Imagine a competitive weightlifter who has hit a plateau in their training. Despite consistent effort and dedication, they are struggling to make progress with their lifts. The solution to this problem could lie in eccentric training, a technique that focuses on the lowering, or eccentric phase, of resistance exercises. While most resistance training places the focus on the concentric or “lifting” phase, researchers have found that incorporating eccentric training into a workout routine can lead to greater gains in muscle strength and size, as well as numerous other benefits.
Eccentric training has been gaining popularity as an effective method for breaking through plateaus and increasing muscle strength and size. There are multiple techniques and approaches to add emphasis to the eccentric or negative phase of the movement that research has shown to have unique and substantial benefits.
In this article, we will explore Eccentric Training: The Basics, including its definition, various subcategories and their benefits, and how it can be incorporated into your workout routine to maximize results.
What is Eccentric Training ?
There are 3 basic phases in movement: the concentric, isometric and eccentric ( learn more here). Eccentric training involves placing greater emphasis on the eccentric phase of an exercise, where the muscle lengthens while under tension. This type of training has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to increase overall strength and muscle hypertrophy.
The Importance of Eccentric Phase in Resistance Training
The controlled lowering of weight during resistance exercises has been shown to have significant benefits in promoting muscle growth and strength development.
To better understand the importance of the eccentric phase in resistance training, here are five reasons why emphasizing eccentric phase can be beneficial:
Increased Muscle Activation: Eccentric movements require greater neural activation compared to concentric contractions when each are loaded to their capacity. This means that more motor units are recruited during the lengthening phase, leading to increased muscle fiber recruitment and overall muscular development.
Improved Muscle Damage: Eccentric loading creates more mechanical stress on the muscles, leading to greater micro-tears in the fibers. These micro-damages stimulate protein synthesis and activate satellite cells responsible for repairing and regenerating muscle tissue.
Enhanced Strength Gains: Research has shown that emphasizing eccentric overload training can lead to significant improvements in strength gains compared to traditional concentric-focused training methods.
Muscle Fiber Typing: Eccentric movements loaded to capacity selectively recruit Type IIx muscle fibers. These muscles are “fast twitch” fibers which are the main contributors for explosive movements like sprinting and jumping.
Hormonal responses: Eccentric overload creates an anabolic stimulus which promotes muscle growth. Numerous hormonal responses are elicited including Human Growth Hormone.
While emphasizing eccentric training may offer several benefits, it's important to recognize potential drawbacks as well. One major drawback is an increased risk of injury due to higher force production during eccentric movements. It's crucial for athletes or individuals with previous injuries to gradually incorporate this type of training into their regimen under proper supervision.
Overall, incorporating eccentric training can be a valuable addition for those looking to enhance their muscular development, strength gains and athleticism.
What are the different types of Eccentric Training ?
An interesting fact about the eccentric (lowering) phase of movement is that it is capable of generating substantially more force than the concentric (lifting) phase. That means that if a 100 pounds is the maximum that can be lifted, the same muscles have the ability to lower anywhere from 125 to 170 pounds depending on the joint angle.
For the most part, slowing down the eccentric phase of movement is commonly accepted as eccentric training. And while it does have its benefits, there are even more powerful methods which take advantage of the greater force capacity of the eccentric phase. Let’s take a look at the various approaches:
Slow Tempo Training ( esp on the the eccentric phase). Here the lowering phase of a lift is slowed down substantially. While this does create a greater time under tension during the eccentric phase, it is not technically “overload” training as the loads used can be lifted in the concentric phase. This method is easy to incorporate into existing protocols as conventional equipment and loads can used with many exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench press etc.)
Accentuated eccentric loading (AEL). Here, the subject lowers a weight that is greater than they are capable of lifting. This method adds a greater stimulus to the eccentric phase with heavier loads and increases the signals for strength and size gains. One way to accomplish this is the 2 up 1 down method. Using a biceps curl as an example, a weight that is 10-15% greater than a 1 rep max is chosen. Both arms can be used to lift the weight, and it is then lowered by a single arm - producing an accentuated eccentric load on the biceps. This technique can be applied to a limited number of exercises, but does challenge the eccentric phase more aggressively. The downside of this method is that the concentric phase is not stimulated to its capacity. There are other equipment choices that can place an accentuated load on the eccentric phase such as chains, eccentric hooks or bands when used in a specific manner. Note that safety precautions must be taken as using loads larger than the subject’s ability to lift can present higher risks of injury.
Rebound / Reactive Drop and Catch. In the example of a single arm bent over row, begin with a light dumbbell in the contracted position with the weight lifted to the end of the concentric phase. Next, loosen the grip to “drop” the weight. As the weight falls to the ground, the goal is to “catch” the dumbbell and aggressively pull it back to the starting position. This works on the ability of the muscle to be turned on and off reacting to the loads and recruiting the “fast twitch” type IIx muscle fibers. A surprisingly small load such as a 12 oz bottle of water can be used to for this technique, Again, safety precautions must be taken as these movements are explosive by design. A solid base of strength and proper warm up are needed as prerequisites. In addition, if the execise is not executed cleanly, it has the potential to cause injury.
Eccentric overload training (supramaximal eccentric overload). Eccentric overload has many distinct benefits including : efficient strength gains, increased flexibility, connective tissue resilience, injury prevention and more. However, this method of training can prove challenging as the load required is much greater than the subject can lift and as a result requires spotters to ensure safety. Despite the research backed benefits of eccentric overload training, it is not often practiced due to the practical challenges and safety concerns. Fortunately , there are equipment options that are designed to create eccentric overload while lowering the injury risks. Examples of equipment for this type of training are inertia flywheels, motorized resistance , and the Synapse. Professional athletes and teams continue to incorporate eccentric overload training to improve function, prevetn injury and maximize performance.
Eccentric training is a technique that focuses on the eccentric phase of resistance training. This technique involves emphasizing the lengthening (eccentric) phase of a muscle contraction with a slower cadence and/or additional load that is greater than can be lifted. Eccentric training has been shown to increase muscle strength, power, and hypertrophy when compared to traditional resistance training methods. The eccentric phase plays an essential role in resistance training because it allows for greater force production and muscle damage, which leads to adaptations such as increased strength and size.
By incorporating eccentric training into a workout routine, individuals can maximize their results by targeting both the eccentric and concentric phases of movement appropriatley. Understanding how eccentric training works and its importance in resistance training is crucial for individuals looking to improve their overall fitness level.
By taking advantage of this approach, one can achieve greater gains in strength and size than with traditional resistance methods alone.