If you're wondering how to implement eccentric training in your routine, check out: How To Add Eccentric Training To Your Program.
Eccentric training is often an overlooked and underused modality of training, but it’s something you should consider adding to your routine.
It’s been common knowledge for some time, both concentric and eccentric movements are necessary to achieve gains in muscular strength and size.
However, as science narrows in on the specific benefits of eccentric training, it’s becoming clear that implementing this type of exercise into your program is a must.
Aside from taking your training to the next level, there are five more reasons you should consider eccentric training.
1. Strength Gains
As you’ve probably determined by now, it’s significantly easier to lower a heavy load than it is to lift or push it up.
Take the squat for example: when you’re close to your PR, lowering to the bottom of the squat isn’t so bad, but as soon as you hit that turn around point to push back up, that’s where the real work begins.
The reason for this is simple; your muscles can withstand a much higher load while lengthening than they can while contracting. Why not take advantage of this little gem and use it in your training? Studies have shown that eccentric muscle actions can produce 20-60% more force than that created by concentric muscle activities.
Research done by Hortobagyi et al. reported that eccentric training increased eccentric strength by 46%, while concentric training only increased concentric strength by 13%. It’s important to note, however, that eccentric training doesn’t only mean increases in eccentric strength.
A study published in “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” found that subjects who used 105% or more of their one-rep max on the eccentric phase of a bench press, increased their concentric one-rep max by 5-15 pounds!
2. Muscle Growth
Aside from the goal of getting stronger, why do most people frequent the gym?
The answer: to look good. If you’ve been working hard, but you’re still not seeing the results you hoped for, throw some eccentric training into your workload. One of the defining factors of eccentric training is the pace at which you work.
The slow movements associated with eccentric training require the muscle to maintain greater time under tension. The increased stress on the muscle translates into greater amounts of muscle damage, which is thought to be necessary for maximal hypertrophy to occur.
3. Lower Energy Costs
Despite the high muscular forces generated during eccentric actions, they require a relatively low level of energy. During a specific exercise, the majority of your energy is used while lifting the weight rather than lowering it.
The low energy costs of eccentric movements evolve into the ability to do more work, whether it’s in the form of more sets, reps or weight. Naturally, more work implies more strength, more muscle and more power.
4. Greater Protein Synthesis
During exercise, protein synthesis decreases while protein degradation increases, this, of course, is not a good thing if you’re looking to add muscle mass. During the recovery period, this process reverses.
Keeping your dietary protein intake up will promote a positive nitrogen balance, further enhancing the opportunity for muscle growth.
Eccentric training has been shown to promote higher levels of protein synthesis post-workout when compared to concentric training. This increase can lead to an accumulation of protein, contributing to the hypertrophy gains often observed with eccentric training.
5. Improve Adaptability
In addition to making you bigger and stronger, eccentric training is also a useful tool for improving your ability to withstand the rigors of life, whether it’s in the weight room, on the court, or in everyday life.
The high workloads used with eccentric training strengthen not only your muscles but also your connective tissue. Strong tendons, ligaments and fascia are vital for injury prevention and joint stabilization.
If you’re not an overly flexible person, adding eccentric loads may be just what you need to increase range of motion and quell your chances for injury. During eccentrics, your muscles exert force in a stretched position. Over time, this can result in improved flexibility in the muscle fibers, as well as the supporting connective tissue.
Note: Eccentric training can cause significant muscle damage. To lower your chances of enduring a severe case of delayed onset muscle soreness, begin with lower volume training, either in the form of fewer reps/sets or lighter weights. Gradually increase volume as your body adapts to the eccentric training workload.
Moore DR, Phillips SM, Babraj JA, Smith K, Rennie MJ (2005) Myofibrillar and collagen protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle in young men after maximal shortening and lengthening contractions. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 288(6):E1153–9.
Doan BK, Newton RU, Marsit JL, Triplett-McBride NT, Koziris LP, Fry AC, and Kraemer WJ. Effects of increased eccentric loading on bench press 1RM. J Strength Cond Res 16: 9-13, 2002.
Hortobagyi T, Hill JP, Houmard JA, Fraser DD, Lambert NJ, Israel RG (1996) Adaptive responses to muscle lengthening, and shortening in humans. J Appl Physiol 80:765–772.
Mike J, Kerksick C, Kravitz L. How to Incorporate Eccentric Training Into a Resistance Training Program. Strength and Conditioning Journal 37:1, 2015.