When you hear the word recovery, you probably think of foam rolling, mobility work, fun stuff like bicep curls or just taking the whole week off. Nothing wrong with those things (except curling in the squat rack) but there’s a better way.

Curls

Let me explain.

Lifting uses three types of muscle contractions: concentric, eccentric and isometric.

Isometric muscle contractions are when the muscles produce force but there is no change in the length of the contracting muscle. Examples are front planks, side planks, and wall squats.

Isometrics are also used to overcome sticking points in the major lifts. An example is using a press against pins at a sticking point in your bench press. This move can be performed for several seconds to overcome a weakness at a particular joint angle.

As you can see isometrics are extremely useful, just not for deload/recovery purposes.

Eccentric contractions involve the muscle lengthening while under tension due to an opposing force (gravity or added resistance) being greater than the force generated by the muscle.

Think lowering down from a chin up/bench press (slow eccentric) or the preparation for a plyometric movement like squat jumps (fast eccentric).

As fewer motor units (functional unit of muscle contraction) of the muscle contract during the eccentric phase, the muscle can generate 1.3 times more tension than the lifting phase.

This increase in tension leads to our size and strength gains when the weight is lowered under control and through a full range of motion.  Take note of under control and full range!

The drawback is that eccentric contractions can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (pain you feel 24-48 hours after tough training), muscle swelling and decreased range of motion.

Concentric contractions happen when force generated by the working muscles overcomes the resistance, and the muscle shortens.  Think of pushing the bar away from your chest during a bench press or flexing your biceps at the top of the curl.

Like eccentric contractions, concentric contractions are essential for increasing your muscle capacity and mass.

Here’s the kicker. Using just concentric contractions can help lessen the pain of muscle soreness caused by DOMS, according to a 2006 study in “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.”

Now imagine exercising while minimizing your eccentric contractions. Presto, you have the perfect deload/recovery training.

Recovery training recommendations

1. Most concentric dominant moves are not overly technical, but you must have mastered the basics of pushing, pulling, hinging and squatting.

2. Choose moves with little or no eccentric movement, such as plate pushes, sled/ prowler pushes, step ups, medicine ball throws, kettle bell swings and resistance band exercises like chest presses and rows.

3. The repetitions should be in the 6-12 range. When done for time, do 20-30 seconds of maximum effort.

4. As a guideline, keep the rest periods between exercises and circuits to 60- 90 seconds.

Complete this as a circuit for a total of 3/4 circuits.

1. Medicine ball squat toss, 8-10 reps

 Cues

1. Use proper squat from.

2. Release ball quickly. Imagine the ball is a hot potato.

2. Overhead medicine ball throws, 8- 10 reps

Cues

1. Strong step forward and when releasing the ball

2. Encourage yourself to “spread your fingers apart’ on release.

3. Kettle bell swings, 30 seconds

Cues

1. On the down swing the wrists must “smack” the inner thighs.

2. On the upswing squeeze the butt and take a sharp breath out. Tell yourself to “squeeze and breathe”.

4. Power resistance band rows

Cues

1. Quarter squat position, stand tall and squeeze the butt.

2. Use a quick pull. Elbows don’t travel past the torso.

5. Plate push 

Cues

1. Push your feet away from the floor.

2, Tell yourself you’re running on hot coals.

Wrapping up

When using this instead of your usual training, do this no more than 3 times per week. When plugging this in for added volume or to aid with DOMS, just do one time per week. You’ll be the coolest kid in the gym.

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