If somebody told me five years ago that focusing on the opposite movement in exercise would get me even stronger I’d never believe them. Nowadays, I’ve come to understand more about different training methods and have learned that eccentric training is another valuable method that should be integrated in your fitness program.
Basically, there are three phases in the movement of joints and the movement within your muscles: concentric (contracting), isometric (no movement), and eccentric (lengthening). Most of us are accustomed to concentric exercises (i.e. pushing to contract your pectoral muscles during push ups, pulling to contract your lat muscles during pull ups), but many are unaware of eccentric exercises.
Eccentric training (sometimes called negatives) focuses on slowing the lengthening of the muscle in order to challenge the muscle in a different way leading to increased strength, greater muscle rehabilitation and even increasing your metabolic rate. Below is a list of even more benefits of eccentric training:
Provides protection from injury
Requires less energy than concentric exercises while the degree of intensity (i.e. weight) is still high
Leads to significant increases in muscle strength and power
Certain tests have shown that eccentric training can lead to even higher strength and muscle fiber sizes than typical forms of concentric training
Eccentric training has found to be an effective and safer exercise method for the elderly, those that have physical ailments and those that are rehabilitating from injury.
So how you do you do eccentric exercises? Here are a couple tips:
Just choose your favorite work out i.e. squat, bench press, push up, hammer curl
Increase your load to a weight higher than your 1 rep max (some say that during eccentric exercise you can take on a load of up to 40% higher than your 1 rep max)
Instead of focusing on the contraction part of the exercise, start the movement from the end of the contraction (i.e. if you’re doing push-ups start from the plank position with arms fully extended, if you’re squatting start from standing position) and slowly go through the eccentric movement where you stretch and lengthen your muscles (i.e. push up – slowly go down, squat – slowly lower yourself)
To truly get the most out of an eccentric exercise, work with a partner or trainer who can help you carry up the increased load to starting position and then monitor your eccentric movement as you slowly lengthen your muscles to bear the increased weight.
Need a visual? Here is a good video from the folks over at Discover Strength about eccentric training:
So check it out and try including a couple eccentric exercises into your workout. And feel free to contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any more tips, ideas or comments.
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