When I really don’t want to exercise, I’ll rush through a workout just to mark it off my to-do list. But the faster I try to get it done, the sloppier I get. Instead of moving with intention, I’m flopping to the floor after a plank or giving up halfway into a sit-up. While getting a workout in is good, sloppy form isn’t helpful; it can be dangerous.
Rather than speeding through strength training exercises, I’ve learned it’s best to slow down and focus my movements. Whether you are pushing, pulling, lifting, or lowering, there are multiple parts to every exercise. In strength training exercises, there are three distinct parts: concentric, eccentric and isometric.
What are the parts of an exercise?
It doesn't matter whether you're doing pushups, squats, or any other activity. Julie Johnstone, NPCP, an Atlanta-based instructor for Club Pilates, says, “Every movement has a concentric and an eccentric phase.” When muscles are curled or contracted, that’s a concentric movement. But when muscles are extended, that’s an eccentric movement. In isometric movement, muscles are under tension, but do not move. (Think: wall sits or high planks.)
Imagine doing a bicep curl. When you lift the weight to your shoulder, your muscles contract in a concentric movement. But when you lower the weight back down, your muscles extend in an eccentric movement. If you were to do a static bicep hold and use both arms to hold weights at a 90 degree angle, that’d be an isometric movement.
Want to know more? Read Julie's article on Well + Good here.