Triggering muscle growth relies on a number of things such as achieving a caloric surplus, microtears in muscle fibres and metabolic stress. The mechanism most commonly ascribed to however, is mechanical tension. Simply put, lifting heavier and heavier loads requires more muscle, so that is what most people do in their pursuit of hypertrophy. In certain situations, going (intelligently) beyond what the body is capable of by its own can be the golden ticket to gains greater than what you’d experience with other conventional methods.
Any muscle is stronger eccentrically than it is concentrically. In other words, a muscle is able to produce more force while lengthening (lowering a weight) as compared to shortening (lifting a weight). This is where overloaded eccentrics find their value. By subjecting a muscle to supramaximal loads during the eccentric portion of a lift, you increase the amount of muscle damage and metabolic stress.
One of the muscles groups that benefit the most from overloaded eccentrics is the back. Due to its size and muscle fibre make-up, the back can withstand a higher volume and frequency of training compared to the anterior portion of the torso. It also benefits greatly from unilateral training due to greater levels of muscle innervation while also minimising bilateral deficit. A perfect exercise to achieve this would be the supramaximal eccentric one-arm cable row.
Of course, the trouble with supramaximal training is overcoming the concentric phase. This is easy with training partners as you can always rely on them to provide assistance during the lifting segment. Doing it by yourself can be complicated and even dangerous – complex movements like barbell squats and bench presses carry a higher risk of injury when performed at super-heavy loads, so it’s better to stick with simpler variations such as those involving dumbbells.
This one-arm cable row variation allows you to safely utilise supramaximal training without having to rely on a training partner. Using two arms during the concentric portion will allow you to pull loads that are heavier than what one arm can handle. Once you reach the apex of the pull, releasing the assisting arm will allow the main arm to take over and slowly lower the weight stack back into place. You can always utilise longer tempos to extend the time-under-tension, making this exercise even more effective.
Eccentric training may be more well-known for increasing muscle mass, but it works great for strength gains as well. If a weak back has been holding back your performance in lifts such as the bench press or deadlift, throwing in a few sets of this exercise as an accessory movement for a few months might have you making progress again!