Overload your back (and core!) safely with this eccentric-focused muscle-builder.
One of the most underrated ideas around fitness training is the eccentric contraction. Sure, you know your muscles work hard when you lift a weight. But they can (and should) work just as hard (if not harder!) when you lower the weight.
Your muscles perform an “eccentric” contraction when you lower a weight, stabilizing your joints and fighting the weight and gravity after you’ve exerted force to move the weight in the first place. And while some lifters miss this eccentric phase of a lift, you can take advantage of it to build strength and muscle. That’s especially true if you’re training your lats, says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “Your back muscles in particular respond very well to paused reps and eccentric contractions,” say Samuel. “We generally struggle with mind-muscle connection on our pulling exercises. But focusing on eccentric work can help us build that connection. It’s also a great way to overload your back.”
You’ll focus heavily on the eccentric contraction during the Eccentric-focused Single-Arm Pulldown, a Samuel favorite that’s perfect for finishing off a back workout. It’s also a move that’ll make you stronger and more powerful throughout your back, says Samuel, because it takes advantage of the power of eccentric contractions. “You’re even stronger eccentrically than you are with during the more ‘classic’ part of every rep,” Samuel says. “So we can use this eccentric idea to help you build and acclimate to lifting heavier weights for your back.”
You get a bonus here, too, because the single-arm pulldown is also a unilateral (one-arm) move. “You’ll blast your abs here as well,” says Samuel. Learn the art of the exercise right here.
The Eccentric Single-Arm Pulldown can fit into your workout in a variety of ways, but it’s best used as a finisher. “You’re eccentric contractions are among your strongest contractions, and they’re less at the mercy of fatigue in the moment,” says Samuel. “So you should go heavy and explosive earlier in your workouts, then make a move like this your very last exercise.” That can work in several contexts, most of them based around muscle hypertrophy (translation: This isn’t a finisher after a CrossFit WOD). Think about making this the final exercise in a back workout or a pull workout or an upper-body workout. Or if you do a total body session, make this your very last exercise, after you’ve trained back, legs, and chest, when you just want a little more burn. It’s also a great entry-point exercise to start core training. “It fires up so much more than you expect,” says Samuel.