Eccentric training builds whopping strength. Here's how to do it.

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Muscle Building

Estimated reading time: 5mins

Biceps Dumbbell Concentration Curls

Eccentric training for more strength gains

Also called the "negative" phase of your rep, it's simply the movement on the way down. This is what I mean:

The eccentric movement. Boom
The eccentric movement. Boom

So why all the eccentric fuss?

Because you produce greater muscle forces in the eccentric phase, up to20-60 per centMORE than during the concentric phase!

And if that's not enough to excite you for your next workout, consider those eccentric contractions might just have the greatest effect on muscle growth.

You're really testing your muscles and stretching them out, which send the clear signal: "it's time to grow, ya'll!"

Also, the three principles of muscle growth are:

  1. Mechanical Tension
  2. Metabolic Stress
  3. Muscle Damage

And eccentric training fits right into number 3; inducing muscle damage so your muscles can get larger.

Moreover, the energy cost of an eccentric contraction is less than a concentric contraction (lifting the weight up), despite all that muscle force being generated.

So are you thinking what I'm thinking?

You can lift MORE weight, with LESS effort with an eccentric contraction and it won't TIRE you out as much as lifting weight up.

Now that's a juicy finding.

Ok, so how do we put all of this into practice?

Eccentric training for more muscle growth

Let's start with the 2 to 1 technique using a crowd favorite: biceps.

In the context of a concentration curl, you would lift the weight up by holding a dumbbell in your left hand and using your right hand to also lift it.

Concentration curls
Concentration curls

Try lifting at 70% of your one-rep max, and going heavier if you feel you can.

Then, focus on the eccentric contraction on the way down, making sure you don't rush it (3-5 seconds is ideal). And that’s when you’d take your other hand away.

 With leg presses for example, use BOTH legs to push the weight up, then one leg to bring it back down.

Try 3-5 reps, resting about 60 seconds in between, and then doing the other leg. You can do up to four sets if you like, totally up to you.

You can apply this to many machines that allow you to work a limb independently. Obviously, squats and barbell bench press are out.

Then there's the Two-movement technique.

For example, chest. Get into position on the bench press and choose a weight that's 80-110% of your one-rep max.

  • Step 1: Press the weight up, and take 5 seconds to come down for the eccentric movement.
  • Step 2: Then press the barbell back up to the midpoint of the contraction (halfway to the top)
  • Step 3: Take another 5 seconds to bring it down.

And that's one rep.

And you can perform this with many different exercises like squats, tricep presses, etc.

For the third technique, we'll call it the super-slow technique.

Here, you chose a weight at 60-85% of your one-rep max.

And here's the key point, the lower the percentage of the one-rep max you chose, the longer you can take to lower the weight down.

But if you chose 85% of your one-rep max then you might want to look at 4-7 seconds only. But you do you; you'll know what's best.

Rest for around 60-90 seconds, and then go again.

The "It's all you, bro!" technique is another strategy that will really test you.

I'm sure you've seen gym-goers bench pressing a weight they clearly can't handle, with their whole army behind them helping them lift it and screaming: "It's all, you bro!"

Well laugh all you like, but these bros are actually doing their muscles a lot of good!

It's all you, bro!
It's all you, bro!

To do it right, throw on some weight that's 110-120% of your one-rep max (yep, things are getting serious).

Now make sure your spotter (up to three if need be) can lift it easily.

Make sure they're experienced; don't make the mistake of plucking Nino newbie from the cardio area and be surprised when they can't lift it.

So, minus Nino, bring the weight down over 8-10 seconds with a solid spotter.

And if you want to go all Hercules up in here, aim for 130% of your one-rep max and bring the weight down over 4-5 seconds.

These techniques are going to make a serious difference to your gains. You can start these techniques after three-eight weeks of "normal" training to ensure you don't get fatigued, but again, this will vary depending on your experience and training status.

The bottom line on Eccentric training

Is that focusing on the eccentric movement during a muscle contraction (the way down) can be very beneficial for muscle growth. Muscle forces are 20-60% higher and eccentric movements might have the greatest effect on muscle growth. Moreover, eccentric movements tie in with the third principle of muscle growth: muscle damage. Eccentric contractions also use less energy, meaning you can lift more weight with less effort, and they won't tire you out as much as concentric contractions. The 2 to 1 technique, two-movement technique, super-slow technique and the "it's all you, bro!" strategies are great ways to successfully get started with eccentric training.

References:

  • Hollander DB, Kraemer RR, Kilpatrick MW, Ramadan ZG, Reeves GV, Francois M, Hebert EP, Tryniecki JL. Maximal eccentric and concentric strength discrepancies between young men and women for dynamic resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Feb;21(1):34-40. doi: 10.1519/R-18725.1. PMID: 17313264.
  • Hather BM, Tesch PA, Buchanan P, Dudley GA. Influence of eccentric actions on skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance training. Acta Physiol Scand. 1991 Oct;143(2):177-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.1991.tb09219.x. PMID: 1835816
  • Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. PMID: 20847704.
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