You probably put a lot of focus on the lifting portion of your workout, but what about lowering? A paper recently published by researchers at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland concluded that people who do resistance training saw more strength benefits from a heavy eccentric, or lowering, phase of a movement than if the lifting and lowering portions used the same resistance. In other words, if someone found a way to curl 30 pounds on the way up, but lower 35 pounds on the way down, they’d get stronger.
The logistics of that, especially for a solo lifter, are complicated and cumbersome at best. That’s why, for this eccentric-focused workout, you should find a good lifting partner. Working with a partner, accentuated eccentric movement gets much easier: For barbell curls, have your partner add 5-pound plates at the top of your curl — or for bench press, lower the bar as you normally would, but have your partner help you re-rack the bar instead of pushing it up on your own. The point is that, on the negative side of every movement, you’re working with more weight.
Here are three ways to make you work harder on the eccentric side of the rep — and get strong as hell in the process.
Eccentric Plate-Loaded Push-Ups: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
For doing plate-loaded push-ups with an eccentric overload, the key is timing: Be sure to lower your reps slowly, and each time you lower yourself to the floor, have your partner rest a plate on your upper back (25- to 45-pound plates should do it). Once you reach the bottom, have your spotter quickly remove the weight for you to do an unloaded push back to the starting position.
Eccentric T-Bar Rows: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
To create the perfect balance with the movement above, let the upper back get more benefits using the same approach on the T-bar row machine. The built-in loading rack that every T-bar row machine has is a perfect place for a partner to add manual resistance to the lowering phase, by simply pushing down with his hand. Using manual resistance is harder to gauge by the numbers, but it’s more efficient than struggling to get plates on and off the machine mid-rep.
Eccentric Hamstring Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
The hamstrings contain a relatively high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers, so it’s only fitting that we attack this muscle group using these methods too. Using a prone hamstring-curl machine, set the weight to about 80 percent of your 10- to 12-rep max, then perform the same 10-12 reps while your partner applies plenty of negative stress by pulling the heel pad of the curl machine back down to the fully extended position. Once again, the key here is to resist the negative rep (just like in the previous examples), and a good place to start is by aiming for a three-second count on the way down on each rep.
If you don’t have access to a prone hamstring-curl machine, lie face down on a bench so your knees are hanging off the end. From a straight-legged position, curl your feet toward your butt, having your partner create manual resistance by pulling your heels toward the floor. Slowly lower your legs back down to a straight-legged position, and repeat.