Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Using heavy weights in your training session is an excellent method of building muscle swiftly and effectively.
However, it is not the only option; eccentric training is another method of muscle building.
Usually your workouts consist of concentric and eccentric training, but emphasising the eccentric portion of the rep can enhance your workouts effectiveness even more.
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Lifting weights and manipulating them by adding more of them is a simple method to keep your muscles challenged, but the speed and tempo at which you lift is as important.
Slowing down specific parts of your exercises will allow you to push your muscles to their limits and get the most out of your training time.
Eccentric training is a notion that has gained popularity recently, and, spoiler alert, it has a slew of other benefits beyond muscle development.
In this article is everything you need to know about eccentric training, including its incredible advantages and ways to incorporate it into your daily routine.
What Is Eccentric Training
Eccentric training is defined as the act of opposing a load of weight, such as gently lowering yet resisting the barbell on a bench press as it comes back down.
By doing so, you are extending the muscle fibres while still keeping them under tension and stress, which is referred to as eccentric training.
Muscle fibres are capable of performing three distinct kinds of contractions:
When you rise from a squat to standing posture, you are undergoing a concentric muscular contraction, which is a shortening of the muscle fibres.
An isometric contraction is one in which your muscles contract while remaining in a completely static posture, such as when you're in a plank position.
A eccentric contraction is one in which your muscles extend while they are under stress, such as when your biceps lengthen as you lower your arm while doing a bicep curl.
Interestingly, when you're doing an eccentric exercise, the muscle fibres are at its strongest, possibly even up to 30-40% stronger.
This allows you to handle heavier weights.
Examples of eccentric exercises:
While doing bicep curls, slowly lower the weight to the floor.
Gently lowering yourself down from a pull-up position.
In a sit-up, gently lower your body down to the floor.
In a squat, gently lowering yourself to the ground.
One downside of eccentric training is an increase in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
What Are the Benefits
Unlike concentric training, eccentric exercise involves stretching the of the muscle fibres while under tension, as opposed to concentric training which causes the lengthening of muscle fibres.
When doing eccentric exercises, you are fighting against the gravitational pull of the earth, such as when you're slowly lowering your arms back down in a bicep curl.
Research suggests that the eccentric part of a workout is essential in the growth of muscle mass and the enhancement of muscular strength. (1)
Eccentric training is the kind of muscle contraction that causes the most muscle damage.
Muscle damage has detrimental short-term effects on muscle performance and growth.
However, muscle damage can theoretically cause a greater buildup of new muscle cells and a higher increase in protein synthesis, meaning larger and stronger muscles in the long run.
The consequence is that one of the most important benefits of eccentric exercises is greatly enhanced muscle hypertrophy, which is the growth of the skeletal muscle cells in your body.
How to Use Eccentric Training
There are multiple ways to include eccentric style training in your workouts.
Here's the best ways to incorporate it into your exercise routine in a safe and effective manner.
1) Reduce the Speed of Your Repetitions
Decreasing the pace at which you execute your exercises is a simple method to include eccentric training into activities that are already included in your routine.
Increasing the time during the eccentric portion of the exercise is as easy as increasing the duration of it, you can do this by slowing down in the negative portion of the rep.
3-5 seconds is a good place to start with this technique.
For example; slowing down the lowering of the dumbbell in the bicep curl to 3-5 seconds.
In the squat, for example, for example, to emphasise the eccentric portion of the rep, you would gradually lower yourself into a squat over the period of 3-5 seconds.
You can make any exercise more eccentric based by keeping it in the eccentric (negative) phase for longer.
The longer you keep the movement in the eccentric phase, the more muscle fibres will be recruited and the more muscle fibres will be damaged.
However, you generally don't want to stay in the eccentric part for an extended period of time, such as over 10 seconds per rep.
2) Start With Simple Exercises
While it is possible to include eccentric training into almost every exercise, it is advised to begin with including eccentric training into three simple and common exercises, such as from the following.
The bench press
The overhead press
The bicep curl
The barbell row
All it takes to transform them into eccentric-focused movements is a few minor modifications.
To do an eccentric push-up, begin in a high plank position and then gently bend your elbows to lower yourself down over the period of 3-5 seconds.
You should let yourself softly touch the ground after you have reached the bottom of the action.
Then return to the high plank posture (you may need to bend your knees to accomplish this) and repeat the exercise.
Follow the same process for other exercises, simple add time onto the negative/eccentric portions of the rep.
3) Reduce the Weight
It may be better to start including eccentric exercises into your workout using lighter weights.
For example, instead of using 15kg dumbbells, try using 12kg dumbbells but add an extra 3-5 seconds onto the eccentric portion of the rep.
This extra time under tension on the lengthening contraction will compensate for the reduced weight used but it will also allow you to increase total volume even higher as the eccentric portion can sustain more weight than the concentric portion.
As a consequence of this, muscle damage is increased and therefore muscle growth.
4) Improve Recovery
Eccentric training has been shown to significantly increased delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is the pain, swelling and soreness you experience up to 72 hours after a workout.
It can also temporarily reduce exercise and performance markers. (2)
This is due to the fact that while performing eccentric movements, the weight put on the muscles is higher than the amount of force generated by the muscles.
When compared to concentric exercise, this imbalance results in greater microscopic injury to the muscle fibres, resulting in damage, inflammation and soreness.
In order for your muscles to have the rest and support they need to rebuild their strength following eccentric training, it's critical that you prioritise recovery afterward after doing eccentric exercise based workouts and training.
Those recovery methods include eating enough calories, drinking adequate water, foam rolling, consuming enough protein, and getting enough sleep.
Waiting 48-72 hours before training the same muscles again.
This will guarantee that your muscles have ample time to recovery and repair between sessions.
5) Don't Overdo It
Eccentric training has multiple advantages for muscle growth.
However, eccentric exercise results in more muscle damage compared to other types of exercise, requiring more recovery between training sessions.
In terms of how much eccentric training you should do, it varies from person to person and is determined in part by your objectives and the number of days per week that you usually strength train.
Including dedicated eccentric exercise sessions into your training program 1-2 times a week is enough, adding a few extra sets of eccentric training at the of each session is also enough.
Eccentric training has its advantages as long as it is correctly implemented and not overdone.
Make sure to get at least 48 hours rest before training that same muscle and implement proper recovery methods.
Overall, eccentric training is a great addition to your workouts.
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.
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This evidence-based analysis on the usage of eccentric training in a workout features 2 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. Serinken MA, Gençoğlu C, Kayatekin BM. The effect of eccentric exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness on positioning sense and shooting percentage in wheelchair basketball players. Balkan Med J. (2013, Dec) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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