What Is Eccentric Exercise and Why Should You Incorporate It Into Your Training Program?


One thing you do need to realize is that going through the motion is not a good idea. This is quite true when it concerns fitness. Just ask any trainers. They would immediately tell you that it is all about quality rather than quantity.

Well take the example of a simple push-up. Here one rep would be lowering your body down and then pushing it back up. However, both steps are somewhat eccentric, and they contain concentric movements.

You do need to understand the importance of focusing, especially on the specific movements. It would assist in varying your routine and improve your gains.

Definition of Eccentric Training

First let us begin with a quick physiology lesson. Our muscle fibres can perform three major actions. These are eccentric, concentric, and isometric. The concentric muscle action is the shortening and contraction. This is what occurs in the glutes of your body, and that too when you rise from squat position and move to the standing position.

When it comes to the isometric action, the action contains the working of your muscles in the super-still positions. They are just like your glutes when you are hanging out in the wall sitting for thirty seconds. Also, the eccentric movements would be when your muscles get lengthen as they are under the load. Here it would be just like your glutes does when you are lowering into the squat or when your biceps do as you are lowering the dumbbell after the curl.

The fun fact about the eccentric exercise is that each muscle fibre of your body would be the strongest as it is moving eccentrically. The major reason for this is since when the muscles are working eccentrically, they would be able to produce more force.

Keeping all these in mind, so what do you mean by eccentric training? These are just any kind of training that can emphasize the eccentric position of the movement. Frankly, they are many great benefits of incorporating such kind of the training into your day-to-day routine.

Benefits of Eccentric Exercise

The major aspect of the eccentric training is that it primarily focuses on the lengthening phase of any exercise. That would mean it is a killer for building strength. When you are lowering the weight through control, you can develop a stimulus for the growth. This is even when the gravitational force of the weight is more than the force of the muscles that is produced.

Many research show that eccentric training is better in building both muscle size and strength compared to the concentric training. That means you would be able to lengthen your muscles under the loads much greater compared to the possibility of contracting with it.

Frankly, this is the best tool for overloading’ the body. Plus, it is the major key for making adaptations. When the eccentric contraction occurs, your muscle fibres get lengthened to a point that leads to microscopic tears (think about pulling Velcro apart). This would induce your muscle’s inflammatory responses along with the proper recovery time. Also, they can repair and rebuild themselves stronger compared to what they were before.

Keep in mind that eccentric contractions would lead to more kind of muscle damages. It does more muscle damage in the good manner. As you are moving in slowly through the motion, the whole force would increase.

Over time, your muscle will naturally develop increased strength to accommodate that increased force. The eccentric training needs less oxygen, a lower cardiac output, and produces less lactate build-up within the muscle than concentric training when using similar loads,

Keep in mind that it is not about getting gains. The lengthening of the muscles and its fibres would improve the flexibility and the various range of motions. The eccentric training is found to be the most effective exercise that can help one to improve the lower limb flexibility. Studies show that it along with the strength training would improve the flexibility. These would also lower the chances of getting injured.

Eccentric training would even help to strengthen the body’s connective tissue. You can assume it as a web that is present throughout the body for supporting and protecting the muscles and your organs.

Are Any Kind of Risk Involved in Eccentric Exercise?

Frankly, any type of training and exercise has their own risk. Hence, when it comes to the eccentric exercising and training, they are known for inducing DOMS. That is all about the delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS are more apparent when they are done within 12 to 24 hours, and they would subside for around five to seven days after the onset.

Now the effects of the muscle damages related to the eccentric training can vary based on the intensity of the workout done. Well, one needs to keep in mind of the minimal micro-training related to your muscles which is a good thing. This is often considered to be the best means to developing the stimulus for the growth of the muscles. Whenever your muscles are recovering, they might feel a bit weaker, and they are more risk of getting injured.

This makes it necessary for not to go all out all day and work in the active recovery manner. Recovery efforts involved consists of the swimming, walking and yoga kind of activities.

You ought to keep in mind that as your body would be able to handle more weight using the eccentric exercise, you might be prone to getting injured by yourself.

You must think about the strains which mean the tearing or stretching of the tendons. Also, it even contains the sprains, like tearing or stretching of the ligaments. This is only possible when you are lifting anything that is too heavy.

Let us take the example of the eccentric pull-up. That would simply lower your body right away from the bar. However, you will not be able to hold on to your own body weight. Plus, you would drop off faster and end up in either a pull or tear of the muscles.

