What is "eccentric training" and should you try it?

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Resistance training is important part of your exercises routine if you want to see faster results, stay fit, and maintain good health.

But strength exercises vary in several ways. When force is produced to overcome a load and the muscle is shortened, the action is referred to as “concentric.” When force is produced while the muscle lengthens, the action is referred to as “eccentric.”

So you focus on moves that are working muscles as they lengthen, rather than as they contract, Alyssa Exposito, a personal trainer at NYSC, says.

How it works

“If you’re doing pushups,” she adds, “do two slow counts and one explosive. Make is “eccentric” by starting at the top and going as low as you can but very slowly. This is much better for women who don’t do the standard pushup and kneel to make it easier.

 “If you’re doing bicep curls, lower the dumbbells very slowly.” You are going to feel the burn as the muscles resists the load but they are still extending. The muscles are under tension for longer, which is stimulating muscle growth.

Benefits

People incorporate eccentric training into a workout to build strength and to better control movements, Exposito says. “It’s good for muscle coordination and improving range of motion and balance.”

When done correctly, eccentric exercise may have several other benefits including increased strength across a variety of movement speeds, increased muscle power and sport performance, according to American College of Sports Medicine.   

Because you are moving slower, the body is learning better how and what muscles need to be engaged whatever you do.

Who should do it?

Another benefit is less cardiovascular stress while still increases muscle power, she adds. That’s why many people recommend it for older people. It’s important, though, to use your body weight as resistance first before you start loading. Squats are a perfect example; use a chair for extra support.

Eccentric training is also suggested for people who are coming out of injury, Exposito says, because it’s less stress on the joints and tendons.

“Anyone can really do eccentric training as long as they modify the exercises appropriately,” she adds.

However, people with arthritis should lean away from this type of resistance training because it could worsen the pain, according to Exposito.

Downside

“[Eccentric training] is not your typical contraction movement,” she says. “It increases the susceptibility to muscle soreness,” Exposito adds.

You should give yourself a break of at least 2-3 days in between sessions because the muscle forces that are generated during slow eccentric overloading are high.

Make sure you warm up “very extensively” for at least 10 minutes so you can execute proper exercise form in order to avoid injury and pain.

Weights

“You can absolutely do maximal load but you must do fewer reps,” Exposito says. After you get comfortable with this routine, and then maybe do eccentric training twice a week with 8-12 reps, she adds.

Exercises

You can implement eccentric resistance training on almost any exercise, Exposito says.

A few examples:

Bench press: Go down in 4-6 counts, and then come up.

Pull ups: Go down slowly in about 5 counts, and then take back up.

Straight leg raise: Start from a prone position, draw your knee up to your chest, extend your leg and very slowly lower it down to the floor.

More readings: 

Strength Training Exercises, No Weights Needed

The Best Strength Moves for Losing Fat

Flat Abs Without a Single Crunch, Plank, or Burpee

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