One of the most vital requirements of training is that an exercise or program must give more than it takes. This is one of the most surefire ways to prolong your time in the iron game. But what happens when an exercise no longer gives you what it used to? Or when it just flat-out doesn’t benefit you at all?
Maybe you’re experiencing a more severe and prolonged level of soreness than before. You could have limitations due to injury or sport season demands. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve hit the dreaded plateau in your training and cannot make progress to save your life.
These are all very common issues that an athlete or coach is unfortunately familiar with. But there is a way around this, and it may be something you’ve never tried. Concentric-Only Training (COT) may be the answer you’re looking for, even if you didn’t know you needed it. You can kill all the birds with one stone. Here’s how.
What is Concentric-Only Training?
Super quick primer here, because I know you guys are way smarter than me. But just in case.
Concentric = The lifting or contracting phase of the lift.
Eccentric = The lowering or stretching phase of the lift.
Amortization = The change between concentric and eccentric phases of a lift
That would mean “concentric-only” means we get rid of the eccentric phase, and of course the amortization phase as well. Simple. Wait…
Why?! Who would want to do that? Generally regarded as one of the most impactful puzzle pieces of strength and hypertrophy, the eccentric phase is often where the magic happens.
But that magic is the very reason you would use and benefit from eliminating eccentric from your training. By doing this, you can reduce some of the stress and breakdown during exercise and leave a little more gas in your tank.
In other words, you could make some exercises give again, rather than just take, take, take.
This could mean many things.
And all of those things can lead to improving struggling areas, rehabbing specific regions of the body or even preparing your body for a workout than involves full ROM (not eliminating the eccentric).
You can get strong, build muscle, get healthy and improve mobility even if you cut the ROM in half. Here are some specific examples of exercises that can used as concentric-only and how to apply them to your training.
Staple Concentric-Only Training Variations
While there are countless training tools that you could start to incorporate COT with, we are going to break down only the staples: the barbell, the prowler sled and handheld weights like dumbbells and kettlebells.
Below are two very common and highly useful barbell variations, dropping the eccentric motion from a deadlift (as featured above) and also a clean with a really high catch position.
We’ve all used them, but I guarantee that not all of us knew why these were such effective power tools that have a high amount of central nervous system (CNS) yield with very low amounts of mechanical fatigue.
Be sure to also check out the proper technique for barbell cleans HERE
Prowlers and sleds are probably the best implementing for adding these training methods, due to the slack created by hooking up the TRX straps to the sled.
Lastly, you can always use a handheld weight like a dumbbell or a kettlebell (or both) for endless variations of loaded carries. This is definitely not an extensive list (you can find that HERE), so get creative and move some heavy weight! My favorites include Single Arm Carries and Double Arm Carries.
If you want to get chaotic with your carries, check out the chaos carry above implementing a simple band.
FOUR Highly Successful Application of Concentric-Only Training
This training method will not replace the traditional true staple movements of strength training. It will, however, compliment those principles nicely. Below are some highly effective ways to find success with concentric-only training in a number of diverse training settings and for specific goal sets.
Injury Rehab & Return To Train
Coming back to lifting after a serious injury can be scary. There are feelings of doubt, insecurity and plenty of hesitation when it comes to trying to get back to 100 percent.
Concentric-Only Training can help ease this process, along with delivering some impactful results towards your recovery while mitigating the risk of re-injury. Incorporating some of the exercises above in an intelligent manner should help you train your way back to optimal health without risk of injury or other setbacks.
Remember, you can’t do the fluffy rehab exercises forever. Eventually, you’re going to have to load up and get your strength back. Being hurt is a major inconvenience, but being hurt and weak is just plain dreadful.
Using Concentric-Only Training During Planned Deload Weeks
Deload weeks – some people hate them, others swear by them. Wherever you fit on that spectrum, I’m sure you can appreciate the value of recovery.
Training with concentric emphasis can offer you a chance to lift with intensity, volume and frequency through rough patches in your training.
So, instead of taking a week off from the gym or only rolling around doing boring “mobility” drills for a week, maybe you can find a use for some concentric-focused foundational movements with a decent amount of load.
In-Season Sport Implementation of Concentric-Only Training
Again, this topic has a wide spectrum of discussions going on around it. And I hate to sound like a broken record of uncertainty, but no matter what your in-season lifting methods entail, I am sure you’d love your athletes to lift moderate to heavy loads while still preserving some energy for the big game. Perhaps this can be an option.
In fact, concentric lifts could serve as an incredible primer for your Central Nervous System (CNS) whether it’s pre-game or part of a warm-up that includes full ROM lifts. These fast twitch, explosive movements can really gear up the CNS and prepare you for injury-free training or games. When it’s all said and done, concentric-only warm-ups may be the winner of this entire conversation.
Regenerative “Extra” Training Sessions
Last, but not least, you could use a concentric-only session to bring up some weak points in your physique or performance without fatiguing the mechanical or neurological systems.
The ability to increase frequency without cashing yourself out can help you go “chase the pump” – if that’s something you’re into. Just kidding, everyone is into that. Get a little bit more blood and nutrients to your problem areas and, who knows, you may just bust through that plateau.
Finding Intelligent Strategies To Implement COT
Whether this is old news to you or completely new info, I hope you can find a way to use it. The number one takeaway that I hope you get from this is that although, yes, this can be a fantastic back off strategy, that is not the only use.
Concentric-Only Training doesn’t have to revolve around the deload or taking it easier, it can be a loading method as well. And a damn good one.
I would highly suggest you find a way to incorporate this into your programming for long-term success. You can never be too prepared, and I see this as another tool in the toolbox for creating a resilient body.
About The Author
Justin Ochoa is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach and the Co-Owner of PACE Fitness Academy in Indianapolis, IN. He enjoys working with a wide variety of clients ranging from high-level athletes to rehabilitation patients. No matter the goal or experience level, Justin’s coaching philosophy is that everyone is an athlete. His focus is helping his athletes bring out the absolute best of their mental and physical potential, and then continuing to raise the bar for continued success and results.