Ten Things Masters MUST Know About Eccentric Training To Get Better Results
You are stronger during the eccentric phase of any lift—as much as 1.75 times as strong as during the concentric phase! Think about it: You can lower more weight in the bench press or deadlift than you can raise.
Remember, the eccentric phase of a lift occurs when the muscle lengthens. This is the down motion of the bench press, biceps curl, or squat. The concentric phase of the lift occurs when the muscle shortens, as in the up motion of the bench press, biceps curl, or squat.
2) For Maximal Strength & Hypertrophy, Control the Eccentric Phase of Every Lift: Never Let Gravity Do the Work
It is well accepted that the lengthening motion of an exercise triggers hypertrophy the most. Therefore, for strength and mass gains you NEVER want to ignore the eccentric motion of an exercise and let the weight fall with gravity.
By programming the eccentric motion of your exercises, you can achieve the greatest muscle growth by making sure you have the right intensity of load and use the ideal time under tension to cause maximal muscle fiber damage.
In studies that have compared eccentric-only and concentric-only training, eccentric-only is far superior for producing muscle damage and hypertrophy. This is because the eccentric motion damages the myofibers and it preferentially recruits fast-twitch fibers. This means there is a greater amount of stress per motor unit with eccentric exercises, producing greater muscle growth.
In contrast, concentric-only training doesn’t lead to significant hypertrophy. One well known study had males perform concentric-only or eccentric-only training using 4 to 6 sets of 8 to 12 reps 3 times a week. At the end of 12 weeks, slow-twitch fibers didn’t increase in either group.
4) The Eccentric Motion Uses Less Energy
Another difference between eccentric and concentric motions is that the eccentric part of a lift requires less energy (or ATP) to complete. This is important because it means you can perform more work eccentrically, which has implications for body composition, strength, and size gains.
Let’s say that you are performing a set of squats with a heavy load and are nearing concentric-failure—for example, a load that is 85 percent of your squat 1RM and you are on the 6th rep of 8. Your muscles are running out of energy, or ATP.
5) Heavy Negatives and Forced Reps Produce an Anabolic Response
The locking up and tearing of muscle fibers is not the only reason eccentric training is superior for hypertrophy. Heavy negatives and forced reps are more advanced techniques that allow you to train at a higher intensity, thus producing greater stress and adaptation. These methods also trigger an anabolic, protein synthesis response.
For example, heavy negatives are performed with an above maximal concentric load—one that is 20 to 50 percent greater than your concentric 1RM. An ideal way to do this is with eccentric hooks that add weight, which you put on the end of a barbell. You lower the extra load using a prescribed tempo (4 seconds, for example), the hooks drop off when they hit the floor, and you raise the weight with the lighter load.
Studies show heavy negatives will produce greater motor unit recruitment, more protein synthesis, and a greater increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 than if lighter eccentric loads were used.
6) Eccentric-Enhanced Training Lets You Increase Concentric Power
A proven benefit to doing fast eccentric training is greater concentric power. An interesting study shows that eccentric-enhanced training will allow you to produce more power and it provides variety to combat boredom for the recreational trainee.
This study used college athletes and tested the effect of using different eccentric loads with a set concentric load of 40 kg in the bench throw. Eccentric hooks were used on the barbell to test loads of 40, 60, 70, and 80 kg for the eccentric motion. The hooks dropped off at the bottom. Then the athletes explosively bench pressed or “threw” a 40 kg bar and power output was measured.
Results showed that the heavier eccentric loads (60, 70, and 80 kg) allowed the athletes to produced greater concentric power than the 40 kg load. The greatest concentric acceleration was produced with the heaviest 80 kg load.
Researchers think the athletes were able to produce more power because lowering a greater weight increases muscle tension and cross-bridging of fibers.
7) Fast Eccentrics Produce Hypertrophy in the Most Powerful, Biggest Type II Muscle Fibers
Fast and heavy eccentrics aren’t just for athletes. Anyone who wants to gain muscle size will benefit because fast eccentric actions cause more protein synthesis and muscle damage than slower eccentrics. Plus, they stimulate gene signaling pathways and activate satellite cells, which participate in muscle growth.
For example, one study compared an 8-week power training program using 30 to 60 percent of the 1RM with a traditional strength program using 70 to 85 percent of the 1RM. Results showed that the power training group had a much greater increase in type II muscle fibers than the traditional program.
8) Apply Fast Eccentrics with Complex Training To Get Bigger and Stronger
One of the best ways to apply fast eccentrics is to perform complex training in which you do a heavy strength exercise followed immediately by a fast power exercise. For example, do squats at 85 percent of the 1RM followed by vertical jumps.
9) Eccentric-Enhanced Training Strengthens Tendons
Eccentric training is well known for strengthening tendons. Just like eccentric training is a robust stimulus for muscle growth, it also rebuilds tendon tissue. It is commonly used to rehabilitate ruptured tendons, but including eccentric training in your program can help you prevent such a debilitating injury.
10) Eccentric Training Increases Flexibility
Eccentric training has been shown to be one of the very best methods for increasing flexibility. It’s much more effective than static stretching, and a new analysis found that eccentrics can increase hip range-of-motion by an average of 22 percent. Range-of-motion in all joints measured was found to increase by at least 13 degrees.
It works because the eccentric motion causes muscle fiber growth, increasing the sarcomeres in series within a muscle, meaning the muscle becomes longer and you get more flexible.