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acceleration vs deceleration

Acceleration vs Deceleration and Why It Matters

Time for our Workout Of The Month. Each month we take a look at a different exercise and break it down by movement, how to do it, and discuss some of the positive versus negative impact that it can have to you and your level of fitness. Some workout’s of the month breakdown how to do a common exercise, others feature a specific workout. This month we’ll be taking a look at some forgotten parts of working out: acceleration vs. deceleration when it comes to human movement and working out.

Acceleration vs. Deceleration

When most of us think of working out, training, sports, or physical activity in general, there’s some time of movement involved. Whatever movement you prefer, our bodies go though three types of basic muscle contractions.

1. Concentric Muscle Contractions: The shortening of a muscle that allows your to exert force on an object. Like pushing a bar off your chest or pulling your body weight by doing a squat.
2. Isometric Muscle Contractions: Holding a weight in a fixed place. Like doing a blank. Or the lowering of a bench press holding the weight just above your chest.
3. Eccentric Contractions: Returning to a resting position.

For concentric muscle contractions, your main goal is force. Enough force to move your body or whatever amount of weight you’re trying to move. This is acceleration. Power training involves generating the highest amount of force in the shortest amount of time possible – the fastest acceleration – or explosiveness.

What’s often left out of the mix is deceleration. Most of us want to move in a direction in the most powerful and fastest way possible. What we don’t think about is slowing down our movement. This is where are muscle absorb force. Can you honestly say your muscle ares good at absorbing force? Most of us neglect this part of training and it can lead to some pretty bad injuries.

Train For Both Acceleration vs Deceleration

Developing all around strength requires training all aspects of human movement. We can easily get good at developing force to move weight. But our muscles need to be able to stop us if need be too and if we’re not good at stopping momentum, we can easily get injured.

Something To Consider:

Imagine going from a standing position to an all out spring as fast as you can. A fairly easy task for what ever ability you’re at, right? Now imagine being in a standing position and having a person running into you pushing you backwards. Their force carries you backwards – you now require your muscles to decelerate the force of them pushing against you and stop them. Not so easy as going into an all out sprint, is it?

Developing Deceleration Strength

The good news is deceleration can be trained just as easy as training acceleration.

Picture This: Laying flat on a bench pushing a weighted bar above your body. Chances are you’re able to push it off your chest a lot better than you’re able to control the weight coming down to your chest. An easy way to develop deceleration strength is to alter your timing. Instead of taking 1-2 seconds to lower a weight – add some time. Try 3-5 seconds to lower your weight.

Taking Agility Into Consideration:

Agility is the ability to accelerate or decelerate and change direction as quickly as possible while maintaining proper body mechanics. As a way of developing deceleration strength, agility training can be one of your best friends. Think of running twenty feet as fast as possible, coming to a stop as fast as possible then turning to your right to run twenty feet as fast as possible. Do this two more times until you’ve ran a complete square. For set two, turn to the left instead of the right. Another way of developing your deceleration is coming to an all out sprint then stopping immediately as if you’re about to brace yourself from hitting a wall. Timing and agility all help to develop deceleration.

Summing Up Acceleration vs Deceleration

Most of us do so good at generating force to move objects but fall short on the decelerating end. Including both aspects will not only help make you stronger, but help with neuromuscular control, flexibility, functional core strength, and agility.

Your homework: start doing something to make your muscles better at absorbing forces.

What’s your favorite way of working on acceleration and deceleration?


1. Clark, M., Corn, R., Lucett, S. “Muscle Actions.” NASM Essentials Of Personal Training. National Academy Of Sports Medicine. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2008 Print. 260-262. 350-352.


Acceleration, Deceleration


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