In our quest for continued gains in the gym, the dynamic world of strength and conditioning research tends to deliver valuable insights on a regular basis.
In this regard, research into accentuated eccentric loading (AEL) that was published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology certainly delivers another dose of highly beneficial information.
The study* found that AEL may be a beneficial form of weight training to overcome plateaus in strength and muscle mass.
A popular yet underused approach
Eccentric loading is a concept that strength and conditioning and body building coaches have promoted for decades, but we know have additional scientific evidence to back up this approach.
We already know that eccentric training – a focus on the controlled lengthening of a muscle under load, away from its centre – effectively increases both strength and muscle size, and aids recovery from soft tissue injury, particularly for tendon and ligament damage.
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And we now know that AEL is a great way to reignite stalled gains in the gym. To determine the effect that AEL had on the muscles of the 28 participants who completed the study, the research team conducted a 10-week experiment.
They separated the participants into three groups. This included two intervention groups, one of which used AEL training techniques (eccentric load = concentric load + 40%) and the other used a traditional isoinertial (same load and tempo on both the concentric and eccentric phases) resistance training protocol. The control group continued with their normal training programme.
After the first five-week cycle the researchers were already able to distinguish clear benefits to using AEL over more traditional training approaches, with the AEL groups exhibiting an increase in force production, work capacity, muscle activation and resistance.
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The study results led researchers to conclude that systematic heavy resistance training created distinct improvements in the neuromuscular performance and the mass of targeted muscles in both the AEL and traditional groups over the 10-week trial compared to the control group where no training variables were altered.
This suggests that when you reach a plateau in muscle gain and/or strength, a cycle (at least 10 weeks) that includes AEL training sessions can help reignite gains.
In this regard, lead researcher, Dr. Simon Walker from the Department of Biology of Physical Activity at University of Jyväskylä, Finland, was quoted as saying: “This information can modify people’s training methods and perhaps highlight contemporary training methods that can be included and periodised into people’s training regimes.”
Dr Walker added that while there are still lots of unresolved issues, such as how AEL may affect recovery, training frequency, and also whether training intensity and volume should be adjusted to better suit the individual, “this study alone gives good evidence that athletes can work on a problematic area, for example to develop strength and muscle mass, by using this method when stagnation has occurred.“
*Study conducted by researchers from the Department of Biology of Physical Activity and Neuromuscular Research Center, University of Jyväskylä in Finland, the School of Medical and Health Sciences, Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup in Australia, and the Institute of Human Performance at The University of Hong Kong.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.