When a muscle contracts it will go through 2 phases. An eccentric phase and a concentric phase. The eccentric phase is when the muscle is lengthening, this can be seen during the descent of a squat or push up. While the concentric phase is when the muscle shortens (contracts), such as the ascent of the squat and push up. Eccentric training absorbs the mechanical energy of the load by contracting while the muscle is lengthening. This applies a braking force that slows down and controls the load as the muscle is stretched.
Benefits of Eccentric Training
- Enhances muscular strength, coordination, power, and speed performance.
- It creates more force with less energy, as it has a lower metabolic and cardiopulmonary cost.
- Useful for training mobility and balance due to increased requirements of muscular control
- Used in rehabilitation as it can strengthen tendon tissues, increase collagen synthesis and blood flow around tendon cells.
- Suitable for elderly or patients with a history of chronic disease due to low energy and load requirements in order to produce beneficial adaptations.
Eccentric Training Considerations
- Increased DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), pain, tenderness, swelling, stiffness due to the micro-tears that form while the contracted muscle is lengthening.
- Increased effect of DOMS can delay and disrupt a training program and hinder one’s progress.
- Eccentric contractions pose an injury hazard if the athlete is lifting supra-maximal loads.
- Increased requirement of motor skill and awareness can make the movement more challenging for some, often more difficult than concentric or isometric contractions.
How to utilize Eccentric Training in your training program:
Eccentric training has been shown to increase performance in people ranging from elite athletes to clinical patients in rehabilitation. It can be implemented in a number of ways, the way in which it is implemented will depend on the individual’s goals.
Below are methods of eccentric training that can be implemented into your current program:
2:1 Method of Eccentric Loading
This method involves using 2 limbs to lift a weight while using one limb to lower it. This can be useful for individuals who have an injury or an imbalanced limb. Utilizing the 2:1 method allows both limbs to assist in lifting the load, while only using one to slowly lower it. This would usually be done on a machine, like a leg extension or leg curl.
How to implement this into your current program?
- Pick any exercise that you can do with either one or 2 limbs then complete the exercise like you would any other
- For example:
- Eccentric Leg Extension 3×10 @20kg
- Tempo (3,1,1)
- Lift the load with both legs, pause to remove one leg, slowly lower with one limb.
Accentuated Eccentric Lading
This method utilises 2 different loads in one movement. The eccentric phase will utilize a load of higher magnitude coupled with a change of the load before completing the concentric phase.
Due to the way in which this method is designed, it is usually only done for 1 repetition, unless the lifter has the assistance of other individuals to assist in loading the bar again.
How to implement Accentuated Eccentric Loading (AEL) into your current program?
- For example:
- Using the image below
- Powerlifter performing the Squat 1×1@ 200kg- AEL (40kg) = 160
- Bar is loaded with 200kg on the eccentric portion, 40kg comes off the bar when the handles hit the floor. This means the lifter will only lift 160kg concentrically.
Supramaximal Eccentric Loading
The supramaximal method is common amongst strength sports. It requires the trainee to lift loads that are usually between 100%-130% of their 1RM. The trainee will control the supramaximal load slowly on the way down and have assistance to lift the weight back up. This type of training carries more risks due to the high amounts of stress and fatigue caused by the heavier loads. I would recommend using this type of training for short periods in a training cycle and infrequently.
How to implement Supramaximal Eccentric Loading into your program:
- For example
- Bench press 3×1@115%1RM
- Tempo (3,1,1)
- Load is slowly lowered and controlled
- Once the bar hits the chest, the lifter either has assistance from spotters or a bench press suit to help lift the bar
- Due to the intensity of the load and fatigue, I would recommend doing this type of loading no more than once a week per movement.
Tempo Eccentric Loading
This method is one of the most common. It requires the trainee to slowly control the weight for 3 or more seconds eccentrically before lifting it back up at a normal pace. This will be repeated for all repetitions. It can be used at any point in a training program, however, it is important to consider the fatigue cost of doing this type of movement for high reps, as it may limit your ability to train the target muscle group again in the same session or the following days due to DOMS. I like to use this method toward the end of a workout or if it is the only exercise for that muscle group on that day. I would keep the volume and intensity low to begin, gradually building over the training cycle.
How to implement Tempo Eccentric Loading into your program:
- For example
- Squat 3×8@70kg
- Tempo 3,1,1
Eccentric training has a wide variety of applications due to its many benefits in both athletic and clinical populations. Its versatility can be used as a tool for trainers or trainees to incorporate into their current programs alongside normal concentric training.
Important notes to remember if you are going to use eccentrics:
- Gradually increase volume and intensity as DOMS will be apparent at first.
- Loads will need to be lighter than what you would normally use for that exercise.
- If you are trying to use eccentrics for supra-maximal loads it is important to have support in order to do the exercise safely, while also considering the high levels of fatigue caused
- Eccentric training is a tool that can be implemented into your current training program, however, it should be used alongside sport-specific training and normal concentric movements for optimal performance.
- Hody, S., Croisier, J., Bury, T., Rogister, B. and Leprince, P., 2019. Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Risks and Benefits. Frontiers in Physiology, 10.
- McNeill, C., Beaven, C., McMaster, D. and Gill, N., 2019. Eccentric Training Interventions and Team Sport Athletes. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4(4), p.67.
- Suchomel, T., Wagle, J., Douglas, J., Taber, C., Harden, M., Haff, G. and Stone, M., 2019. Implementing Eccentric Resistance Training—Part 1: A Brief Review of Existing Methods. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4(2), p.38.
- Suchomel, T., Wagle, J., Douglas, J., Taber, C., Harden, M., Haff, G. and Stone, M., 2019. Implementing Eccentric Resistance Training—Part 2: Practical Recommendations. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4(3), p.55.
- Wagle, J., Taber, C., Cunanan, A., Bingham, G., Carroll, K., DeWeese, B., Sato, K. and Stone, M., 2017. Accentuated Eccentric Loading for Training and Performance: A Review. Sports Medicine, 47(12), pp.2473-2495.
- Youtube: John Wagle-Accentuated Eccentric Loading For Strength:Power Athletes