When we have a sore muscle from physical activity, we assume the muscle must be tight and that we need to stretch it. Often though, especially if we’ve been participating in a repetitive activity/sport for many years, a sore muscle may indicate a relative weakness in the muscle.
To recover from a muscle strain or to prevent one altogether, it’s important to strengthen your muscles “eccentrically”.
An eccentric muscle contraction occurs as the muscle fibres lengthen. This happens when we do things such as lowering a weight by controlling it through a muscle’s full range of motion. Eccentric training, often referred to as “negatives”, focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscle. This type of training allows for the greatest muscle forces at relatively low energy costs.
Many muscles cross two joints: hamstrings and hip flexors cross the hip and knee, the gastrocs cross the knee and ankle, and the long head of biceps crosses the shoulder and elbow. So to strengthen these particular muscles, we need to look at the position of both joints to make sure the muscle is being contracted throughout its full length. For example, to strengthen the bicep muscle eccentrically, lie on your back on a bench with your arm over the edge, and slowly lower a weight by extending the elbow and also extending the shoulder.
To get the biggest return on your investment, make sure to include eccentric strength training throughout a muscle’s full length.
Sue Underhill, Owner/Physiotherapist