When I came to terms with the reality of lockdown, I had to develop strategies that would help my clients achieve their goals. I decided to use the time at home to lose some body fat.
Of course, sensible eating habits were essential, but since my usual physical activity was drastically reduced (this happens when you swap on the gym floor 8 hours a day to sit in front of your laptop), I had to be intelligent about my workout. One of the most important tools I've used for this is high frequency weighted cardio.
To be able to take a high-frequency approach with any training method, you need to be able to recover quickly. When it comes to high-frequency training, high muscle damage and days of pain are the number one enemy of the state!
There is an often neglected training method that causes almost no muscle damage, but provides a strong training stimulus. And that's the way I lean down during the lockdown. Here's how I developed my blocking plan.
There are two main phases of muscle contraction during strength training:
- Concentric muscle training
- Eccentric muscle training
The concentric phase is when a muscle shortens under tension. You can think of this as the lifting phase. The eccentric is when the muscle lengthens under tension. This is the lowering phase.
Most of the muscle damage occurs in the eccentric phase. By eliminating the eccentric phases, you can reduce the stress, muscle damage and breakdown that occur during traditional training.
I would not recommend excluding all eccentric workouts from your program indefinitely as the eccentric part of the lift offers many benefits and is a key element of the size and strength puzzle. However, tactically removing the eccentric phase from certain elements of your workout can have significant benefits.
Concentric training creates the potential for:
- Higher training frequency
- More volume
These are both very useful when it comes to fat loss. Even better, a 2017 study (Stock et al., 2017) showed that only concentric strength training (with minimal muscle damage) causes hypertrophy in just 3 to 4 weeks. Concentric training can help you slim down and gain (or at least maintain) muscle mass.
Studies show that only concentric training creates much higher metabolic requirements than eccentric training (Kraemer et al., 2001). Concentric training leads to significantly higher VO2 and lactic acid levels. These increased metabolic costs mean more calories burned.
Improved recovery through concentric training only
Concentric training is very popular in rehabilitation programs for injuries. In the early stages of rehab, many therapists use high-frequency concentric training as the first step in strengthening muscles.
Improved recovery from injuries is an advantage of concentric training. Improved recovery between sessions is also a big plus of concentric work.
Stimulating blood flow to the working muscles improves recovery time from one heavy session to the next. For this reason, only concentric training is a great addition to your regular workout.
Bonus training without overtraining
Concentric training means that you can do “extra” or “bonus” training with a much lower risk of overtraining. Concentric work allows you to get a training stimulus without the mechanical or neurological fatigue caused by regular exercise. As a result, you can do more training with minimal risk that it will interfere with your usual lifting sessions.
The more you can exercise without exceeding your recovery capacity, the better your results. The fact that concentric training gives you the opportunity to increase your workload without exceeding your recovery capacity is a huge bonus when it comes to winning the fight against body fat!
Lifts, concentric lifts and conditioning
Westside Barbell has made concentric sled training popular for conditioning work. Pushing and pulling a sled is an incredibly effective workout for burning fat. I have used it in the programs of countless customers with great impact. This is one of the best ways to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss.
In contrast to conventional cardio, sledge work requires a relatively high resistance. This resistance signals the body to hold the muscles. So you don't lose the trouble of looking like a marathon runner when working with weighted energy systems.
Concentric training at home
Unfortunately, I don't have a sled or enough outdoor space to use one. Living in central London means that space is scarce. What I have are 6 stairs in my apartment block and I use them to get the same benefits of sledging.
- I load my backpack with books and dumbbells
- I go up the six stairs
- I climb into the elevator and return to the ground floor
- I repeat for 5-10 sentences
Going up is primarily a concentric activity. By loading my backpack with textbooks and dumbbells, I can add 50 pounds of external load. Climbing stairs is like a hundred weighted steps.
I climb into the elevator to go back down because I'm lazy. Obviously I'm joking, there is actually a method for my insanity / laziness. Going down with 50 pounds of extra weight requires a lot of eccentric work and a lot of muscle damage.
Walking up and down stairs would mean I was sore and it would take longer to recover. As a result, I would not be able to do this on a daily basis. Since I want to use this method as my daily cardio, taking the elevator down is the wise choice.
So if you have a backpack, something heavy and stairs, you can isolate yourself.
Now it looks like a sense of normalcy is returning, although I think some people still choose to exercise at home until they feel comfortable when they go to a gym. Connect to mine on my Tom MacCormick Instagram account and send me a message if you need help.