2 Strength Training Techniques for Building Muscle

  • Strength training involves different types of muscle contractions with unique benefits, according to a personal trainer.
  • Eccentric exercise involves lengthening, helping increase muscle size by causing more stress.
  • Concentric exercise involves shortening muscles, which builds strength and may be easier to recover from. 

Using multiple strength training techniques can help you get the most out of workouts, according to a personal trainer. 

Different types of strength exercises have unique benefits, whether you want to build muscle and strength, improve your running speed, or just be more active in everyday life, according to Chris Travis, owner and coach at Seattle Strength and Performance. 

“Our core value  is that strength training is for everybody. We try to make it accessible for everyone because we believe it’s so beneficial to your life,” he told Insider. “Within the first few weeks, people feel so much stronger and better because their body is adapting to something to it’s never done before.”

Using the right type of exercise can help you balance your workouts for your specific goals like increasing muscle size, maxing out strength, or even helping recover from muscle soreness. 

“They’re all tools in the toolbox, it depends on what you’re trying to train for,” Travis said.

Eccentric movements like negatives are great for building muscle and perfecting your form

Resistance or strength training involves putting stress on your muscles to prompt them to adapt by becoming stronger (and often bigger in the process). When your muscles contract while lengthening, it’s known as an eccentric exercise.

Eccentric movements typically involve the lowering portion of an exercise, such as bringing the weight back down slowly after a bicep curl. 

A major advantage of eccentric exercise is that is creates a lot of tension, which prompts your muscles to grow bigger and stronger and helps maximize gains. 

“We do a lot of eccentric work because it builds muscle really well and we do it in a way that people who are starting in strength training aren’t moving too quickly and understanding the range of motion,” Travis said. 

One example of using eccentric work to build muscle is adding a tempo to an exercise such as a TRX row, lowering on the count of three rather than dropping all at once. 

Eccentric exercises can also help all athletes, but especially beginners, build their capacity to do more exercise with good form, instead of using momentum or compromising their position. 

“A lot of times people will just rep it out and their body position can get crazy. Forcing them to slow down on the eccentric helps maintain body awareness and stability,” Travis said. 

Practicing just the eccentric portion of a movement is known as a negative — one example is jumping or stepping up to a pull-up and slowly lowering down with control to build the proper muscle groups to improve your pull-up strength. You can use a similar technique to improve push-ups by starting in a plank, lowering down to the bottom of the position, and then resetting. 

Beginners can also benefit from isometric exercise, which involves strengthening in a static position, since it’s low impact on the joints and also helps build stability and good form, Travis said. 

Concentric exercises like sled pushes improve strength and are less likely to make you sore

Exercises that cause your muscles to contract while shortening are known as concentric. They’re great for building muscle strength and endurance, Travis said, particularly with compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups, like raising the weight with deadlifts 

Concentric exercises are less likely to cause delayed onset muscle soreness, the phenomenon that can leave you too achy to hit the gym the next day, research suggests. As a result, coaches recommend trying low-impact concentric work like sled pushes or biking for active recovery, to improve blood flow to the muscles and promote muscle repair.

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