If you're looking for reasons to add eccentric training to your workout, check out: 5 Reasons To Add Eccentric Training To Your Routine.
While you’re likely making gains with your traditional-style training, adding eccentric work may be just what you need to get over that training hump.
Despite the fact that conventional strength training does include eccentric loads, your concentric abilities limit the eccentric portion of the lift. This prevents the eccentric contractions from meeting the necessary overload stimulus, resulting in undertrained muscle fibers.
By not pushing your muscles to their limits, you’re keeping your body from reaching its full potential. With this in mind, there are a few concepts to factor in when planning out your eccentric routine. Eccentric training allows for bigger loads, increased time under tension, and delays the onset of muscle fiber fatigue.
In a nutshell, your eccentric curriculum should employ a combination of supra-maximum loads, higher volume, and slow movements.
While there are numerous eccentric training strategies, two of the most common techniques are negatives and the two/one method.
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1. Negative Technique
Negative training is probably one of the most popular means of training eccentrically.
When thinking of the negative-style technique, for most people, the first thing to come to mind is pull-ups. Negatives have long been employed to improve pull-up strength and reps. With pull-ups, it’s an easy method to implement; simply start with your chin above the bar then, very slowly, lower yourself down to a dead hang. You’ve got one rep.
The thing is, negatives can be used with almost any other exercise. The downfall with this technique is in most cases multiple spotters are necessary.
Take the squat for example. When doing eccentric work, you’re going to want to load the bar beyond your usual 1RM, anywhere from 105-130%. With the help of your spotters, un-rack the bar, descend into the squat as slow as possible through your full range of motion. Once you hit the bottom of the squat, allow your spotters to re-rack the bar.
If you lack the spotters or sufficient weight to perform a proper set of negatives, you can go with the slightly less taxing alternative.
Take your usual load and perform your exercises, making it a point to complete the eccentric portion of the exercise as slow as you possibly can. Using a lighter load, say 70% of your 1RM, will require a longer duration eccentric phase, while a heavier load will limit how long you can drag out the eccentric contraction.
The one pitfall of this method is you’ll find you burn out quicker due to the fact you’re still performing the concentric phase of the exercise. This will drain your energy stores much quicker than the eccentric-only version.
2. Two/One Technique
This is a relatively simple technique used to emphasize eccentric muscle actions.
With the two/one method, you’ll perform the concentric part of the exercise with both limbs while performing the eccentric portion with one limb.
This technique will slightly limit your exercise choices. Squats are still an option but I definitely advise the use of a Smith machine. In this case, the leg press may be a safer and more effective option. The cable machine can be used to for upper body exercises like rows and presses. With each exercise, perform up to five reps with each limb before switching to the other.
The two/one technique can be used with a variety of exercises involving both the upper and lower body. When it comes to choosing a work load, an appropriate weight will allow you to move through the concentric phase as quickly as possible, but still be challenging during the eccentric phase.
Eccentric Training Considerations
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of an eccentric training program, the recommendations are still a bit inconclusive. Because eccentric training is such a new concept, there currently exist no formal guidelines.
A very recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared an eccentric 1RM bench press with a concentric 1RM bench press and came up with some pretty interesting findings.
When it came to the maximum load the subjects could handle, the eccentric load was 124% greater than the concentric load. The researchers found that the subjects were able to perform a significantly greater number of reps at 90% of their 1RM during the eccentric training, compared to the concentric training.
These findings go to show eccentric and concentric training programs are not interchangeable. More research is needed to determine the precise recommendations for an eccentric training protocol. Until then, do some experimenting to establish how your body responds to this type of training and what works best for you.
Start conservatively with just a rep or two, and concentrate on the speed of the movement; the slower, the better. Heavier loads will allow for eccentric movements of only three to six seconds. Working with loads of lower intensity will give you the opportunity to extend the eccentric window to upwards of 15 seconds.
Eccentric training works through the mechanical disruption of the muscle tissue, resulting in muscle damage. While some damage is necessary for muscle adaptation, eccentric training has the potential to push your body past these limits resulting in overreaching and, ultimately, overtraining if taken too far. Introduce an eccentric stimulus slowly, giving your body ample time to adapt.
As your muscles respond to the new demands, you’ll begin to experience gains in strength and hypertrophy you were previously missing.
Kelly S, Brown L, Hooker S, Swan P, Buman M, Alvar B, Black L. Comparison of Concentric and Eccentric Bench Press Repetitions to Failure. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 29; 1027-1032, 2015.