Concentric Only Training, Why Use It?

With an abundance of different training techniques, it’s often hard to know whats worth incorporating in to your training. Ultimately, different training techniques will suit different people for a variety of reasons such as their athletic background and what they are training for. Most people have a fairly generic training goal of being fitter, stronger or healthier, and for those people this technique were going to talk through today generally isn’t that helpful. On the other hand, if you complete in a sport such as high jump or sprinting, or are looking at improving power this can be an awesome method to incorporate in to your training.

This post is going to be a quick insight in to what and why this niche training method can be helpful. To understand its application first we have to briefly touch on what is a concentric contraction. Simply put, a movement is generally split in to a concentric and eccentric movement. The concentric is when the muscle is shortening under load e.g. lifting the weight, vs the eccentric when the muscle is lengthening under load e.g. lowering the weight. Eccentric training, in which the athlete focuses on slow tempo for the lowering phase has become popular, in particular for muscle hypertrophy as studies have shown it to cause more stress on the muscles, thus more growth.

The reason concentric training only can be useful, lies in exactly this mechanism. When your muscles undergo eccentric training, the recovery time drastically increases due to the increased muscle damage from training. Concentric training on the other hand, has a much quicker recovery time. This means the same muscles or movements can be trained more regularly.

Olympic lifting is a very concentric sport, even though eccentric strength is important to control the catch, concentric strength is more important to get the bar up. By dropping the weight after lifts and programming power and muscle cleans and snatches in place of full snatches, the amount of eccentric load can be manipulated. This alongside controlling variables such as volume, intensity and recovery, means the athlete can practice more, without burning out.

More times per week means improvements to the neural conditioning of movements, which is particularly important in olympic lifting, as the lifts are highly skilful. It also means your body can make more improvements to the concentric strength or power of the movement.

Lets say you’re working with a high jumper who wants to be able to jump as high as possible. Once the jump has been made the athlete will land on a crash mat after. Their not going to be judged on controlling the movement after, so why fatigue themselves in training doing so? Focusing on concentric only on a more regular basis makes sense to improve their sport specific performance, it allows more regular practice and ultimately is more relevant to their sport.

The picture below is a client I am working with to increase her deadlift strength. She is going through a training programme to do exactly this which means a lot of deadlifting and similar type accessories to do this. In order to allow her to deadlift on a more regular basis, concentric training is being utilised in which she drops the bar at the top of over lift.

While concentric training can be useful, eccentric training does have a plethora of benefits so it shouldn’t be discontinued from any training programme. It should still play a huge part in all training plans even for the sports stated above, however if you’re an athlete in a concentric based sport who’s training on a regular basis, then working with concentrics and less eccentrics may be a relevant method to use.

Like all training methods it does have its downfalls. Mainly it’s hard to discontinue an eccentric portion for the majority of exercises, but this method works well for exercises where you can ditch the weight, e.g. deadlifts, muscle cleans and snatches, and a variety of resistance machines.

In summary, this is a type of training method I personally find useful when programming for athletes that are in concentric dominant sports, or those who are training the same movements on a regular basis to help prevent fatigue. It is however a very niche training method that wouldn’t really benefit the average gym user, but I think an interesting one to think about if you are working with or training as an athlete.