Feeling lethargic in your workouts? Regardless of forced rest days, exaggerated beauty sleep, pre-workout overdosing, sports psychology podcasts and Haribo carb-loading, there comes a time in every fitness dork's training session when the body does not respond to inner spartan expectations. Throwing in the towel in this situation would be like taking an earlier flight home from a honeymoon. Unacceptable.
Instinctly, we could attempt to lean on someone else's deltoids by getting a partner (that's sort of the first step for the honeymoon as well, duh). But if your training buddy is feeling fatigued and sluggish, that could be even counter-productive. So I recommend a training technique that leaves you no option to back down. Even though that is exactly what you will do in this special technique called eccentric overloading.
Eccentric overload refers to a resistance that one would not be capable of moving concentrically (or upward). This has been proven the most effective way to deliberately cause neuromuscular fatigue (Raeder C & Kellmann M, 2015).
Furthermore, eccentric overloading induces the greatest neuromuscular fatigue when compared to other training protocols, such as traditional multiple sets, drop-sets, and plyometric jumps (Lake et al. 2012). One study looked at the recovery times needed from doing different squat variations (Corder et al. 2009). Traditional multiple sets (4 x 6, 85% percent 1RM), drop-sets (1 x 6, 85% percent 1RM + 3 drop-sets), eccentric overload (4 x 6, 70% percent 1RM concentric, 100% percent 1RM eccentric), flywheel squat (4 x 6, all- out), and a plyometric jump protocol (4 x 15, all- out) were compared. Neuromuscular fatigue was consistent up to 48 hours postexercise in all protocols. The metabolic and perceptual demands were highest for the eccentric overload and the flywheel.
Once people learn the growth power of eccentrics, their next step is often to slow the eccentric phase down as much as possible—sometimes five seconds or more—in hopes that it will lead to more growth. While this is logical, it actually doesn’t pan out. Research shows that faster-speed eccentric contractions result in a release of more growth factors, more satellite cells, and greater protein synthesis than slow-speed eccentric contractions (Shepstone TN, 2005).
My all-time favorite eccentric exercise is depth drops in stairs with a medicine ball above the head. You start from the top of a long staircase and hold a medicine ball above your head. Descend to a half squat, and start to drop down continuously, step for step, without letting your heels touch the ground. Stay as low as possible and your bad workout will be roasted like your thighs.
Weight-resistance machines offer an easy solution for focusing on the eccentric movement when training alone. For instance, leg extensions can be performed by extending two legs and then applying the weight resistance only on one leg when returning to the starting position.
Another way is to skip the concentric part completely. When doing negative pull-ups, jump up instead of pulling up, then lower your body and release the bar. You can do this as a chin-up variation or wide-grip pull-up. If you use additional weight, you can use a box to come back up in the starting position.
You can perform negative dips in the same way. Just choose a workstation or bars that are so low that you can enter the starting position by standing on your toes. Keep for instance a medicine ball between your knees for added resistance. You can also use a box and chained weights as illustrated in the picture above.
You might think that just adding more weight could kill your bad workout, but it does not have the same effect as the eccentric overloading. If you do not feel like lifting, you won't. But when a weight is pulling you downwards, your opinion does not matter, and your survival instinct will engage your muscles on your behalf. You think you're having a bad day, well think again.
Try out the above bad workout remedy and kiss your crappy training sessions good-bye. And if you have the aforementioned honeymoon issue, well, you might have to consider kissing someone else good-bye.
Learn more about speed and strength training by downloading the Outdoor Edition Training Guide. Also, be on the look out for the Fit Businessman book from Eric Snaell.