In sports and in life, many injuries occur because of the lack of eccentric strength. Simply put, eccentric strength is the ability to resist or decelerate. The eccentric phase of a movement is often referred to as "negative movement", where the body must absorb a force or load. An example of this would be a jump. Injuries will typically occur in the landing phase of the jump, not the acceleration phase when an athlete is producing force to leave the ground. Other examples include ACL injuries when an athlete is attempting to stop and change direction, or a lisfranc injury where the ligaments in the foot can no longer resist rotation and extension. There are two key components in building eccentric strength. The first is proper alignment. This means your body is in a good position to react to an external force. This includes good posture, balance, foot placement, depth, etc. If someone was about to throw something at you, what type of position would you put yourself in? The next key component is simply strength. At some point, no matter how well you position your body, you have to be strong enough to absorb force. Go back to that question of getting ready to catch something thrown at you. Would you be ready if it was a ball? What if that ball weighed 50lbs? This is why eccentric strength training is essential for any serious athlete. You may not have to catch a 50lb ball but what about trying to decelerate your body at full speed and change direction? Most athletes weigh a lot more than 50lbs.
Now there is another type of eccentric strength that is much harder to measure. As I said in the beginning, most injuries in sport and LIFE occur in the eccentric phase. But we don't just absorb forces physically. We need to also be mentally strong to endure the forces that life will bring. Again, the two key components to avoiding life injuries are the same. The first is position. As athletes and as people, we have to be smart enough to avoid situations that leave us at high risk. This will be different for each person, but we all know our challenges and what temptations we struggle with. The first simple step is to remove yourself from a situation that puts you in harms way. It can be something simple, like staying away from the left-overs table at the office during holiday season because you know there will be goodies there that you can't resist. It can also be something a little more serious, like avoiding triggers to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, gambling or internet porn. These are injuries in life that are much harder to repair than an ACL. The second key component is strength. This is the type of strength that truly defines someone's character. Jackie Robinson is admired and revered because he was strong enough to resist everything that happened to him, without ever fighting back. Nelson Mandela is admired and revered because he was strong enough to forgive the people that imprisoned him. Now, we all can't be Jackie Robinson or Nelson Mandela. We all can't have that type of strength. But remember, most injuries occur in the eccentric phase, the negative movement. Its not typical for an injury to occur during the positive movement, or acceleration phase, as I pointed out in the jump. So don't just sit there and try to resist, get out there and do something positive. Go volunteer in the community, help a friend, reach out to a loved one that you haven't spoken to in a while. Do something kind for a random person. By the time you figure out how to live your life doing something positive for other people, you won't have any time left over to be tempted, and you'll have a better chance at avoiding life's injuries.