Eccentric Training: Why Should Everyone Try it？
Dec 27, 2022 by Speediance
When it comes to strength training, people may think of lifting weights to enhance muscle strength in the first place. But magical things happen when the weight is lowered, not raised.
It is called eccentric exercise. We unconsciously do eccentric exercises every day, they hid in our daily life, but they’re not the parts we usually focus on.
Not until recently eccentric training has the opportunity to draw more attention from the general public—In bodybuilding training hits, athletes try to control the arm’s speed by lowering the weight during biceps curls to improve the efficiency of muscle hypertrophy.
What is Eccentric Training?
Resistance training involves two types of isotonic contractions: concentric and eccentric.
Concentric contraction is when the muscles shorten, producing force to lift heavy weights (active contraction). On the other hand, eccentric contraction is when the muscle lengthens while under tension, making force to lower the weight back down (passive lengthening).
For example, when you do a muscle contraction, like curling a bicep up, you're doing a concentric exercise. And when you put the barbell down, that's an eccentric portion—your muscles are during the lengthening and extending phase.
Lowering the weight can often feel easier, but the muscles must work harder than you imagined. Muscles must be stable enough to withstand the downward load under gravitational acceleration rather than quickly put down the weight and impact the floor.
Eccentric training is more demanding on the muscles and, therefore, is more likely to fatigue than concentric training. In fact, by focusing on these seemingly easier parts, there are clear benefits to be gained: increased muscle mass, muscle flexibility, bone density, a healthier heart, and you could even help burn more calories than a seemingly more brutal workout when you’re finished.
The Benefits of Eccentric Training
In the world of rehabilitation and training, eccentric exercises are imperative for developing strength, power, and resilience (Alfredson, 2003; Gonzalo-Skok et al., 2016; LaStayo et al., 2003; Roig, Shadgan, & Reid, 2008). In eccentric training, you can harness many remarkable benefits.
Increase muscle mass and stimulate muscle growth.
When you lift a box of books, which is a concentric movement, you recruit a lot of muscle fibers. But when you lower it down, which is an eccentric movement, you don’t need that many fibers, but the weight in your hand never changes.
That means those fibers you recruit in the eccentric phase are each tolerating more of the load than in concentric, which creates far greater muscle damage or fibers micro-tears. Once these occur, the body sends lots of good nutrition and blood to the area to heal. That’s called Supercompensation—get your muscle work-to-recovery balance right, become stronger than before micro-tears occur, and increase your base fitness level over time. That’s how you grow musculature and eventually accumulate to form muscle mass.1
Reduce the risk of injury
Injuries often occur in strength training due to incorrect body force delivery or lack of eccentric control in landings and direction changes during the movement. But the micro-tears caused by eccentric training improve our muscles healing and adapting ability. Eccentric training is also a very important part of Olympic weightlifting, which strengthens muscles and helps prevent injury and strain.
No age limitation and good for rehabilitation
Study shows that eccentric movements recruit fewer muscle fibers and require less muscle energy than concentric movements to produce the same level of force.2 So, it is less likely to overload injured joints and muscles, which is especially good for elders who do not perform traditional concentric/eccentric exercises. That's what makes it a premier choice for rehabilitation and physical therapist.
Eccentric strength training is a key approach that can be implemented with older males and females due to the declines in muscle mass and strength brought on by age and inactivity. Men (18–80 years old) have been proven to have larger muscle fibers after eccentric exercise, while women (20–74 years old) have dramatically improved strength (Hortobagyi et al., 1995).3
Why Should Everyone Try Eccentric Training?
A 2017 review study of randomized control trials in healthy adults found that eccentric-focused training resulted in slightly more muscle growth across the studies (10%) than concentric-focused training (6.8%).4 That means the muscle-lengthening phase of exercise is more effective than the muscle-contracting phase in muscle growth and producing muscle hypertrophy.
Additionally, it has been proven that eccentric exercise increases muscular growth, elastic energy reserves, and neuronal stimulation to and within the muscle. It's interesting to note that Hortobagyi et al. (1996) found that in a 12-week research comparing concentric vs. eccentric training, ended up experiencing more fatigue with the concentric training.
All these findings elaborate on the importance of integrating eccentric training into your daily training routine, helping you break through training plateaus quickly and challenge higher weights.4
How to Incorporate Eccentric Training into Your Workout Routine?
It’s pretty hard to safely achieve eccentric overload training in the gym or fitness studio without a professional spotter or personal trainer. If you’re just a beginner with eccentric training, you can first try bodyweight movements like performing a squat with a prolonged descend phase— three to five seconds, and coming up on the concentric in one count. Then you can add free weights to create an eccentric overload with the same principle in the heart——very slow in the eccentric phase and relatively quick in concentric.
But things get totally different if you have a speediance smart home gym at home. "Speediance offers 0-220 lbs of digital power resistance and eccentric mode, automatically adding more resistance to the movement's negative phase and reducing weight during the concentric phase on every rep. The only thing you need to do is press the button on the screen, and everything is set," says John, Speediance Workout PM. "The eccentric mode creates an immersive eccentric overload training experience, makes things much easier with efficiency and science."