength in one body position, they should only serve as a compliment to a more dynamic exercise regimen.

According to the Mayo Clinic, isometric exercises are often prescribed as a path to healing for arthritis and rotator cuff injuries.

Wall Sit

Wall sits focus on improving the strength in your thighs.

Equipment needed: none

Muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes

  1. Stand about 2 feet away from a sturdy wall, leaning your back against it.
  2. Sink your bottom down so that your legs form a 90-degree angle. Your body position should resemble the same posture you have when sitting in a chair.
  3. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  4. Perform 5 rounds of a 15-second hold.

To maintain this position, you will feel your thighs becoming tighter and more fatigued. Experiment going back and forth between driving your weight down through your toes, then your heels. Driving down through your heels will target your glutes, while driving down your toes will target your quadriceps. Just be sure not to let your knees go our past your toes, and when you put weight on your toes, don’t put too much pressure on the knees.

Plank Hold

The plank hold is an effective way to engage the entire anterior portion of your body.

Equipment needed: none, yoga mat optional

Muscles worked: abdominals, quadriceps, and the anterior portion of the deltoid

  1. Start with your body in a horizontal position with your weight on your toes and forearms.
  2. Be mindful to flex your hips forward (butt clenched) and don’t let your hips sink.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds. You should feel the most tension in your shoulders and core.
  4. Perform 4 rounds of 30-second holds.

Overhead Hold

Overhead holds challenge the muscular endurance of your shoulder girdle.

Equipment needed: Light to medium weight required. Start with a 15-pound plate, dumbbell, or kettlebell.

Muscles worked: Anterior, posterior, and superior portions of the shoulder.

  1. Extend your arms above your head and hold the weight steady.
  2. Make sure to keep your arms fully extended. Bending your arms will engage different muscles (your biceps and triceps).
  3. Hold the weight over your head for 30-second intervals.
  4. Perform 5 rounds.

Increase the challenge by standing on one leg while holding the weight.

Glute Bridge

This move will quickly become a favorite for anyone looking to improve the physique of their backside.

Equipment needed: none

Muscles worked: hamstrings and glutes

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms by your sides.
  2. Elevate your hips by pressing your weight down your palms and feet.
  3. Focus on clenching your glutes and driving your weight down through your heels.
  4. You will feel your glutes and hamstrings starting to fatigue. Resist the urge to let your hips sink.
  5. Complete 5 rounds of a 30-second hold.

Body Hold

Body holds help you work on your core stability while also developing core strength.

Equipment needed: none, yoga mat optional

Muscles worked: Body holds will mainly fatigue your upper and lower abdominal muscles.

  1. Sit on your bottom with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Simultaneously, raise your arms and straighten your legs, creating a “V” shape with your body.
  3. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  4. Perform 5 rounds.

The Takeaway

With so many different ways to exercise, it can be hard to choose which path is right for you. Isometric exercises just may be the perfect addition to your workout routine if you:

  • experience chronic knee pain
  • are recovering from a knee surgery
  • are seeking a low-impact exercise as recommended by your doctor
  • are looking for a different kind of fitness challenge
  • have a shoulder injury

Always remember that these exercises can be adjusted to suit your current level of fitness. For example, if 15-second body holds are too challenging, bump it down to 10 seconds and then build up as you get stronger over time.

The idea is to push your limits without causing true injury. Soreness can be expected, but listen to your body if you experience excruciating pain.

Muscle contractions are defined by the changes in the length of the muscle during contraction.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate among the types of muscle contractions

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Isotonic contractions generate force by changing the length of the muscle and can be concentric contractions or eccentric contractions.
  • A concentric contraction causes muscles to shorten, thereby generating force.
  • Eccentric contractions cause muscles to elongate in response to a greater opposing force.
  • Isometric contractions generate force without changing the length of the muscle.

Glossary

isometric: Of or involving muscular contraction against resistance in which the length of the muscle remains the same.

isotonic: Of or involving muscular contraction against resistance in which the length of the muscle changes. Antonym is isometric. Isotonic movements are either concentric (working muscle shortens) or eccentric (working muscle lengthens).

concentric: (Of a motion), in the direction of contraction of a muscle. (E.g., extension of the lower arm via the elbow joint while contracting the triceps and other elbow extensor muscles.

eccentric: Against or in the opposite direction of contraction of a muscle. (E.g., flexion of the lower arm (bending of the elbow joint) by an external force while contracting the triceps and other elbow extensor muscles to control that movement.

EXAMPLE

An example of this in the context of a bench press would be that a yielding isometric would be holding the bar at a given place even though it could be pressed higher, and an overcoming would be pressing the bar up into the safety guards of a squat cage that prevent pushing the bar any higher.

