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The Benefits of Eccentric Strength Training for the “Average” Athlete

A trainer working with an athlete stretching

Image Source: Unsplash

What is Eccentric Training?

Eccentric training focuses on the lengthening portion of an exercise, where the muscle is under tension while elongating (absorbing forces applied to the body). This is in contrast to the concentric phase, where the muscle shortens and contracts (a muscle contraction that generates force). During eccentric training, the goal is to slow down the movement and increase the time spent in the eccentric phase. This can be achieved by using a slower tempo, adding resistance, or emphasizing the negative portion of the exercise.

The eccentric phase of an exercise is often referred to as the "negative" because it involves resisting the force of gravity or an external load. For example, during a bicep curl, the concentric phase occurs when you curl the weight up towards your shoulder, while the eccentric phase occurs when you lower the weight back down in a controlled manner. By focusing on the eccentric phase, you can create more muscle damage and stimulate greater muscle growth and strength gains without compromising flexibility.

Eccentric training for any athlete can be performed with a wide range of exercises, including traditional weightlifting movements like squats and bench presses, as well as bodyweight exercises and resistance training using bands or cables. The key is to prioritize the eccentric portion of the movement and perform it with controlled and deliberate form.

Both eccentric and concentric contractions are essential for a well-rounded strength training program. They target different aspects of muscle function and provide unique benefits. Concentric contractions are generally associated with greater force production, while eccentric contractions offer greater muscle damage and metabolic efficiency.

Incorporating both eccentric and concentric training into your workouts can help you develop balanced strength, maximum flexibility, improve muscle coordination, and maximize overall muscle development.

Incorporating Eccentric Training into Your Fitness Routine

Now that we've explored the benefits and applications of eccentric training, let's discuss how you can incorporate it into your fitness routine. Below are some examples of eccentric exercises that you can add to your workouts:

Eccentric Physioball Hamstring Rollouts

  • Start by lying on your back on an exercise mat with a physioball at your feet.

  • Place both feet on top of the physioball and lift your butt off the ground slightly.

  • Bend your knees to draw the ball back towards your glutes, focusing on eccentrically contracting your hamstrings.

  • Slowly extend your legs to return the ball to the starting position.

  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

Eccentric Hamstring Curl

  • Position yourself on a seated or lying hamstring curl machine with the back of your calves against the pad.

  • Select a slightly lighter weight than you would normally use for traditional leg curls.

  • Curl the weight with both legs by contracting your hamstrings until the pad contacts the back of your upper thighs.

  • Take one leg off the pad and slowly lower the weight for 8 seconds with the other leg to emphasize the eccentric portion of the rep.

  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets, alternating legs.

Eccentric Barbell Squats

  • Set up a barbell on a squat rack with an appropriate amount of weight.

  • Position the bar on your back or front of shoulders (for a front squat), unrack the weight, and space your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, with your feet pointed slightly outward.

  • Slowly descend by bending your knees for about 8 seconds, resisting the weight on the bar during the eccentric phase.

  • Pause briefly at the bottom of the rep before pushing through the floor to return to the starting position in about 1-2 seconds.

  • Repeat the movement, ensuring to descend slowly with each rep.

Eccentric Box Step-Downs

  • Stand in front of a step-up box with an appropriately sized dumbbell in each hand.

  • Step up onto the box with one leg, lifting the other leg up the side of the box.

  • After stabilizing at the top, slowly step down from the box with the opposite leg, focusing on the eccentric contraction in your quad (the slower the better).

  • Complete the desired number of eccentric reps for one leg, then switch sides to target the other leg.

Eccentric Seated Cable Row

  • Load a seated cable row machine with slightly less weight than you would normally use.

  • Sit on the bench and grasp the bar or handles with an overhand grip.

  • Keeping an erect torso, row the weight back until the handles or bar almost touch your lower sternum.  Perform this movement in 1-2 seconds.

  • Reverse the movement by slowly releasing the weight back to the starting position, feeling the eccentric contraction in your lats.  Take 6-8 seconds to perform this phase.

  • Repeat the movement for the designated reps and sets.

Eccentric Dumbbell Curl

  • Select dumbbells slightly lighter than you would traditionally use for a dumbbell curl.

  • Holding the dumbbells at your sides, curl both dumbbells up simultaneously, pausing briefly at the top.  This movement should be performed in about 1-2 seconds.

  • Slowly release the dumbbells back to the starting position, focusing on the eccentric contraction of your biceps.  Perform this movement in approximately 6-8 seconds.

  • Repeat the movement for the desired reps and sets.

Eccentric Strength Training for Athletes can Easily be Added to your Workout Routine

These are just a few examples of eccentric exercises that you can incorporate into your fitness routine. Feel free to experiment with different exercises and variations to target specific muscle groups and achieve your fitness goals. For a personalized plan contact Performance Care Stretch Clinic


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