If you’ve trained with me for any amount of time, chances are you’ve done an eccentric workout with me. Maybe you didn’t know it, but you have- and there’s an even greater chance you’ve gotten stronger because of such workouts.
Why do I make all my clients do eccentric workouts at some point?? Well, there are so many reasons, but let’s talk a bit about what the heck this means first…
Eccentric exercise essentially means working the muscle harder during the lengthening phase of a muscle contraction. This is achieved by slowing down the rate of movement to provide greater resistance.
Let’s break down the phase of a muscle contraction:
A. Concentric Phase – this is when the muscle you are working is shortening against resistance/gravity.
B. Isometric Phase– this is when the muscle is technically stationary. It often occurs as the “transition” stage between the muscle shortening and lengthening.
C. Eccentric Phase– this is when the muscle lengthens under load (gravity/resistance).
Eccentric exercise would mean slowing down that last phase, thus working the muscle harder in two phases of the muscle contraction. Win/win!
Example: during a biceps curl, it would take about 2-3 seconds to bring the weight up to the front of your shoulder. At this point, most people just let the weight “drop” (well, hopefully not “drop”, but most times we lower it somewhat quickly and without much thought. When you’re doing eccentric training, you’re gonna intentionally lower the weight slowly (I usually do it to a count of 3-4 seconds). So, double the work!!
Yep- yay for sure. Here’s why we wanna practice eccentric movements:
For one, being able to slow down your body against gravity is actually super important for many FUNCTIONAL moves. Think walking downhill safely and with control or lowering yourself into a chair without just falling into it (working in various rehab centers as an Occupational Therapist, I can tell you this one is important for protecting your bones, spine and joints)! If you have trouble rising up and getting down to a chair unsupported, you are not alone, but you should work with a professional sooner than later. But I digress…
Some other benefits of eccentric training:
✨it makes your muscles stronger. It just really really does.
✨it’s a beneficial type of training for many sports (skiing, soccer, basketball, running).
✨it’s a great type of workout to do if you’re strapped for time. Because your muscles are essentially working 2x as hard with each exercise, you definitely get more bang for your buck.
✨when performed correctly, it can actually decrease your risk of injury by adding more control to your movements and making you stronger at the same time.
You definitely don’t need to do this type of training every time you work out. But, it’s helpful for many of us, so I have my clients do it as part of regular strength programming. You should consult with a trainer or physical therapist before initiating this type of training on your own, so that you understand which phase is the eccentric phase of each movement (as it changes with every exercise) and so that you know your form is good. But, once you’ve learned this format, I highly recommend integrating it in your routine.
Here’s a quick eccentric circuit to try on your own (I usually do 10 reps of each, twice through):
- Biceps curls
- Shoulder press
- Right side lunge
- Left side lunge
- Chest press
- Tricep extensions (I prefer to do these supine- meaning on my back)
- Hammer curls
I’d love to hear if you’ve tried eccentric workouts before and what your favorite exercises are.
And, as always, if you could benefit from a session or free consult, make sure you click on the “contact me” section of this page.
Here’s to a STRONG week ahead 💪💪💪
To your health!