Muscle fiber generates tension through the action of actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling. While under tension, the muscle may lengthen, shorten, or remain the same. Although the term contraction implies shortening, when referring to the muscular system, it means muscle fibers generating tension with the help of motor neurons. Several types of muscle contractions occur and they are defined by the changes in the length of the muscle during contraction.

Isotonic Contractions

Isotonic contractions maintain constant tension in the muscle as the muscle changes length. This can occur only when a muscle’s maximal force of contraction exceeds the total load on the muscle. Isotonic muscle contractions can be either concentric (muscle shortens) or eccentric (muscle lengthens).

Concentric Contractions

A concentric contraction is a type of muscle contraction in which the muscles shorten while generating force. This is typical of muscles that contract due to the sliding filament mechanism, and it occurs throughout the muscle. Such contractions also alter the angle of the joints to which the muscles are attached, as they are stimulated to contract according to the sliding filament mechanism.

This occurs throughout the length of the muscle, generating force at the musculo-tendinous junction; causing the muscle to shorten and the angle of the joint to change. For instance, a concentric contraction of the biceps would cause the arm to bend at the elbow as the hand moves from near to the leg to close to the shoulder (a biceps curl). A concentric contraction of the triceps would change the angle of the joint in the opposite direction, straightening the arm and moving the hand toward the leg.

Eccentric Contractions

An eccentric contraction results in the elongation of a muscle. Such contractions decelerate the muscle joints (acting as “brakes” to concentric contractions) and can alter the position of the load force. These contractions can be both voluntary and involuntary. During an eccentric contraction, the muscle elongates while under tension due to an opposing force which is greater than the force generated by the muscle. Rather than working to pull a joint in the direction of the muscle contraction, the muscle acts to decelerate the joint at the end of a movement or otherwise control the repositioning of a load.

This can occur involuntarily (when attempting to move a weight too heavy for the muscle to lift) or voluntarily (when the muscle is “smoothing out” a movement). Over the short-term, strength training involving both eccentric and concentric contractions appear to increase muscular strength more than training with concentric contractions alone.

Isometric Contractions

In contrast to isotonic contractions, isometric contractions generate force without changing the length of the muscle . This is typical of muscles found in the hands and forearm: the muscles do not change length, and joints are not moved, so force for grip is sufficient. An example is when the muscles of the hand and forearm grip an object; the joints of the hand do not move, but muscles generate sufficient force to prevent the object from being dropped.

Force-length relationship in muscle: Muscle length versus isometric force.

Fitness Defined: Concentric and Eccentric Contractions (and Why It Matters)

Usually, the average exerciser doesn’t think about physiology or kinesiology when he or she is exercising. Sure, you think about form, doing your exercises correctly, and achieving balance—both in terms of overall fitness (a balance of cardio, strength training and flexibility) and individual workouts (a balance in the body where you exercise all of your major muscle groups). And that’s great! But there is also a lot going on in your body during each workout, and sometimes, learning more about exactly what is happening can help you work out more effectively so you can get better results.
Whether or not you’ve heard of concentric and eccentric muscle contractions, you can benefit from learning the difference—especially because focusing on ONE of them can help you get even better results from your strength training program—without spending more time in the gym.

Fitness Defined: Concentric and Eccentric Muscle Contractions


Concentric (Positive) Contractions: Put simply, this contraction shortens your muscle as it acts against resistive force (like a weight). For example, during a biceps curl, the biceps contract concentrically during the lifting phase of the exercise.
Eccentric (Negative) Contractions: During these contractions, the muscles lengthen while producing force—usually by returning from a shortened (concentric) position to a resting position. Using the same example above, the lowering the weight back down during a biceps curl is an eccentric contraction for the biceps. Think of this as “putting on the breaks.” You’re basically slowing the descent of the weight back down instead of allowing the weight (and gravity) to just pull your arm back down passively.

So Why Do the Different Types of Contractions Matter?

It’s a good idea to include both concentric and eccentric contractions in your strength-training program. Luckily, most traditional exercises include these movements—a lifting phase (using the shortening or concentric phase) and a lowering phase to return to the start position. However, how much time you spend in each phase can affect your results. Here are some facts about the difference between concentric and eccentric movements:

  • Your muscles can generate more force during the eccentric phase of an exercise. For example, you may only be able to lift a 10-pound dumbbell for a biceps curl. But likely, you could hold and lower (the eccentric phase) a 15 or 20 pound weight.
  • By slowing down the negative (eccentric) phase of your exercise, you can help your muscles build greater strength. This is why, typically, people are advised to lower weights or return them to the start position slowly.
  • Negative training is a type of strength training designed for greater strength gains. It involves using heavier weights than you could typically lift concentrically and focusing just on the eccentric phase of the exercise. This does pose a higher risk for injury and should not be practiced by beginners, however.
  • You can also use negative training to your advantage—as a way to progress to exercises that are currently too difficult for you. For example, maybe you have a goal to perform real pull-ups but don’t have the strength yet to lift yourself all the way up (concentric phase). You could help work up to that movement by focusing on the lowering phase. Stand on a box or step to come up to the “up” position and then work on slowly lowering yourself back down. After each lowering, step back up onto the box and repeat the lowering phase again. You’ll be working the same muscles and still benefit from the exercise this way.

