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Is Eccentric Training More Effective Than a Concentric One

First let us see what is the difference between eccentric and concentric training?  To summarize, it is safe to say that concentric exercises focus on the contracting or shortening phase of the muscles while eccentric exercises concentrate on the extracting or elongating phase of the muscles.  It has been shown by a scientist named Fick since the nineteenth century that a muscle under stretch, such as in an eccentric movement, is capable of producing more force than a contracting muscle.  While it always pays to have a positive outlook on things and a positive attitude in life in general, when it comes to working out, it pays to be negative… indeed eccentric training is sometimes called negative training.  Having said that, eccentric exercises have been proven to also be effective combined with concentric ones.

Movement in Eccentric vs Concentric
Movement in Eccentric vs Concentric. Courtesy - regopestudies.wikispaces.com

How is Eccentric Training Effective?

Since negative or eccentric exercising is very intense, it can substantially increase the muscle mass in a relatively short time.  This form of training also produces stronger muscles.  For you to fully understand the meaning of an eccentric exercise, take the example of the lifting of a dumbbell.  While you are lifting it you are doing a concentric action but while you are lowering it to the original position, you are doing an eccentric action.  Eccentric workouts concentrate on that part of different exercises and because during that phase you are actually stronger by at least 20 percent than during concentric phases, you can use heavier weights during the eccentric phase.  Using heavier weights will place more tension on the muscles and this will stimulate satellite cells that will result in increased growth of the muscles.

How eccentric training helps
How eccentric training helps. Courtesy - bjsm.bmj.com

A Guide to Training Eccentrically

First of all, you should use a counterbalanced exercise machine that is more stable.  A good one is the Smith Machine because when you start the exercise, with this type of machine, you need only a low starting resistance.  That is what you should look for in the concentric phase of the exercise then at the eccentric phase you will need more resistance to bring the weight back down.  You should load the machine with only around 70% of the weight you are usually comfortable with for one rep of an exercise.  Because of the way Smith machines, or other counterbalanced machines, are made you can pull the weight with both arms or legs and then do the opposite or eccentric phase using only one limb counting down from four.  Remember to alternate the left and right sides for each rep.  Aim for a count of 10 concentric reps that allows for each limb to get 5 eccentric movements.

A note of caution is important here; do not overdo the eccentrics though as it is strenuous.  Limit them to two exercises on a total of six exercises per body part and take breaks of four minutes after each set.   Concerning the eccentric workout, it is best to focus on one body part for about eight weeks at a rate of once per week then switch to another body part.

Kelvin McKenzie

Kelvin wears many hats in the fitness and health industry. He believes in a practical, flexible and sustainable approach to bodybuilding. Initially Kelvin had started bodybuilding as a hobby which turned into passion and later, a successful career. He shares his expertise on strength training and body building to help the GFY community.

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