Increase flexibility through strength training

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Are you always complaining of tight muscles? 

Do you want to achieve more flexibility?

 

Strength through length is the key!

 

 

What is eccentric training?

In short, an eccentric movement is when the muscle is ‘contracting’ whilst it is lengthening. A lot of your day to day movement involves eccentric movements. Such as walking down stairs, sitting into your comfy chair (which works your front thigh muscles – Quadriceps), and even lowering a plate full of food onto the table (your bicep is eccentrically loaded here).

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How can eccentric training improve flexibility and strength?

Research has shown that an eccentric training program as short as 6 weeks showed significant changes in flexibility (O’Sullivan, McAuliffe and DeBurca, 2014). This is due to the change of the muscle length-tension principle, where muscles will adapt to the new length. Two studies looking at the back of the thigh muscle (hamstring) saw an average increase in length by 12 degrees (13% increase) (Delvaux., et al. 2020).

To visualise, imagine a wound on your knee with a scab starting to form. If you bent your knee for the first time after 2 weeks of keeping it straight, the scab will be of a shorter length – with increased tension. Muscles will similarly behave like this. As you bend and straighten your knee regularly, you will increase the length and decrease the tension. Therefore, the scab will adapt to the new length, and you’ll have more range.

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Benefits of eccentric training

–       Reduces risk of injuries

–       Improves flexibility

–       Reduction in pain

–       Greater torque / Force applied through muscles

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Example of Exercises:

An example of eccentric exercises for the hamstring is listed below.

Sets

2 – 3

Repetitions

5 – 8 (dependent on strength)

Duration of movement (lowering time)

5 seconds

Image 1: Nordic Curls

Image 2: Glute bridge sliders

Image 3: Single leg deadlift

Image 4: Jefferson curls

References:
O’Sullivan, K., McAuliffe, S. and DeBurca, N., 2012. The effects of eccentric training on lower limb flexibility: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 46(12), pp.838-845.
Delvaux, F., Schwartz, C., Decréquy, T., Devalckeneer, T., Paulus, J., Bornheim, S., Kaux, J. and Croisier, J., 2020. Influence of a Field Hamstring Eccentric Training on Muscle Strength and Flexibility. International Journal of Sports Medicine,.