Do you drop weights at the gym, focusing only on the lift up?  If so, I strongly recommend you stop dropping weights and begin to focus on the lowering part of the lift, utilising eccentric muscle contraction, as well as the raising part.

Of course there is a clear safety issue in dropping weights as they are now out of your control.  And weights are not made to be dropped nor are most gym floors capable of taking such a load without sustaining damage over time.

However, being in control of the lowering down part of the lift will also optimise your weight training.  Lowering the weight will make many of your muscles contract eccentrically.  Eccentric muscle contraction is when muscles generate force whilst they lengthen or pay out (as opposed to concentric muscle contraction, which occurs whilst muscles generate force as they shorten).  Not only is more control required for efficient eccentric muscle contraction, slightly more force can be generated when muscles pay out.

Therefore utilising eccentric muscle contraction to lower a weight down under your control, rather than letting gravity and the mass of the weight to accelerate the weight to the ground, means you can generate more strength or endurance or power during the exercise.  The focus on control will also enable you to become stronger, have more endurance or become more powerful.  You can improve these fitness parameters by increasing the size of your muscle cells and/or be better able to recruit muscle fibres on demand.  Eccentric muscle contraction will allow both processes to occur.

The oft quoted response to why people have to drop their weights instead of lowering them down under muscular control is that they want to ‘lift’ more weight.  Given that the lowering is approximately half of the time that the weight would be in the hands of the individual, this makes no scientific sense.  Increasing the weight by a small percentage and only using muscle contraction on the way up won’t outweigh, in terms of force generated and thus strength/endurance/power increased, lifting and lowering down a slightly smaller weight under muscular control.  It is a perfectly logical goal to lift more weight but not if this means that you cannot lower the weight down under muscle control utilising eccentric muscle contraction.

For improved performance (and therefore maximising your time to increase strength, endurance or power), enhanced safety and to look after your equipment and gym environment, make sure your lift is under your control but also so is the lowering of the weight.

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