Muscular strength is a biomotor ability that is foundational to numerous athletic performance variables such as sprinting, jumping, changing direction and rapidly decelerating. This is pretty well accepted across most sports disciplines, especially considering that an entire profession has emerged that is responsible for getting athletes stronger (i.e., strength and conditioning coaches). During the earlier years of one’s training, strength gains come fairly easily with consistency and programming based on sound training principles. However, as we become more trained, developing further increases in strength are harder to come by. This has led to experimentation with novel training methods such as variable resistance training (i.e., chains and bands), partial range of motion movements, isometrics and supramaximal or accentuated eccentrics. Most of these training methods are not new, but the research supporting their use as effective modalities to increase strength in well trained athletes is limited.
A new study published ahead of print in Frontiers in Physiology evaluated the efficacy of accentuated eccentric training for inducing gains in muscular strength in training individuals. A sample of 28 college-aged males with at least 2 years of training experience were divided into a traditional training group and an intervention group that performed accentuated eccentrics (i.e., eccentric load 40% greater than concentric load). Both groups performed workouts twice per week separated by 48 hours for 10 weeks that consisted of 3 sets of 6RM on one day and 3 sets of 10RM on the second day with the bilateral leg press and unilateral knee extension and flexion exercise. Unilateral isometric and isokinetic strength testing, work capacity (knee extension reps to failure), muscle mass and EMG testing was conducted before and after the training program for comparison among groups.
The results showed that the intervention group experienced a significantly greater increase in both maximal isometric torque (17%) and voluntary muscle activation (3.5%). Isokinetic eccentric and concentric torque improved significantly more in the intervention group. Work capacity improved by 28% in the intervention group and did not change in the traditional training group. Finally, increases in muscle mass were similar between groups. Therefore, it appears that accentuated eccentrics is a useful training variation that can stimulate gains in strength and work capacity in resistance trained subjects.
Walker, S., Blazevich, A. J., Haff, G. G., Tufano, J. J., Newton, R. U., & Häkkinen, K. (2016). Greater strength gains after training with accentuated eccentric than traditional isoinertial loading loads in already strength-trained men. Frontiers in Physiology, 7, 149.