As we move our bodies throughout the day, we often take for granted the complex workings of our muscles. Our muscles are responsible for everything from basic movement to more advanced athletic activities. One important aspect of muscle function is the type of contraction it undergoes. Skeletal muscles — the muscles that attach to our bones and allow us to move — can undergo three different types of contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric.
Concentric contractions occur when a muscle shortens in length as it contracts. This is the type of contraction we typically associate with traditional weightlifting exercises such as bicep curls or squats. As we lift a weight, our muscles contract concentrically to shorten the muscle fibers and create the necessary force to lift the weight.
Eccentric contractions, on the other hand, occur when a muscle lengthens as it contracts. This type of contraction is often overlooked but plays a crucial role in preventing injury and generating force in certain movements. For example, when we perform a traditional bicep curl, the eccentric contraction occurs as we lower the weight back down to the starting position.
Isometric contractions happen when a muscle contracts without changing length. This type of contraction is particularly useful in stabilizing the body during movement. For example, when we hold a plank or perform a wall sit, our muscles are contracting isometrically to maintain a static position.
Understanding the different types of skeletal muscle contractions can not only help us improve our exercise routines but also prevent injury. By incorporating exercises that target all three types of contractions, we can ensure that our muscles are functioning optimally and able to handle the stresses of day-to-day movement.