Gym noises are frustrating and I hate them. They’re distracting, annoying, and make people hate going to the gym. I hate the yelling, the grunting, the moaning, and the steam engine blowing breath. But I hate slamming and dropping weights the most. But it’s just not because of the noise. Putting down your weight is just as important as picking it up.
The Noise is Annoying
Okay, so a big part of it is the noise. Everyone at the gym is there to improve themselves. But when someone is huffing and puffing and dropping weights, it makes it harder to focus on your workout. It’s distracting, and it can make some folks uncomfortable. If you are uncomfortable and feel alienated at the gym, you’re much less likely to come back, and that’s something no one wants.
No matter who you are, try your best to cut down on any noises you can, and keep the gym an inclusive space.
Strength Comes from Lowering Your Weights
Here’s the big reason. If you’re slamming weights you are missing out on a huge part of the exercise: carefully lowering weight to the floor.
With exercise and strength training, the big progress you gain comes from small changes you make in your form and process. Small tweaks like working on posture and range of motion can lead to big increases in strength and endurance. Changing up the speed of your the exercises you’re already performing can also unlock some great added benefits.
Lowering the weights slowly to the floor, rather than just dropping them when you’re done, is one of the ways to do that. This slow lowering motion is an example of what we call an Eccentric Contraction.
What is Eccentric Contraction?
Muscle movement can be broken down into Concentric and Eccentric motion. Concentric muscle contraction is what you may typically think of with exercise. It is the standard activation and lifting motion that happens when the muscle shortens and its two connection points come close together. This movement act against the force of gravity.
The eccentric contraction is a bit different. While it uses the same muscle, the eccentric movement happens in the lowering part of the motion. The muscle is still contracting and is still exerting force, but here the muscle is actually lengthening, and the two connection points of the muscle get further apart.
Picture this as sort of a braking mechanism, slowing down the lowering action and preventing the weight from pulling down too quickly with the force of gravity. Just like during a pushup when we lower ourselves to the floor.
What are the Benefits of Eccentric Contraction?
Using eccentric contraction trains the muscle in a totally different way. By slowly returning the weight to the bottom of the range of motion, you’ll continue to add tension and force on a muscle as it lengthens, rather than just when it shortens.
Extra Science Alert: Because of the way muscle is constructed, there is more of a load on each motor unit of the muscle, so more tension is applied to the muscle fibers. This can lead to greater gains in strength as well as the creation of more muscle mass.
Simple version: You’re more likely to build more muscle in the lower than in the lift, and we all want more muscle.
Why Is Exercising Slower Better?
I know you probably want your workout to be over with as soon as you can. But if you rush through your strength training by moving too fast, you’re not being as effective and can be wasting your time. Strength training is best when slow and controlled throughout the movement, and the beginning and end. The more you slow down the more you’ll strengthen up.
By training with a slower speed, the muscles can adapt in order to increase control and stability. This focus on slowing down also helps to concentrate on form and technique, which can help strengthen stability muscles, and decrease your risk of injury.
This all comes together to help to bring more diversity into the exercises you’re performing. Because of the different movement and focus involved, your body will be able to move in new ways. Plus it can help keeps your workout routine from feeling boring and stale, which is a great way to switch up a program without changing too much.
Them: “But I’m doing drop sets! You’re supposed to throw the weights on the ground when you’re done!”
Me: No you’re not.
How to Start Eccentric Training
When starting eccentric training, you might see that you can’t use the same weight that you do with concentric contractions, and you may not able to lower the weight slowly. It requires a lot more muscle control and is much more difficult with heavier weights. You may feel a little bit sore the couple of days after the first time you try this.
Start with a smaller load first to prevent injury, and work your way up as you adjust and increase your strength. It also can help to set time for the lowering action, around 3-5 seconds, in order to keep yourself on pace. You can also record this speed when you’re tracking your workouts.
By changing your focus during the same exercise, and concentrating on a different aspect of the same motion, you can achieve drastically different results. As with any exercise program, make sure to give the body enough time to recover and recuperate properly after eccentric training. Avoiding overuse is key to injury prevention, and building up a consistent, safe, and productive fitness routine. Start small and light, and move on from there after developing a solid base. Have fun, and enjoy the benefits of working your body in a new way!