So next time you’re in a class or following along with a DVD and the instructor tells you to lower the weights more slowly than you lifted them, you’ll know that you’re helping your muscles develop greater strength by doing so. And if you ever hit a plateau in your strength-training program focusing a little more on the negative part of your training can be just the ticket you need to make it to the next level.
Happy Lifting (and Lowering)!
Have you ever tried negative training? Will you think more about the eccentric phase of your exercises now that you know how much it can help you?

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Core Align is a new upright Pilate’s machine from Balanced Body. A physical therapist from Israel designed this revolutionary new piece of Pilate’s equipment that has changed the way we train the core in the weight bearing position. We now have the ability with this new piece of equipment to train groups of muscles in the concentric and eccentric patterns, all the while incorporating the trunk as the stabilizing site of control.

Our core trunk muscles must be powerful and this site of power is where our center of gravity is located. Our center of gravity is located just anterior to the last vertebra of our spine, which is called the sacrum. If you have the normal muscle control in this region you will have the core strength necessary to accomplish anything you want to do everyday without the risk of injury.

The types of muscle contractions that happen in our body make a huge difference when we are training. The concentric contractions occur when the muscle actually shortens when it contracts and eccentric contractions happen when the muscle contracting is actually elongating as it is contracting. The eccentric muscle contraction is the most difficult type of contraction for the body. This type of contraction is also when most of the injury occurs because we do not train eccentrically as we should. A prime example of this is when you go hiking. The big Quadriceps muscles in the front of your thigh does a shortening contraction as you go up the hill and as you come down the hill your thigh muscles do an elongating contraction. The same thing happens when you ascend and descend the stairs. That is why often you feel unsafe as you come down the stairs because your Quadriceps muscle is not strong enough as it is elongating.

The great thing about the new Core Align is that it helps accomplish this very thing. We can now train for multiple different activities that we do everyday utilizing these techniques for concentric and eccentric activity in an upright functional pattern. It takes balance, coordination and proper muscle sequencing to accomplish this workout and it is fun. For a quick look you can go on U-tube. Type in Core Align for training for snowboarding or skiing, etc. and you will see how important your core is for your functional ability. Remember, your body likes to be balanced and your core is your key.

Sheree DiBiase, PT, loves to train on the Core Align and her staff would be happy to show you how fun it is to train on it. Please call us at Lake City Physical Therapy (208) 667-1988 and ask to set-up a time to come visit us and we will show you this fun new way to train. Personal training sessions on the Core Align are also available with our experienced staff so call for a ½ hour or hour session.

In an isometric exercise a person places a hand on a scale and pushes vertically downward,…

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Static Exercise – Why we love Isometric Exercise

Aaaaaaand……….hold!

Isometric Exercise or “Static Exercise” is an entire range of exercises that you do without moving. Well, you have to move between poses, but essentially you are building strength by holding a pose.

According to Wikipedia:

“Isometric exercise or isometrics are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction (compared to concentric or eccentric contractions, called dynamic/isotonic movements). Isometrics are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion”

Think about the last time you planked for a full two minutes and you will immediately see how demanding static exercise can be.

There are a lot of advantages to Isometric exercise. While we understand the importance of cardio and other movements in your exercise plan, there are advantages to isometrics that make them essential to your strength training.

Isometric Exercise for recovering or disabled athletes

It was Nike who first said, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete” and if you’ve ever been at a marathon and seen how many people come in with prosthetic limbs you will have to agree that they have a point. There are very few people, regardless of physical status, who can’t find a way to exercise.

One the great things about Isometrics is that you can stay strong and toned even if you are nursing an injury. You simply choose which exercises you want to do, and which to avoid, based on what part of your body you’re protecting.

Why do it? How Isometrics Build your Body

When you force your muscles to hold a static position for an extended time, you put strain on them. You are forcing your body to contract and engage muscles which often lie dormant when we’re not at the gym. Don’t believe it can work? Try holding a glass of water straight out ahead of you for the next ten minutes and see how your arm feels by the end!

