As training enthusiasts, we tend to accept the fact that lifting heavy exposes us to injury risk. Chances are, if you train seriously you’ll eventually experience some sort of acute injury. While nobody likes taking time off, we should recognize that it is essential to the healing process. However, what do you do once you finally return to lifting? People often assume that you can jump back into normal training again. But it is important to employ smart training strategies to ensure your injury fully heals. The last thing you want to do is get re-injured and deal with a chronic issue.

Training injuries usually result from inflammation or tearing of the muscle or connective tissue (tendons and ligaments). We take time off in order to promote tissue regeneration and remodeling that patches up the damage. Even though the pain subsides with rest, the tissue itself is still compromised and lacks the adequate strength to hold up to hard training. Several modalities can be used to help improve the structure of the healing tissue.


Eccentric Resistance Training

Eccentric resistance training is a tactic that has been used in physical therapy/injury rehab for years. Essentially, eccentric resistance training involves emphasizing the eccentric portion of an exercise that targets the injured tissue. For example, a person would perform a bodyweight or single leg squat with a 3-5 second lowering phase in order to rehab a knee injury. This strategy has been validated in several studies as a viable rehab method for Achilles tears, patellar tendonitis, and several other common injuries. Typically, you would use lighter weight and perform exercises that isolate the injured area. Single leg slant board squats or single leg pistol squats would be good examples. Higher frequency is often used and the exercise is progressed until normal training can be tolerated again.

We know that the eccentric portion of an exercise causes structural damage in healthy muscle tissue. Our body responds to this micro trauma by building new muscle fibers and strengthening the existing muscle. This is probably one of the main adaptations that contributes to improved tensile strength in rehabbing muscles. This mechanism combined with the lighter weight that eccentrics necessitate allows our muscles to repair efficiently while minimizing the risk of re-injury.


Heavy Slow Resistance Training

Although eccentric resistance training is known to improve tissue remodeling, some have looked for ways to improve that rehab model. It is possible that the speed of the other portions of the lift could also impact the composition of the injured tissue. The stretch reflex that occurs between the eccentric and concentric portion of an exercise is not completely negated by eccentric resistance training. Although it may not seem like much, the rapid contraction that occurs after the stretch reflex could put undue stress on the injured tissue. Also, the specialized nature of the isolated exercises used in eccentric resistance training may not carry over well to the compound exercises typically used by experienced lifters.

This is why Heavy Slow Resistance Training (HSRT) has been offered as an improvement to eccentric resistance training. HSRT involves lifting with a slow cadence throughout every portion of the exercise rather than just the eccentric portion. For example, a person would perform a squat with a 3 second eccentric, 3 second pause (isometric), and 3 second concentric during each repetition. Typically, this is done with heavier (but submaximal) loads while performing compound exercises rather than isolation exercises. This would theoretically provide the same benefits as eccentric resistance training while possibly providing additional benefit from the elimination of the strength reflex.

About 2 weeks before @usapowerlifting Raw Nationals I strained my left pec. Oddly I never felt it during the training session where it happened. I only felt it warming up during the next session. Unfortunately it was bad enough that I only took one attempt at raw nationals of 145kg. Since then @acvargas_tsc has me doing slow eccentrics with pressing. Slow eccentrics have actually shown to have some benefits for helping to heal injuries assuming they are not so bad that you can’t do light weight without bad pain. I can say after just 2 weeks my pec is feeling much better. Probably will be ready to put back in some barbell pressing soon. Today I did 3 sets of 8 with a cadence of 4 second eccentric, 3 second pause, 2 second concentric, and 2 second pause at the end of the rep. Can’t wait to get ready for the @arnoldsports Pro American. Shirt by @apexdrive and Brick by Brick headband by @alpha_iron #biolayne #brickbybrick #apexdrive #teamnorton

A post shared by Layne Norton, PhD (@biolayne) on

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