Updated: Nov 27, 2021
Eccentric and concentric training are two types of training methods. But what is the difference between these two types of training and which one is best?
I'll explain that in this article, I'll also explain abut isometric training too.
Table of Contents:
Eccentric, Concentric & Isometric: What Are They?
Exercises consist of a number of movements, usually in the form of up and down or push and pull.
They have a specific name and unique benefits and drawbacks.
When you resist the weight of something, such as slowly lowering but resisting the barbell on a bench press as it's coming back down, you're lengthening the muscle while still putting the muscle fibres under tension, this is called eccentric training.
Other examples of eccentric training include:
Lowering yourself down slowly from a pull up.
Slowly lowering the dumbbell while doing bicep curls.
Coming down slowly in a squat.
Lowering your body down slowly in a sit up.
When pushing or pulling, such as pushing the barbell up on a bench press, you're shortening the muscle and its fibres, this is called concentric training.
Other examples of concentric movements are as follows:
Lifting the dumbbell up while doing a bicep curl.
Pushing yourself back up from the lowered position in a push up.
Pulling the barbell back up in a barbell row.
Sitting back up in a sit up.
If you hold the muscle and its fibres under tension but neither shorten or lengthen the muscle fibres, this is called isometric training.
An example of isometric training is while doing the bicep curl, instead of lifting it up and letting it back down, you hold the dumbbell in place at the halfway point for a set amount of time.
Some more examples of isometric movements are:
Performing the plank exercise.
The wall sit exercise.
Holding a push up at the halfway point.
Holding the dumbbells in a bench press at the halfway point.
Eccentric vs Concentric vs Isometric
Each type of training has it's own advantages and disadvantage.
There are also various ways to utilise this in your training to enhance muscle growth, strength and endurance.
I'll describe how this can be achieved in more detail below.
Eccentric training, in contrast to concentric training, entail extending the length of the muscle (lengthening or eccentric muscle contraction).
During the eccentric portion of an exercise, you are working against the gravitational pull (like slowly lowering your arms back down in a bicep curl).
There is evidence to suggest that the eccentric portion of an exercise may be important in the development of muscle mass and the improvement of muscular strength. (1)
Eccentric exercise is when the bulk of muscle damage happens (muscle damage requires a greater buildup of new muscle, meaning larger and stronger muscles in the long run).
As a result, one of the most significant advantages of eccentric workouts is muscle hypertrophy, which is the expansion of your skeletal muscle cells.
Unfortunately, as compared to concentric motions, this eccentric portion will result in worsened delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Concentric training is that where the muscles are undergoing a shortening contraction.
Exercises that use concentric reps are the most common and eccentric and isometric training is often overlooked.
Increased power and speed are two of the many advantages of concentric workouts, they are also usually the backbone of almost all workouts.
However, it seems that eccentric training can provide a greater boost in strength and muscle growth when used correctly due to increased muscle load and CNS training. (2)
An isometric movement, in contrast to eccentric and concentric muscular movement, is characterised by a muscle contraction without movement.
An isometric movement may be described as a static hold in some workouts.
Isometric exercises and static holds have the unique advantage of building up tendon stiffness, reducing the risk of injury and tendon pain. (3)
Muscle growth and strength is also enhanced with the usage of isometric exercises.
However, isometric is likely a good addition to a workout but shouldn't necessarily be used as the primary method of training.
Which One Is Better?
A study researching the effects of eccentric, concentric and isometric exercises measure various variables in terms of muscle growth, the results of this study are below. (4)
All three kinds of muscular contraction resulted in increases in total muscle DNA and RNA that were similar in magnitude (similar muscle growth across all types).
Muscle IGF-1 levels were raised during isometric and concentric exercises, but not during eccentric exercises.
However, your muscles can handle much more weight under eccentric training, your muscle may even be able to handle up to 30 or 40% higher total weights.
This heavier weight capacity will results in increase muscle damage, which means potentially higher hypertrophy and strength.
Eccentric training also has the ability of promoting enhanced strength.
This leads to the conclusion that they're all useful in their own way and you should incorporate them all into your workout.
How to Use This Training
As mentioned above, eccentric, concentric and isometric training all have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
For optimal muscle growth and strength gains you should incorporate all three kinds of training into your workouts.
You can also focus on each type of specific reasons, such as only focusing on concentric exercises to reduce muscle soreness.
If you have an injury it might a wise idea just to use light weights and isometric training.
For Optimal Muscle Growth & Strength Gain
If you're training for optimal muscle growth and strength gains then you would want to use all three kinds of training.
Another technique you could incorporate into your routines is a stretched contraction, such as an incline dumbbell curl, an overhead tricep extension or a cable chest fly.
A stretched contraction is where you place the muscle in a stretched position while under tension, it provides a greater stimulus on the muscle improving hypertrophic response (muscle growth).
One last technique to greatly improve muscle growth is called forced reps, this is where a spotter helps you lift the weight up and all you have to control and resist the weight on the way down.
A forced rep forces your muscles to be under tension when they're already at failure, providing a powerful stimulus for muscle growth.
Below is an example bicep workout utilising eccentric, concentric and isometric exercises and these two other techniques.
All of the exercises take the form of the bicep curl exercise but with slight variations.
Dumbbell bicep curls with static hold: 3 sets of 8 reps
Lower the dumbbell over 6-8 seconds on the eccentric portion, followed by a 20 second isometric hold at the halfway point of the rep at the end of each set.
Incline dumbbell curl with 6-rep-max: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
Grab your 6-rep-max weight (the heaviest you can lift for 6 reps) and do the incline bicep curl as normal but when you begin to lower the weight, control and resist it on the way down for 10 seconds.
When you get to the point when you can no longer lift the dumbbell up, get a spotter to lift it up for you and then slowly lower it down again, do this until you reach 10-12 reps.
Isometric bicep curl hold: 1 set of as long as you can hold
Do the bicep curl as normal and on the way down pause at the halfway point and hold it there for as long as you can maintain its position.
If you want even more muscle growth, get a spotter to help you hold some of the weight when you begin to lower the dumbbell.
Studies have shown the benefits and drawbacks of eccentric, concentric and isometric exercises.
Each type of training has its own unique advantage and disadvantage.
Therefore, utilising all three types of training along with various other intensity methods can boost your muscle growth and strength gains massively.
An example bicep workout using eccentric, concentric and isometric training is shown above.
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.
Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.
This evidence-based analysis of muscle contraction types features 4 references, listed below.
1. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn DI, Vigotsky AD, Franchi MV, Krieger JW. Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. (2017, Sep) (Review) ✔
2. Roig M, O'Brien K, Kirk G, Murray R, McKinnon P, Shadgan B, Reid WD. The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. (2009, Aug) (Review) ✔
3. Kubo K, Kanehisa H, Fukunaga T. Effects of different duration isometric contractions on tendon elasticity in human quadriceps muscles. J Physiol. (2001, Oct 15) ✔
4. Adams GR, Cheng DC, Haddad F, Baldwin KM. Skeletal muscle hypertrophy in response to isometric, lengthening, and shortening training bouts of equivalent duration. J Appl Physiol (1985). (2004, May) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.