Today’s topic, eccentric training! And by that, don’t mean wondering around the gym in an odd or strange manner, I mean the way you perform your reps. So first things first, a quick lesson of what’s what.
Starting with the concentric phase, otherwise known as the ‘positive’, this is when the muscle fibres shorten during the contraction. This is the ‘up’ motion of movements such as squats, bench press and shoulder press.
Then you have the isometric phase of the lift, whereby the muscle fibres contract, but there is no movement. For example, when you’re squatting and pausing at the bottom, this is isometric. Or holding the bar of your chest whilst performing a bench press.
And our focus of the day, THE ECCENTRIC PHASE, which is often referred to as a ‘negative’ rep. This is the part of the movement where the muscle fibres lengthen whilst contracting. This would be the down motion of a squat, bench press or shoulder press. It often feels as though this is the easiest part of the movement because at the eccentric phase you’re at your strongest! Your body can lift anything up to 1.75x MORE of a load. What a great way of training? Lifting heavier and growing more muscle!
A benefit of eccentric training is that it strengthens your tendons. Resistance training causes skeletal muscle damage, if it’s done right! (If you’re bored during your workout and looking around, you’re probably not going hard enough, so get that ass into gear). By causing skeletal muscle damage, we’re causing ‘positive damage’. We’re allowing the body to repair itself and grow on top of this. Due to the controlled reps performed in eccentric training, it can be used to rehabilitate ruptured tendons and utilised as an injury prevention method to training.
Eccentric training can also help to increase flexibility and has been found to be more effective than static stretching. Eccentric training has been proven to increase hip range-of-motion by an average of 22 percent.
‘What weight should I use?’ And the answer to this is 150% of what you can handle on the concentric phase. If you’re using anything less than this, you won’t be pushing yourself to your full potential. Quite frankly, you’re not utilising the eccentric training method correctly and may as well not bother!
‘So how do I use the eccentric method?’ I hear your scream! Well my friends, it’s all about fighting the resistance of the negative rep (so lowering the weight slowly, or as slow as possible), fighting gravity and not wanting to let it go! Like that Reese’s bar you plucked up the courage to grab and now just don’t want to give up. So let’s talk tempo on wide grip lat pull down; you’ve ‘yanked’ (I mean controlled) it to your chest (that’s 1-elephant), no hold at the chest (isometric phase, no-elephants) and the part we’re concerned with, ECCENTRIC, the slow release and returning the bar to the top of the movement (3-elephants). That gives you a 1-0-3.
Another method that can be used is the 2/1. This method is best used for machines, because let’s face it, no-one wants a barbell falling on their head! This is where you lift the weight with both arms and release with one, therefore provide a greater weight for your eccentric phase. You can also use this method for laying hamstring curls and tricep extensions with a cable rope.
Two final ways of working eccentrically are cheat curls (where it is pretty much impossible to complete the concentric phase without jerking the body and using everything you have to fight that drop of the weight) and two move technique (dumb bell chest press into pec flyes, one rep). I would suggest these methods for the more experienced trainer when you’ve got a handle on the most basic movements of the eccentric rep.
SUMMER BODY TIPS: for those of you wanting to strut around in a bikini (or those budgie smugglers) whilst sporting your stunning abs, negative reps work perfectly! Remember to maintain a slow eccentric phase to keep the muscles under strain for a longer period of time.
Power Moves Fitness Blogger
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Goulet, C. (2017). Positive Muscle Gains: Eccentric Training! Retrieved from: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/goulet4.htm
Poliquin Group. (2017). Ten Things You MUST Know About Eccentric Training To Get Better Results. Retrieved from: http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1575/Ten_Things_You_MUST_Know_About_Eccentric_Training_.aspx
Thompson, B. (2015). Eccentric Training for More Muscle. Retrieved from:https://www.t-nation.com/training/eccentric-training-for-more-muscle