It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And with the holiday season fully upon us, I totally expect that things are slowing down for all of us in our day-to-day lives. Now is the perfect time to see family and friends that you perhaps have not have the opportunity to see in while. With all the holiday spirit going around, it should come as no surprise if many aspects of our normal lives, including the gym, take a backseat.
Don’t fret, though. You should let the holidays slow you down and prioritize family and friends over your workouts. If you don’t, you miiiight want to reevaluate what should actually be important to you (just saying).
As a matter of fact, you can also take advantage of slowing down in the gym this month to speed up your results in the near future. If you can make it out to the gym on a semi-regular basis, think of this slowdown as prep work to get after your goals when the new year rolls around.
Slow Down Your Lifts
When it comes to your training, have you ever given much thought to the speed/tempo of your lifts? Whether you’re squatting, deadlifting, or curling, the speed of your lifting actually matters, and I want you to take that into consideration in your training.
It’s easy to rush through your lifts, especially when you’re crunched for time and just want to get it over with. By doing so however, you are neglecting the eccentric phase of exercise, which is super-important when it comes to developing strength and controlling your movement.
The eccentric phase of movement is when a muscle is contracting and lengthening at the same time. This typically happens on the “descent” of an exercise–going down on a bench press or a squat, for example.
Thus, when I’m asking you to slow down, I’m asking you to slow down on the descent of an exercise so that you can develop better strength and control. It might not seem like much, but loading up a bar and really focusing on the eccentric is actually really demanding and can leave you extremely sore in the days after! In the Instagram post below, Dan does squats with an eccentric emphasis in the very beginning. Notice the slow tempo and smooth control that he demonstrates:
Apparently, a certain subset of the population can’t jump. Well, they obviously haven’t met Coach @dan_cerone … 🤔⠀ -⠀ Here is Dan doing triphasic training to improve force production and power output in his jumps. The approach is to slowly eccentrically load (6 seconds) the muscles used for jumping with a squat, and immediately apply that stored energy to a bodyweight jump, a loaded jump, and a slightly-unloaded jump. The goal here is to take advantage of post-activation potentiation to apply as much force as possible in that short window of time to improve jumping performance. This is an advanced approach that works well once you already have a solid base of strength. 🏋️♂️⠀ -⠀ #triphasic #training #fitness #athletics #sportsperformance #fitfam #gym #nyc #halevylife #raisethebar @jeff.halevy
The rest of this video also demonstrates aspects of training that should typically come after focusing on eccentric control. However, all too often I see newbies who jump straight to these sorts of exercises that focus heavily on producing strength, power, and speed, when they really have no business doing so.
These loaded and unloaded jumps are very hard on a deconditioned and untrained body, especially one that hasn’t been built to tolerate high forces yet. These newbies should really be focusing on eccentric control first: slowing down on their main lifts to develop baseline strength and control.
There’s a good reason to do this first. The graph below (from strengthandconditioningresearch.com ) best demonstrates why:
The graph depicts the force-velocity relationship of training. Generally speaking, we are able to produce a high amount of force at a low velocity, but a low amount of force at a high velocity. Just think about the speeds at which you can squat 315 lbs vs 135 lbs.
However, proper training shifts this curve upwards. So for every lifting velocity you can use, you now have the ability to produce more force across the board. Whether you use what the author calls low-velocity or high-velocity training, a positive adaptation occurs. In this instance, “velocity” refers to the speed of you lifts during the concentric phase of muscle, which is when a muscle contracts and shortens. This is typically the ascent (upward motion) of an exercise, like a squat or deadlift.
The very first step however, is to develop strength and control first. And you do this by slowing down your eccentrics. Slow down your eccentrics, and then you can worry about your lifting velocities and start producing power, strength, and speed; it doesn’t work the other way around.
If you’re looking for better results this holiday season, slow down in the gym to speed up your results later. Develop a solid base of strength and eccentric control first if you want to move on to the cool things that require speed and power.
by Jeremy Lau
Jeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach and Metabolic Lab Manager at Halevy Life.
Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and received his Master’s in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.
As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.