How to: strength train like a pro

Hot diggity dog it's a great day to talk about the art of lifting weights. Today is the first entry of a new blog series that's going to revolve around exercise form and technique. Even if you aren't a subscriber to MWLA or an attendee to our live classes, my hope is that this information can be useful to you, regardless of whether or not you've got a current routine going. Knowledge is wattage.

I tell my classes all the time that lifting weights should be considered a practice, just like yoga. There are TONS of ways to challenge any given muscle, which is always fun when it comes to program design. And just like any workout, while the methods may be different, what's most important is that you stay safe and controlled in your movement.

When it comes to growing your muscles, there are lots of ways to get there. Progressive overload is a term used a LOT when it comes to growing muscles because, well, it's the most important principle of resistance training if your goal is to change your strength.

Progressive overload, in the simplest terms, means doing more over time.

What this means is that no matter what your favorite workout is, you'll come to a screeching halt progress wise if you stop progressively overloading. This does NOT mean that you need to increase the amount of time you spend working out in order to see continual changes. It means that because you're the only one who knows whether or not an exercise is starting to feel easier, you are responsible for continuing to challenge yourself in that exercise. The good news? THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS THAT YOU CAN DO THAT!

I'm tempted to start listing these methods because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but I won't do that today. If you've taken ANY of our classes, you've already used them. You just might not know it yet. Today, we're going to talk about one method that I guarantee you'll recognize if you sweat with us on the regular (and that includes MWLA online workouts too #shamelessplug): eccentric loading.

What is eccentric loading?

Eccentric loading = placing tension on the muscle as it's being LENGTHENED. This is opposite of concentric loading, where tension is placed on the muscle as it shortens (like the upward phase of a bicep curl).

Okay let's apply this to real life. It sticks more that way, don't you think?

Imagine setting down a table or couch onto the floor after you've lifted it up. Do you just plop it down onto the floor? Nope. As you squat down and lower it to the floor, you lower down SLOWLY. That's an eccentric contraction in your quadriceps! Tada!

As it turns out, eccentric contractions (usually the kind of contractions taken advantage of in slow negatives) are really stinking good at causing damage to muscle fibers. This means there's a big chance you'll get sore from this type of loading if you haven't been acquainted yet, and your muscles will heal back stronger as long as you're a good lil' gym rat and you rest. But best of all, increasing the time we spend with our muscles in an eccentrically contracted state through tempo work (we'll get to that in a second) is really great for:

1) Improving your stability and locking into key muscles on lifts


2) Teaching you how to really use your MUSCLES without placing too much strain on your tendons. A slow and well controlled lift will place more stress on the actual target muscles versus a "bouncy" motion, which will shift the work from the muscles and place it on the tendons. For example, squat jumps will get your heart rate up and cause your leg muscles to burn, however you can't jump without putting some strain on your tendons. This is why in addition to power cardio elements that involve impact, I always incorporate tempo lifting into our workouts so that when we have the weights in our hands we're putting more stress into our actual muscles without splitting the load with our tendons.

Hopefully you've got a few light bulbs going off in your head if you've partaken in a Jolly power hour, but if not, here's some examples of eccentric exercises that we use in our classes and online workouts! The point of showing you these is not to give you a tutorial, but for you to spot the difference in tempo of the exercises on the way up or down. Remember, the slower portions of the exercises are where we are lengthening the target muscles as tension as being placed on them.

Example 1: Tension is placed on the back muscles during the negative phase (3-0-1 tempo, aka down for 3 counts, 0 counts at the bottom, and 1 count for the more explosive, upward phase).

Down 3, up 1 curtsy lunge

Example 2: Tension is placed on the left glute during the negative phase (3-0-1 tempo, aka down for 3 counts, 0 counts at the bottom, and 1 count for the upward phase).

Up 1, down 3 reverse grip row

Example 3: The bend and snap. Tension is placed on the hamstrings during the negative phase (3-0-1 tempo, aka down for 3 counts, 0 counts at the bottom, and 1 count for the upward phase).

Works every time.

If you're digging this information and would like to learn more regarding all of the different methodologies we integrate into our program designs, take a look at our online workouts or join us for class anytime! We'd love to meet you!

-Lee Ann

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