Over the past decade, mobility has become one of the most popular staples of athletic performance and development—and rightfully so. Enhancing mobility and motor control has great transferable benefits to improving overall performance and safeguarding regions of the body from chronic and traumatic injury. But a once-noble intention of programming mobility-specific bodyweight movements, dynamic and static stretching along with traditional self-myofascial release techniques, has gotten a bit out of hand.
More precious training time is being squandered on foam rolling and prolonged warm-up and stretching techniques than ever before, taking away from the major components of any successful regimen: strength, conditioning and overall athletic development.
One of the most efficient ways to cut the time you spend on mobility and flexibility, while getting a brutal training effect in the process, is to strategically program accentuated eccentrics into major compound movements such as the Dumbbell Bench Press. Due to our highly sedentary lifestyles, even among the highly active athletic population, the anterior shoulder girdle (including the pectoralis major muscle and others) has become chronically bound down and functionally shortened. Strength and hypertrophy development of the upper-body push pattern is pivotal to overall function of the body, but many programs place too much emphasis on training the push instead of balancing the push with a 2-to-1 ratio of pull-to-push movements.
One of my favorite ways to instantly reverse some of those poor training ratios is to program a few tail-end sets of accentuated eccentrics into my athletes' push-heavy days. This means that after your last working set of a movement, you drop the weight down a bit and focus on stabilizing the load with a 3- to 7-second eccentric contraction into the stretched position. This allows the pecs to generate maximal tension and stretching under total control of the load.
The Dumbbell Bench Press, with the bench adjusted up a notch or two into a slight incline, is a devastatingly effective move to execute accentuated eccentrics. Position your hands halfway between the traditional pronated grip and the neutral grip. I call this the 45-degree-angle grip.
This specific movement confers countless benefits. Slowing down the movement by itself can improve coordination and technique, increase time under tension (great for muscular hypertrophy), and even potentiate the nervous system when you drive the weights up after the long eccentric portion of the lift. This is my go-to technique for enhancing mobility.
Once you prove your ability to control the eccentric portion of the lift, you can turn this movement up another notch by adding a 1-second pause at the bottom stretched position. Out of the stretch, drive up under control and squeeze hard for a second in the locked-out position at the top. Complete a few sets with rep ranges of 8-12 for starters. Remember, the slower and more controlled the movement, the better. This is about form and technique, not pushing maximal weights. Check out the video player above for a demonstration.
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