Exercise Muscle Actions: Exercise With Purpose

Do you exercise with purpose and controlled muscle actions or are you just going through the motions?


I know you’re probably thinking, “What do you mean? I do the work, that’s what counts, right?” Yes, it does count, and is certainly better than sitting on the couch, but there’s more. There’s connecting your brain to the muscle that is lifting the weight and then lowering it. Activating that muscle. Feeling the contraction of the muscle doing the work. Controlling the movement.

Muscle actions control the movement of the body. Without getting too technical I want to briefly touch on a few of the muscle actions.

Muscle actions

1. Eccentric

Occurs when a muscle develops tension while lengthening. The muscles lengthens because the contractile force is less than the resistive force. A great example of this is the 2nd part of a biceps curl or when the arms are lowering back to the starting position. Also known as deceleration or negative because work is being done on the muscle as opposed to the muscle dong the work.

2. Isometric

Occurs when the contractile force is equal to the resistive force. Also known as a pause during a resistance training exercise between the lifting and the lowering phases.

3. Concentric

Occurs when the contractile force is greater than the resistive force. Characterized by the shortening the muscle and visible joint movement. A great example of this is the first part of a biceps curl or during the lifting part of the exercise.

Read about how one of our clients applied this to her workout

“Every time I go through a strength training session, I learn or realize something new.  (Or maybe – because I’m “old-ish” – I’m re-learning something.  That is entirely possible!)

When I was in the gym the other day, it dawned on me that I was kind of just going through the mechanics of the exercise instead of intentionally focusing on the muscle or muscle group that I was working on.  I felt like I was on “auto-drive”, which meant I wasn’t really putting in the effort that I should have been doing.  Once I realized that, I intentionally shifted my focus.  And I remembered what my trainer keeps reminding me when I work out with her:  it’s not only about the initial (concentric) movement part of the exercise;  it’s just as important to feel the resistance in the eccentric part of the exercise.  So when I’m doing biceps curls, if I focus only on the lifting but then just let the weights drop to my sides, I’m missing out on half of the benefits of that exercise.  Instead, I need to lower the weights slowly, feeling the resistance as I’m doing that.  So for the rest of my workout, I set my mind to focus on doing that – and it made a huge difference!  My arms and legs could really tell that I had worked out – and I hadn’t really increased any weights.  I just focused on both the concentric and eccentric movements, and that had a significant impact on how I felt about getting in a strong lifting session.

Hopefully I can sustain this focused approach during my upcoming sessions!” – L.S.

Knowing what we now know, think about how you have been lifting weights. Are you going through the motions or are you really focusing on the movement?

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