Eccentric Exercise. The Training "Hack" That You Need to Know About.
The term “eccentric” refers to contracting a muscle while at the same time lengthening it. This may sound confusing to most, but eccentric muscle contractions are necessary for a lot of our daily lives. Think of eccentric contractions as your “braking” mechanism. There are times when we need to slow down the lengthening of a muscle, such as when we are walking or running. When we take a step and our foot hits the ground the quads contract eccentrically to prevent your knee from collapsing too far or too fast.
In terms of training, an eccentric exercise is performed by increasing the amount of time spent in the eccentric phase. When squatting this would be the descending portion of the squat. In bicep curls this would be the lowering of the bar or dumbbell, and when bench pressing this would be the descent to the chest. The reason that this force is so effective is because of the unique characteristics of eccentric contractions. Greater forces are generated during eccentric contractions while also using less oxygen, meaning we can put greater stress on our muscles while using less oxygen and energy. In other words, eccentric exercises can almost be looked at as a muscular hack.
The beneficial effects of eccentric training include
Rapid gains in muscle strength and muscle mass
Improvement of athletic performance
Greater neural adaptation
Gains in lean mass
Fat mass reduction
Increased resting expenditure
And many more!!!
It is true that eccentric exercises can have massive benefits, but when not done right there can be consequences. The increased tension can also lead to intensified delayed-onset muscle soreness. It can also cause exercise induced muscle damage and impaired muscle function. To prevent this from happening, slowly increase the weight you are using rather than jumping right in with your maximum weight.
Give eccentric training a try if you’re looking to switch up your training program! Do this by lowering the weight on a 5 second count, hold it at the bottom for 2 seconds, before completing the concentric part of the contraction for 1 second.
Hody, S., Croisier, J. L., Bury, T., Rogister, B., & Leprince, P. (2019). Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Risks and Benefits. Frontiers in physiology, 10, 536. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00536