The stretch-shortening cycle is something you don’t see people training. However, training the stretch-shortening cycle will make your movements more explosive, faster, and more powerful.
So, do you want to know how to hack into this secret physiological potential?
What is the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC)?
Visualize the stretch-shortening cycle by thinking of a trampoline or bouncing a ball. For example, the harder and faster you jump on the trampoline, the more force applied; the higher you will be propelled into the air. On the other hand, if you just simply hop up and down lightly on the trampoline, you will be propelled into the air, just not so high.
Another example is bouncing a basketball. If you simply drop a basketball from about waist or chest height, the ball will bounce back up. However, if you slam the ball onto the ground, it will propel high into the air.
So that is how the stretch-shortening cycle works. The eccentric part of your movement is the yielding factor. That means how fast you move, or the amount of force produced eccentrically, determines concentric power.
The Stretch Reflex
The stretch reflex is a spring-like coil mechanism that functions inside the SSC. The faster and more force applied to the eccentric motion activates the stretch reflex. When your muscles are stretched with high tension, speed, or force, the stretch reflex activates and causes the muscles to stiffen. As a result, they stiffen to prevent injury. However, this mechanism functions based on elasticity that can be strategically used for more explosiveness in movements and training.
The stretch reflex activates and absorbs force as elastic energy, which is why it acts like a trampoline, bouncing ball, or even a stretched rubber band because it produces a propelling effect.
Developing the SSC
First, the way you train the stretch-shortening cycle is to train your muscles to absorb force. If they cannot absorb force, it becomes harder for them to stiffen and activate the stretch reflex. If your muscles cannot absorb force, they will dissipate it to prevent injury.
People often make a mistake and just train speed first. But you can’t. That is how you get injured. Realize that fast movements are based on slow movements. Slow eccentric motions adapt, synchronize, and coordinate proprioceptors and the stretch reflex response. Time under tension activates the stretch reflex, teaching the muscles to absorb and not dissipate force. That is important to remember; absorb, not dissipate. People don’t develop strength quickly because their muscles are dissipating force, not absorbing it.
When this can happen, speed can be applied effectively later. So, if you cannot do it slowly, fast is not an option. And that emphasizes the importance of slow eccentric training.
- Use 85% of your one rep max and perform an eccentric tempo of about 6 seconds.
- Pause for a second in the isometric phase and come up as fast concentrically.
- Single Leg Deadlift
- Pullup or Lat Pulldown
- Shoulder Press
- Single Leg Squat
- Bent Over Rows
- Chest Press (Dumbbells or Barbell)
After Two Weeks
After two weeks, switch the tempo to the isometric phase. Use a 4-second pause at the isometric part of the movement.
For example, move fast eccentrically when you feel the muscles stiffen. That is the stretch reflex kicking on at the isometric phase. Hold it for 4 seconds. And then come up as fast as you want concentrically.
Once you develop the ability to absorb force eccentrically and isometrically, using time under tension, you can train them to move fast.
To move fast, you need to absorb force. The more force your muscles can absorb, the more force can be applied through speed.
After two weeks of isometric training, you can transition to oscillation training if you want to take your workouts to the next level. That involves moving fast eccentrically. For example, when you enter the isometric phase, oscillate, or pulse up and down quickly about four times before completing the concentric rep.
Oscillation teaches muscles to contract and relax quickly, excellent for developing and progressing speed and explosiveness.
Check out my channel, The Balanced Body, on YouTube to see how to apply training methods.
If you want to know more about how to get your muscles to absorb force to be instantly stronger and more explosive, then check out the book INSTANT STRENGTH. It also teaches how to do oscillation training.