Every hooper wants to be more explosive. The faster you can produce force the more of a physical advantage you have. Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson state in their Triphasic Training manual that “athletes must have the goal of producing the most force possible in the time allowed during competition” (Dietz & Peterson, 2012, p. 2). This quality of producing the most force as fast as allowed in basketball can be called explosive strength. Concentric-only (CON) exercises are one of the most potent ways to develop explosive strength. This article will dive into what CON exercises are, why you should use them, and how you can apply them in your training.
What Is a CON Exercise?
CON exercises are ones in which only the upwards portion of a movement is performed. Every movement consists of three contraction phases — eccentric, isometric, and concentric. The eccentric contraction is the downwards or negative phase of a movement, and can be likened to braking an object. The isometric contraction is the transition phase between eccentric and concentric contractions, and can be thought of as the in-between phase of “stop and go.” The concentric contraction is the upwards or positive phase of a movement, and can be thought of as accelerating an object. Examples of CON exercises include Anderson squats, seated box jumps, deadlifts, Pendlay rows, and Anderson bench presses. What all of these exercises share in common is that they start in the bottom position and only involve the upwards portion of the movement.
Why Use CON Exercises?
In basketball, speed is king. This is because basketball moves at such a fast pace that there generally isn’t enough time for maximal force contractions to be reached. This reality can be summarized by Turner and his team that “given most sporting actions occur in 0.3 seconds, rate of force development (RFD) may supersede peak force capability as a proxy measure of sports performance” (Turner et al., 2021). As seen on the force-velocity curve, producing higher amounts of force requires more time.
CON exercises challenge the RFD or explosive strength abilities because there is less time available to produce force. With no tendon elastic energy from the eccentric phase in the stretch-shortening cycle, you must produce more force rapidly with solely muscle contractile strength to produce the impulse required to accelerate yourself or the object to ensure adequate displacement (Thibaudeau, 2021; Turner et al., 2021. If you strategically use CON exercises, you can develop an advantage that allows you to produce force faster. This adaptation is thanks to neurological adaptations that improve efficiency in rate coding and motor recruitment.
Rate coding is the speed of the signal sent from the central nervous system (CNS) to muscle. CON exercises place a greater demand on the rate coding abilities of the athlete because there is less time to produce force. Motor recruitment is how many muscle fibers are tapped into to initiate a contraction that leads to force production, with more motor units being recruited the higher the demand goes. CON exercises isolate RFD through the constraints that require you to recruit more motor units to accelerate the mass over a shorter period of time.
How do I Apply CON Exercises?
Why should you not exclusively use CON exercises if they are such a great tool? There are a few reasons why. First, athletic movements and general health function involve full ranges of motion, so it’s important to use full ranges of motion movements. Second, the stretch-shortening cycle, which is an incredible natural mechanism by the body to efficiently use forces and structures to enhance athletic performance, requires movements through full ranges of motion, and thus needs to be included in training. Third, eccentric and isometric contraction types are just as influential on transfer of training into sports performance as concentric contractions are, so they can’t be ignored in training. Last, exclusively using CON exercises would eventually run into the law of diminishing returns where repeated exposure to a stimulus makes it less effective because the body adapts to it.
With all that said, it’s best to use CON exercises occasionally to maintain their potency. CON training is a specialized form of training that is best for peaking methods. I like to use CON training in the Fall pre-season during Triphasic blocks, and possibly 1-2 times during the season depending on the team’s status at that time. Aside from these brief periods of CON training, the bulk of your training should consist of movements with all three contraction types.
The ultimate goal of your training as a basketball player needs to focus on producing the most force as fast as possible. The more explosive strength you have, the faster you can apply your abilities to competition. This article has broken down what CON exercises are, why they’re an excellent training tool for athletes, and how to apply them to your training. After reading this, it’s clear that CON exercises are a tremendous tool, but the fact remains that the bulk of your training should be more general and consist of all three contraction types.
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Dietz, C., Peterson, B. (2012). Triphasic training: A systematic approach to elite speed and explosive strength performance. Bye Dietz Sports Enterprise.
Dupont, D. (2014). More power, faster: Benefits and limits of concentric training. Breaking Muscle. Retrieved from https://breakingmuscle.com/more-power-faster-benefits-and-limits-of-concentric-training/
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Thibaudeau, C. (2021). Tip: Anderson squats — the pros and cons. T-Nation. Retrieved from https://www.t-nation.com/training/anderson-squat-lower-body-exercise/
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