Working immediately next door to SODO CrossFit has its up and downs. All day I get to hear people making their lives better 'one workout/rep at a time". It is truly motivating.
However, what I hear and observe quite often that concerns me is the habit of "dropping" the barbell. Especially with heavy deadlifts, and when the workout calls for heavy weights overhead, the common trend of letting the loaded barbell "drop" is extremely dangerous to the training of the athlete. I am not talking about the dangers of a falling weight landing on something or someone. What I am referring to is the lack of effective training that is occurring when people miss out on a very important, and very "injury preventative", aspect of the workout movement. For this reason, athletes should "dump" the weight when needed and not "drop" the weight when they are done with their workout movement. Here is what I mean and why.
In any functional muscle contraction (during a workout) there are two phases of the movement/muscle, the concentric (shortening) phase and the eccentric (lengthening) phase. In a deadlift, for example, the concentric phase (mainly for the hamstrings, glutes, and low back) is the phase of lifting the barbell off the ground to your waist. The eccentric phase is when the barbell is lowered back down to the ground. Science tells us that a very important part of a workout movement is the eccentric loading phase. The eccentric phase is when the most loading of the muscle occurs and when the most force is produced in the muscle. Research has shown that this phase of the movement is also the phase that provides the most injury prevention to the muscle. In a nutshell, this is because most activity-related muscle injuries occurs as the muscle is being lengthened (eccentric phase) and the most effective way to prevent injury during this phase is to train this phase, i.e. train the lengthening (eccentric) phase of the movement.
When a barbell is dropped two things occurs. Puppies die a miserable death, and the eccentric phase of the muscle contraction is NOT trained. Performing a deadlift and lifting the bar to your waist and then dropping it back to the ground only trains half of the process, the concentric phase of the movement. This is only half the job, and leaves out the injury prevention aspect of the movement/workout.
This is NOT to say that you should not "dump" the weight when in a dangerous situation. This is completely different from "dropping" the weight because you choose to. Dumping a barbell should not be a choice, it should be a necessity based upon risk of injury.
The old adage, "don't pick it up unless you can safely put it back down" is a great rule to follow in order to improve your injury prevention aspect of your workout.