Boost that ENDURANCE

Not only is static training taxing on your Central Nervous System (CNS), It also works your will power and mental faculties! Your muscles get tired fast, faster than if you are moving. It forces your muscle fibres past the comfort zone and into the place where growth is possible. But you will know that when you feel the burn.

Build Strength & Tone

Static exercises force you to engage your entire targeted muscle group. There is no easy way out. To be able to hold a pose, your muscles have to work. The longer you hold it, the harder they work. After a couple of weeks, ou will find you can hold poses for much longer, that’s because your muscles are getting stronger. They are also getting more toned and defined with every day that you use them.

Top 12 List of Isometric Exercises:

  • Everyone’s favourite PLANK (Core, arms, legs, back)
  • Wall Sits (Thighs)
  • Side Plank (Targeted side core and arms)
  • Arm Extension – straight ahead with a plate and to the sides with dumbbells (Arms & shoulders)
  • Bridge Hold (add a ball under your feet to make things interesting) (Core, buns & thighs)
  • One Leg Bridge (Core and targeted buns & thighs)
  • Static Lunge hold (Core, legs, buns and thighs)
  • Chin Up hold (Or just a hang to start off with)(Arms, back, core)
  • Reverse plank (scoop-back “fly like superman” hold) (Back, Core, Arms , Legs)
  • Long arm plank (Get that ball under your feet again to make things more interesting) (Core, Arms)
  • Closed squat with raised arms (Full Body)
  • L-Sit (Full Body)

(For more information on these poses click here, or talk to your personal trainer)

Boost your Static Exercise

If you get to the point where the body weight exercises above are too easy for you (well done!) you can give them a pump. Add weight.

Most gyms offer a variety of weight products, from strap on ankle weights and vests, to the more traditional plates and bells. Ask your Personal Trainer to spot you with your weights (and help put them in place). Just be careful if you try to add your own weights, especially when it comes to taking them off again. It’s best to work with an experienced spotter.

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Isometric Exercise – How Yoga Completes Your Fitness Training

By Lauren Green – Vinyasa Yoga Instructor

When it comes to fitness, there is so much advice out there it can be hard to know where to start. A little understanding of the way muscles work in yoga can go a long way to helping you design a fitness program that works for you and also meets your goals.

To increase our fitness we ‘work-out’, which involves working our muscles. We can work our muscles in different ways while exercising (or just in everyday life). Exercising our muscles requires us to exert force through the muscle fibers. This can occur while the muscle is shortening, lengthening or staying the same length.

Muscle shortening, known as concentric contraction, forces a joint angle to decrease (bending your knee or elbow is decreasing a joint angle). Muscle lengthening, known as eccentric contraction, causes a joint angle to increase (straightening out your bent knee or elbow is increasing a joint angle). Concentric and eccentric muscle contractions, when grouped together, are called isotonic muscle contraction. This type of muscle contraction generates joint movement – whether it’s lifting and lowering dumbbells or walking through a shopping center.

When tension develops in a muscle but the length does not change, the joint does not move, and the contraction is said to be isometric. This type of muscle contraction is static – there is no movement. An example is when you hold your hands out in front of you and someone places something heavy into your hands. You don’t allow yourself to lower the object so your body doesn’t move – however your muscles are still working hard to support the weight of the object. Another example of an isometric muscle contraction is holding a plank position for 10 seconds.

When we think of exercise we generally think of things like; treadmills, burpees, lifting weights, bike riding, aerobics etc. All these activities involve isotonic contraction. In fact most gym equipment and popular exercise styles involve isotonic contraction. Push-ups, sit-ups, weight machines and lunges are also isotonic. However, a complete exercise regime should include both isotonic and isometric exercises.

Because muscles of the core perform the important function of stabilizing the spine throughout the day, isometric exercises like holding a plank position can be useful for strengthening those muscles. Isometric exercise is intense and contributes to burning fat and building muscle. It can also be useful when you are trying to rebuild strength around the area of an old injury. Just remember we aim to hold our muscles but not our breath! Breathing throughout the hold is vital – it should be continuous and slow.

The beauty of yoga is that it incorporates both styles of muscle contraction. We use isotonic contraction when we move into each posture. Then we use isometric contraction when we hold our bodies in that particular posture.

So next time someone who has never tried yoga suggests that it isn’t really exercise because you are ‘just holding still and breathing deeply’, you can reply that, in fact, you are incorporating a balance of isotonic and isometric exercises into your training and bring them with you next time to try yoga for themselves!

To Book in for a yoga class with Lauren, email [email protected] or give us a call on 1300 318 817

Concentric and eccentric exercises

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