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strengthening - different types

strengthening - different types

There are three main types of strengthening:

Concentric – muscle contraction where it shortens
Isometric – muscle contracts with no movement
Eccentric – muscle contraction where it lengthens

Let me give examples:

Concentric contraction is how we typically think our muscles work. If we want to build our biceps, most of us think bicep curls, which is a perfect example. As we curl our arm up to our chest, our bicep is firing and shortening to bring our arm up.

The best way to describe an isometric contraction is to push against a brick wall. The wall will not move and your muscles are not moving either yet they are working. This was a popular form of strengthening used by Bruce Lee which gave him a very toned look.

Eccentric contraction is a form of strengthening many overlook. Eccentric contraction happens when a muscle is lengthening while being engaged. Let’s look at bicep curls. Bringing the arm up is a concentric contraction of the biceps, eccentric contraction is the slow controlled movement of letting the arm down again. To control this downward motion, our bicep has to engage to stop our arm from falling down too fast but as it engages, it is lengthening at the same time.

With all exercises, we should work muscles in all forms. This is where performing the exercise slowly helps. For example with bicep curls, curl up slowly, hold at the top for the isometric exercise and slowly lower the weight back down to the bottom.

With chin ups, its the same. We work most of our muscles concentrically as we pull our chin up to the bar but it’s important that we slowly control our bodies back down again so that we can eccentrically work our muscles.

With injuries, eccentric exercises can be very effective as the injured muscle is getting stretched and well and being engaged and strengthened!
(Image courtesy of stockimages at

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