What is eccentric training? Used frequently in the performance and rehabilitation world, eccentric training (also known as negative training) focuses on the part of weight lifting in which you are lowering the weight, not pressing it or lifting it up. Confused? Here’s an example:
When you work out with weights, you usually think of the part where you lift the weight as the actual workout part. Although you try to control the weight when you bring it back to the starting position, you don’t think of that motion as being part of the workout.
Let’s use a simple bicep curl as an example. When your curl your arm up, you contract your bicep muscle. This is known as concentric muscle movement. When you lower the weight back to its starting position, you are lengthening the bicep, which is known as eccentric movement.
But what if you reverse the idea, performing the contraction quickly and lowering the weight slowly so that the muscle is actually getting worked out in the lengthening phase? That’s what eccentric training is.
Why should you try eccentric training?
A key to eccentric training is that the muscles don’t seem to have to work as hard in the eccentric phase of movement, yet they are exercised even harder than in the concentric phase. As a result, eccentric training puts less stress on metabolic and cardiac systems, making it suitable for older adults.
Studies have shown that there is a rapid increase in muscle strength, and therefore presumably also mass with eccentric training. When done correctly, there is evidence of some advantages to eccentric training. These include improved balance, less cardiovascular stress, and increased muscle power.
According to research, current evidence indicates that eccentric muscle contraction is an important aspect of all sports that involve running, jumping, or throwing. Because the eccentric phase of muscle movement is easier to perform, more weight can be used, resulting in a quicker gain in strength.
Many eccentric exercises are best done with a trainer or therapist in order to insure correct form and as a spotter. It’s also important to note that your muscles will be extremely sore after eccentric training, and will need more time to recover before your next workout than normal.
Examples of eccentric training exercises
- Calf Press on stairs: Stand with only about the front 1/4″ of your foot on the stair, heel hanging off the back of the stair. Using the railing for balance, push up as high as you can on your toe (concentric), then slowly lower your body until you cannot get any lower (eccentric).
- Push ups: Get into the traditional plank position, then slowly lowering your body until your chest nearly touches the floor (eccentric). Pushing back up, the concentric phase, is done quickly.
- Pull ups: Moving slowly down into the starting position (eccentric). When you reach the lowest point, pull back up to the bar quickly (concentric).
- Squats: The eccentric part is when you are moving down into the squatting position.
Use In Rehabilitation
Eccentric exercise has long been a regular component of strength training, and more recently, it has become an important part of rehabilitation and is used to manage a number of musculoskeletal afflictions that include:
- Tendinopathies: accounting for 30-50% of sport injuries, tendinopathies can lead to performance declines and long-term injury.
- Muscle strains: Eccentric exercises are frequently used to treat hamstring injuries prevalent among soccer players.
- Post-surgical ACL rehabilitation: Strength loss of 30% has been found for several years following surgery. Eccentric training has been shown to increase strength more quickly as part of an ACL rehabilitation program.
Eccentric training and exercise have been with us for years, but only now is research appearing that show it can effectively be used to advantage by a large part of the general population, and certainly by anyone training for any kind of sport or recreational activity.