I’ve Fallen in Love With Eccentric Training
Lately, I’ve been way more focused with lowering the weight I’m training with. As. Slowly. As. Possible. This style of training is humbling to your ego and will leave you sore for days to come. I’m sure you’re asking yourself right about now, what is this guy talking about.
I’m talking about eccentric training. Here is what Wikipedia describes it as- An eccentric contraction is the motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening under load. Eccentric training is repetitively doing eccentric muscle contractions. For example, in a bicep curl the action of lowering the dumbbell back down from the lift is the eccentric phase of that exercise — as long as the dumbbell is lowered slowly rather than letting it drop (i.e., the biceps are in a state of contraction to control the rate of descent of the dumbbell). Some people also refer this style of training as negative training, negatives or yielding.
Through eccentric training, you turn the focus of every rep away from the concentric (contracting) portion to the eccentric (lengthening) portion.
Eccentric Training Reasons
Faster Muscle Gains
Eccentric training is superior to concentric training at building both muscle size and strength, research shows. After all, since your muscles are strongest as they move eccentrically, if you want to push your limits, you’ve got to work eccentrically. Warning: Eccentric exercises increase delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that soreness you feel up to 72 hours after a tough workout, in a big way. That’s because in eccentric actions, the weight is greater than the amount of force produced by the muscle, so it creates more microscopic damage to the muscle. You will know what I’m talking about after you try this.
Greater Metabolic Boosts
To recover from your sweat sessions, especially those that leave you riddled with DOMS for days, your body has to work super hard to recover. Although the studies are small, some research shows that slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the number of calories you burn at rest, binge-watching The Voice. One study of 16 participants in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eccentric training boosts RMR for up to 72 hours post-exercise. In the study, subjects performed the concentric phase quickly over one second, and slowed down the eccentric over three seconds. Another study of 16 male participants published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found significant increases in RMR for up to 48 hours after leg presses that stressed the eccentric movement. Eccentric exercise does more muscle damage, which then requires more energy to repair it.
Lower Risk of Injury
Eccentric exercises strengthen not just your muscles, but also your body’s connective tissues, helping to both rehab any aches and pains as well as prevent injuries ranging from tendinitis to ACL strains, per one comprehensive review in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. It notes that eccentric exercises are vital in sports rehab settings and are great even for people sidelined with exercise injuries.
Perform eccentric exercises, and you may reduce the need for performing dedicated “flexibility” workouts. After all, in one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study of 75 athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger.
Better Sports Performance
Eccentric actions aren’t just something you do in the weight room. They are a given in any workout—from beach volleyball to marathons. (Eccentric actions are why your quads feel destroyed after a long run downhill.) So, by performing strength training routines and focusing not just on concentric or isometric, but also eccentric moves, you better prepare your body for any challenges to come.
Adding Eccentric Exercises To Your Routine
Hitting your muscles eccentrically can be as easy as slowing down the eccentric portion of your regular strength-training moves. In most lifts, including most bodyweight exercises, that’s the lowering phase. Good examples include squats, lunges, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, biceps curls, shoulder presses, rows, and the list goes on. Every now and then, you’ll find an exercise in which the eccentric phase is actually up, like lat pulldowns, so here, think of it as returning the weight to the starting position.
The next time you perform any of these exercises—or any exercise for that matter—try to extend the eccentric portion for the count of three. So, if you’re performing a bench press, lower for 3 seconds, and then push back up in one second. If three seconds feel doable, try lowering for five or 10 seconds. Seriously. It can be that simple. In real life, we move both eccentrically and concentrically, this is a great way to work both muscle movements to their max. Pause at the bottom, and you’re hitting your muscles isometrically.
That said, since slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts makes things much more difficult (which is why slowing down the eccentric phase of a given workout can be a great way to progress that strength move!), you may find that you need to decrease the weight you use. Don’t get discouraged by going down in weight. You’ll get more out of lowering 40-pound dumbbells slowly than you will by letting 100-pound dumbbells drop with each rep.
There is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that eccentric-focused training is beneficial. It may be through more muscular damage, higher tension, or more load per motor unit – but the bottom line is it works. Eccentric training will increase your need for proper recovery. That might require performing less weight, fewer reps, sets, or exercises per workout, or even giving yourself an extra active recovery day between big lifts. Eccentric training also requires checking your ego at the locker room door. When done properly, eccentric training will ensure that you are working your muscles in a way that optimizes muscle growth.
I hope this message was able to speak life into you. If it did, please share it out with your friends and family on social media and tag me. There is so much more powerful and empowering things to come. Take care and have an amazing day.