Monday, chest day. Tuesday, back. Wednesday, legs. Thursday, Shoulders. Friday, arms. Saturday, cardio and abs. Month to month, any kind of workout split can get monotonous, boring and frankly less effective. Learning how to challenge your body in different ways and even increase the intensity of your workouts can help you break through fat loss and muscle growth barriers. What’s more, it doesn’t hurt to keep things interesting because eventually routine can become mind-numbing. This is why we take time to research, learn and share different ways you can beat your workout slumps and really enjoy all there is to fitness and health. Read our blog to learn about the different muscle contractions that take place when you lift.
The 3 types of muscle contraction
That’s right! Your muscles can contract in more than one way although most of us really focus on the concentric contraction. Here are the three ways your muscle can contract (Stoppani, 2014):
Concentric muscle contraction
This type of muscle contraction happens when the force exerted by your muscle exceeds the opposite force being exerted by an external resistance, ultimately resulting in joint movement as your muscle shortens. Put simply, concentric contractions are those in which your muscle fibres shorten whilst lifting weight. A great example of a concentric muscle contraction is the contraction of your bicep during the upwards portion of a bicep curl.
Eccentric muscle contraction
Eccentric muscle contractions occur when the force exerted by an external resistance exceeds that of the force exerted by your muscle resulting in a joint movement as your muscle lengthens. Using the previous example of a bicep curl, this would be during the phase of the movement where you are lowering the weight. Even though the muscle fibres are lengthening, they’re still in a state of contraction, allowing the weight to go back to its starting neutral position in a controlled manner. These are commonly called negatives.
Isometric muscle contraction
While this may seem improbable to the novice it is very much a muscle contraction. It occurs when the muscle contracts without moving, neither shortening nor lengthening but generating enough force to equal that of the external resistance. In short, the muscle fibres contract in an attempt to move the weight, but the muscle does not shorten in overall length because the object is simply too heavy to move. It is ultimately a deadlock between your muscle and the resistance applied.
Why it matters
Time under tension (TUT)
While there is not necessarily conclusive data showing that this does improve muscle growth, it is widely regarded as having potential to enhance muscle growth as rightly pointed out by
Jacob Wilson, PhD, CSCS. TUT uses the principle of recruiting more muscle and engaging muscle fibres, which can be achieved by focusing on each type of muscle contraction.
Strength in the movement
By focusing on each portion of the movement, you will be able to improve strength. This is because our bodies adapt to meet the challenges and stresses they are confronted with. This could lead to strengthening gains that allow you to lift heavier in the future.
Mind muscle connection
Mind muscle connection is a critical part of improving the effectiveness of a workout as it ensures the right muscles are being actively engaged and targeted. Incorporating workouts that use the different types of muscle contractions will allow you to develop a better mind muscle connection and get better results; rather than just going through the motions or simply focusing on the concentric portion of a movement.
We all know that complicated love-hate relationship we have with the day after a great workout. You know the one where you don’t know if you can survive the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) but are secretly proud you pushed yourself hard enough to achieve said DOMS. Careful supplementation can help you speed up and improve recovery. Try one of the BCAAs available in our online store and be at your best for your next workout. They can be used before, after and during your workout.
J Stoppani, J. (2014). Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength, 2E, Human Kinetics page 5
Wilson, J. (2017, September). Time Under Tension for Muscle Growth Retrieved from:
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