Training

Why You Should Focus on Eccentric Training for Muscle Growth

It doesn’t matter what day it is because no matter which exercise you are utilising, that muscle group will have to move through three distinct phases: lifting (the muscle shortens), pausing (the muscle is still working but not shortening or lengthening) and lowering (the muscle is lengthening). While you would think that the greatest benefit for training would come during the lifting phase, studies show that it’s the lowering portion of the lift where you’ll find the real gains. This focus on the eccentric phase of exercise can be applied across most fitness areas.

So whether you are looking to gain a maximum amount of muscle mass, get shredded for the stage, or amplify your sports performance, the gains lie in the lowering (eccentric phase). Let’s review what the eccentric entails and how it can boost the results you’re after.

WHAT IS THE ECCENTRIC PHASE?

Short and sweet: It is the time during one repetition of an exercise where you are focusing on returning to the starting position. For example, think about a dumbbell curl. When you are lowering a dumbbell back down to your hips; that is the eccentric phase. Depending on what your goals are, you can alter the tempo, or speed, at which you lower the weight to suit what you’re after.

LIFTING VS. LOWERING

Is there really a difference between lifting and lowering a weight? The weight is moving along the same line. The only difference is which direction it’s headed. That’s not a big deal, right? Wrong.

The lifting portion of an exercise is pretty straightforward. You are simply moving the weight to the isometric position. Now, contrast that with lowering. As you lower, your muscle fibres take on the following added tasks:

  • Secure the weight (balanced and supported)
  • Descend at the correct speed (you don’t want to just drop the weight down)
  • Continue to work against the weight as you lower

While that last point seems counterintuitive, think about it as if the weight is pulling your arm down and you have to resist it. You are essentially trying to lift the weight although you know you will be lowering it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Several key studies have demonstrated the efficiency of the eccentric portion of lifting for maximising tension and resistance.

Consider the Romanian Deadlift as an example. Standing tall and holding the weight, you must slowly begin to shift your hips back. Your lower and upper back are in a perfect straight line. Your core is braced. Your knees stay bent throughout the movement as you continue to drive your hips back. This is the eccentric portion of the lift. All of your attention lies in controlling the weight and movement as you activate the hamstring muscles. This is where the real magic happens. This is where you are causing the micro tears in your muscle that will later heal and allow for maximum muscle growth.

These added tasks stack up the resistance during an exercise and if utilised correctly, you will see major improvements in your overall fitness. Let’s take a look at common fitness goals and how you can apply the right tempo and volume to your lifting.

MUSCLE BUILDING AND STRENGTH

Studies show that the stress placed on the muscle fibres during the eccentric lifting phase produces the greatest results in your Type II muscle fibres. If you are looking to gain size and/or strength, here is my recommended tempo, or speed, and volume at which you should be lifting your weight:

Power:

  • 85% to 100% of your one-repetition maximum
  • Heaviest weight- Use 1 to 4 repetitions per set
  • Concentric (lifting – the muscle shortens): X (as quickly as you can while also maintaining perfect form for safety)
  • Isometric (pausing – the muscle is still working but not shortening or lengthening): X (same as above)
  • Eccentric (lowering – the muscle is lengthening): X (same as above)

Strength:

  • 75% to 85% of your one-repetition maximum
  • Heavy weight- Use 3 to 8 repetitions per set
  • Concentric (lifting): 2 seconds
  • Isometric (pausing): 1 second
  • Eccentric (lowering): 2 seconds

Muscle:

  • 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum
  • Lighter weights- Use 8 to 12 repetitions per set
  • Concentric (lifting): 2 seconds
  • Isometric (pausing): 0 second
  • Eccentric (lowering): 3-4 seconds

Endurance:

  • 50% to 65% of your one-repetition maximum
  • Lightest weight- Use 12 to 20 repetitions per set
  • Concentric (lifting): 1 seconds
  • Isometric (pausing): 0 second
  • Eccentric (lowering): 2-3 seconds

USING NEGATIVE TRAINING

With an emphasis on power and strength building, negative training is a powerful tool that produces huge results. It is the intentional overloading during the eccentric portion. You can breakdown negative training as such:

Assisted Negative Training:

  • Use 100% to 120% of your one-repetition maximum
  • Have a gym partner(s) help you during the concentric (lifting) portion
  • You are responsible for slowly lowering the weight
  • Your partner(s) will spot you for safety

Solo Negative Training:

  • Choose an exercise that you can perform 6 to 12 repetitions
  • Use 60% to 80% of your 1RM
  • After repetition number 4 or 5, extend the tempo, or speed, of the exercise
  • Example: Instead of 4 second repetition, increase the time to 6 seconds to complete one repetition
  • Do this for the last few reps

CONCLUSION

Tempo training as a whole is important but the real results come with the strict adherence to a specific speed during the eccentric phase. No matter your goal, stay safe. Focus on your form and posture, especially during the eccentric phase of the exercise. If you have questions about tempo training, CONTACT US now!

Share Button
Nikos Saklabanakis

Nikos Saklabanakis

Being passionate about health and fitness enables me to achieve my all time goal of guiding and supporting people through achieving their personal fitness dreams and being a significant part of dramatically changing their lives for the better.

1 Comment

  1. February 4, 2016 at 3:01 am — Reply

    This is very attention-grabbing, You’re a very
    professional blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and stay up for in quest of more
    of your wonderful post. Additionally, I’ve shared your website in my social networks

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *