WHAT IS IT?
THE ECCENTRIC PART OF YOUR LIFT…….
or the lowering of the weight as you return to your starting position. Often called the negative part of the exercise.
I have been lifting weights for a few years and have enjoyed it and had success in improving my body, my strength and my mental outlook. I get great pleasure when I can add weight to the bar. I know I’m doing something right.
Often, I’ll do research on new techniques for improving my workouts, and I’ll change my routine based on that research. Recently, I remembered a period back when I made some nice improvements by concentrating on the negative part of each repetition.
We all tend to concentrate on the concentric, or power, part of each repetition because we believe that this is what gives us bigger, stronger muscles. It does, but we often forget about the lowering of the weight, which when done very slowly and with purpose, can contribute greatly to the improvement of our muscle growth. In fact, it can produce greater gains than the concentric exercises.
Let’s do a little science here so you’ll better understand how muscles work. Don’t click away just yet. It’s important that you understand the WHY of what makes eccentric exercises effective.
THE THREE (3) PHASES OF A LIFT
Here’s an explanation of the three phases and what each is:
This is the power phase of each exercise. This when you push the barbell up in a chest press. This is your raising the dumbbell when doing a bicep curl. This is when you stand up in a squat.
This is the primary focus of all our workout exercises in today’s training world.
This is the “still” part of an exercise, the transition between when you “load” your muscle (through the extension of the muscle) and when you push or pull the weight up. This phase of a lift is when the muscle contracts, but there is no movement. For instance, when you hold the weight at the top of a bench press.
This in-between phase only lasts a micro-second. The quicker this phase is, the more power you’ll have to perform the concentric phase of the list, which is next. If you hesitate too long at the bottom of a squat, you lose much of the power you’ll need to stand up. So, ideally, the isometric portion of a lift/pull should be very short!
This is the stretching, lowering, loading part of an exercise. It’s when you squat down before you stand up. It’s the lowering of the dumbbells or barbell before you do a chest press. This is the focus of our discussion today.
Eccentric training focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscle in order to challenge the muscles, which can lead to stronger muscles, faster muscle repair, and an increased metabolic rate.
Eccentric movement provides a braking mechanism for muscle groups that are experiencing concentric movement to protect joints from damage,
There are great benefits in concentrating on the negative/eccentric portion of your exercise. If you’ve never done this, you’re in for a treat. You’ll get better results from your exercises, even if you apply this to the same exercises you’re doing right now.
MORE MUSCLE GAINS
Research shows that eccentric training is superior to concentric training in both muscle size and strength. What you probably don’t know is that your muscles are their strongest when they’re being used eccentrically. So, it makes sense to challenge your muscles during the eccentric phase because that will result in the biggest return in muscle growth and strength.
Because you can handle more weight when doing an eccentric exercise, your muscles are more stressed and more muscle will be broken down during this phase. This will lead to the muscle being forced to make more “repairs” to the muscle that has been “damaged.” Thus, you’ll see gains in muscle size and strength.
Eccentric contractions are a frequent cause of muscle injury when engaging in an exercise that you’re not familiar with or exercises you don’t know how to perform properly. But a single round of eccentric exercises can lead to adaptation which will make the muscle less vulnerable to injury in the future.
A study by the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy shows that static stretching may not be an effective way to address flexibility issues and prepare an athlete for a workout or sports training.
This study shows that eccentric training was more effective in improving hamstring flexibility in 75 athletes that had limited hamstring flexibility.
How Do You Incorporate Eccentric Exercises In YourWorkouts?
Here is a description of what you need to do to incorporate eccentric training into your weight exercise routine.
You want to lower the weight in a controlled way, not just let the weight fall back to the starting position. I think that’s what most people do. I don’t think they even think about the eccentric phase as having any importance. It’s just the “return,” so you can do another power lift. WHOA! Hold on. Think again.
Eccentric training can actually contribute MORE to your strength and muscle growth than concentric exercises. TRUE.
TEMPO is the primary concern of eccentric exercises. You should have a pre-determined count of how many seconds you’ll take to perform the concentric phase of your exercise and how many seconds you’ll take to perform the eccentric phase of your exercise.
I suggest starting with a 1-second raise/lift and a 4-second lowering. Often this is put in the form of “1-0-4,” meaning 1-second lift, zero seconds in the isometric phase and then 4 seconds in the eccentric phase.
As your muscles adjust to your 4 second lowering of the weight, you should increase this to, maybe, 5 and then 6 seconds. This will gradually add additional stress and force your muscles to work even harder to resist lowering the weight.
It requires a workout partner. In simple terms, your workout partner applies additional force when you’re performing the negative/eccentric portion of an exercise. For instance, your workout partner would push down on the barbell when you are lowering the barbell during a chest press.
You don’t need to do forced reps until you’ve done a couple of weeks of eccentric exercises. This is an advanced eccentric exercise.
Here is a video that demsonstrates some eccentric exercises. It shows three eccentric exercises and how to perform them in a safe way.
HOW TO ADVANCE YOUR ECCENTRIC TRAINING
To make the most out of eccentric training, you must develop a schedule of gradually increasing the intensity of this type of training.
Here’s a suggestion for a simple progression of increasing your eccentric training.
- STEP 1 – During the first phase of eccentric training you simply will be lowering the weight more slowly than you normally would. As suggested above, you’ll go from a 4 second lowering to a 5 second lowering, then eventually to a 6 second lowering.
- STEP 2 – Once you’ve done that step, you’ll want to add one (1) forced rep and then two (2) and then three (3). Of course, you’ll need a workout partner to help with this.
- STEP 3 – Once you’ve done Step 2, the next step will involve adding weight to the eccentric/negative phase of your exercise. This will also require a workout partner who will add weight right at the top of your exercise (isometric phase) so that there is more weight for you to lower in the eccentric phase. Now, we’re starting to get into serious weight lifting territory when you do this.
All I can say is, you’ll start to see serious results when you get to this stage of eccentric workouts.
THE BAD PART OF ECCENTRIC TRAINING
Of course, there are negatives involved with eccentric training.
Requires a Training Partner – so you can’t just pick up and go to the gym when you feel like it. You’ve got to schedule meeting a gym partner at the gym. It’s kind of a hassle unless you can find a partner and schedule regular times every week to meet and work out together. Doing that can make working out more fun and keep you committed to a workout because you know you have someone who is relying on you to be there. An accountability partner, so to speak.
Doing forced rep eccentric exercises requires a workout partner who has some knowledge and training so that you don’t get injured. Not just anyone will do.
You Can’t Do Them Often – because they are more intense than your regular concentric exercises. If you were to do eccentric exercises for only three (3) days a week, you’d end up overtraining because eccentric training requires more recovery time than your normal training.
It’s Not For Beginners – You need a good base of training before you take on eccentric training., especially forced reps. If you don’t, you can overtrain, or worse yet, injure yourself.
Doing eccentric exercises is one of the least used, most effective exercise routines you can do.
It can speed up your muscle development, make your muscles bigger in a shorter time, with other benefits, such as increased flexibility and less chance of injury.
Try incorporating some of these principles into your workout.
See you at the gym.