Progression is key to any program, and in fact one of the most important elements. Without progression, how can one justify that any benefits have been made through a program? Similarly, the body will always adapt to new stresses put on it; so if preogression is not part of the protocol, then the process will slow down and eventually come to a halt as the body needs a progressively more challenging task for its adaptation to continue. Overloading the body in a progressive manner is necessary to gain stregnth, size, endurance, and other aspects of athleticisim that athletes are striving toward.
One important aspect of progression is a phase where athletes learn to emphasize the eccentric phase of a lift or movement. In many cases - such as Coaches Doug Scott and Mike Saraceno of the Pingry School, NJ - a program will begin with emphasizing the eccentric phase. Coach Saraceno explains in this video that they begin all bench press programs with push-ups, and when athletes first use a barbell, they implement a 5 0 x 1 tempo, or a 5 second eccentric (lowering) phase of the bench press. All athletes, and people in general, are generally about 30-40% stronger in the eccentric phase (varies by individual), as it begins in an already fully overlapped position with maximum cross-bridges formed, plus the negative work nature of the eccentric phase allows the lifter to have more of a sense of control of the weight.
Another benefit of utilizing a slow eccentric phase is that it helps to develop an athlete neurologically and aids in their learning the stress of constant action potentials to keep tension on a muscle for extended periods of time. This is not a common occurence in public today's gyms and team weight rooms, where many people do forced, cheated concentric motions, no isometric pause, and virtually no control on the eccentric phase. Learning to control the weight, and not let the weight control you, is a vital part of becoming a skilled and disciplined lifter.
Teaching athletes to be disciplined in all aspects of their sport can be a huge challenge, and one that stumps many coaches. If someone understands how to be disciplined physically, work hard under an external load for an extended period of time, that is a great way to transition them into being mentally capable and ready on game day. Coaching an athlete to do slow, 5+ second eccentric repetition is a good tool to teach them control, discipline, and how to be ok with being uncomfortable.
Watch this video as Mike Saraceno explains how he incorporates eccentric training into the program at The Pingry School.
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