Here you must make sure to slowly build up the strength for avoiding any injury. One of the major aspects is that you should not be afraid of asking the spotter. Of course, some of the major exercises like the bench press along with the barbell are very much safer compared to other exercises. Most health experts and trainers feel that it is better to being at an easy pace and then increase the intensity.

Do You Think You Can Add Eccentric Exercises to Your Routine?

Are you sure that you can give the eccentric training a shot? Well, before you go ahead and start, there are some suggestions that you can follow-

Make Sure to Slow Your Tempo

When you change up the speed related to your movements, it would be an easy means to add all kinds of eccentric training into exercises that are already in your workout. Here it is as simple, just like spending more time in the lengthening part of the movement.

Basically, a great place to begin is by prolonging the lengthening part of a move to three to five seconds. For example, think of the squat for training. It would be like exercising eccentrically. In that case, you would slowly sink down into a squat over the course of three to five seconds. Then, once you are in a full-on squat, you would stand back up at a regular pace (about a one-second count) and repeat.

Begin Simple

One thing that you would have to keep in mind is that eccentric training works pretty much with any exercise. Trainers recommend that one must begin with the three simple moves. Here you can add something purposefully. The three major exercises are the overhead press, squat, and push-ups.

You might already know how to do these exercises and turning them into eccentric-focused moves just requires making a few small tweaks. For doing the eccentric push-up, you need to begin in a high plank and then slowly bend your elbows to lower yourself down over the course of three to five seconds.

As soon as you are at the bottom of the movement, your need to allow yourself gently to fall on the ground. Then get back into the high plank position (you can drop to your knees to do so) and repeat. The cool thing about an eccentric push-up is that it is less advanced than a regular push-up, and you can do it to build up the strength you need to nail a regular push-up.

To do an eccentric overhead press, stand with your feet hip-width apart and dumbbells or kettlebells at your shoulders. Lift your weights overhead at a regular pace and then slowly lower them down over the course of three to five seconds before repeating.

Drop Some Good Weight

When you are doing eccentric exercise with weight, you need to use lighter weights compared to what you are doing and moving at the regular tempo. 

That is because the slow pace of eccentric training puts your muscles under tension for a longer amount of time, and as a result they might not be able to handle the same amount of weight they typically can. 

As the rule of the thumb, it is better that you drop your weight to around five to ten pounds for the eccentric training. Normally, you would be squatting with the 20-pound of kettlebell. When it comes to about eccentric squat, you would need to use the 15 or 10 pounds of the kettlebell. 

When you are experimenting for finding the correct weight for you, just make sure that your method of exercise is solid. Here you should make sure that the form is not sacrificed through the weight.  

That means when you are swapping the 15-pound dumbbells for the five pound one, you would still feel more challenging and even feel like going lighter. You need to perform the move using your bodyweight. Here, it is all about coming first.

Prioritize Recovery

This is an important fact regarding the eccentric training is the prioritizing recovery. This would somewhat increase the delayed onset of the muscle soreness (DOMS) and that is one of the major soreness that can be up to around 72 hours, just after you do a tough and hard work out.

In the eccentric workout, the weight would be placed on the muscles and that would be greater than the amount of the force produced by the muscles. Here this so-called imbalance would lead to the microscopic damage to the muscles compared to the concentric training.

That means if you do eccentric training, it is especially important to prioritize recovery afterward so that your muscles can have the downtime and support they need to build back stronger. The recovery contains hydrating, foam rolling, eating protein. All these helps with muscle repair and growth and sleeping.

It is recommended to wait 48 to 72 hours just before you train the same muscles eccentrically again. That would ensure your muscles have enough time to recover.

How Can One Add More Safety to Eccentric Based Training and Routine?

Here almost all kinds of exercise would be able to be done using the eccentric force. That means you can be incorporating such kind of training on the various kinds of strength workouts.

You can do the eccentric exercises in a slow manner. Also, it can be done with the control manner and even you can add some muscle time under the tension.

Well, just try doing all the three-second count on the lengthening phase of the exercise. That can be a one-second count right on the shortening phase. Generally, most trainers recommend doing around eight to ten reps per each exercise and two or three sets.

Wrapping Up

Eccentric exercises are the best means to strengthen your body and muscles. You can try them and see for yourself. So, do not wait. Go ahead and do these awesome exercises.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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