Now I’ve been told on many occasions that I’m eccentric, but when it comes to weight training that’s actually a very different thing. Eccentric training means focusing on the “lowering” aspect of a movement, as opposed to the lifting or pushing aspect of a movement. Concentric actions start a movement, while eccentric actions slow them down. Think of a bodyweight push up. The action of pushing up from the ground to a plank is the concentric action while lowering your body to the ground is the eccentric action.
Your muscles shorten and tense up during the concentric part of the movement and they contract and lengthen during eccentric or “lowering” part. Resisting the urge to make grunting noises and slam weight around takes a great deal of effort, but eccentric training can have huge benefits if you do it right.
1. Slower movements and better form
Eccentric actions can take longer, focusing on a slower count as you lower the weight rather than firing out as many reps as you can before your brain realises how painful it is. So while concentric training focuses on the amount of weight you can lift/push/pull, eccentric training allows for more of a focus on good form, as the goal is to take longer to lower the weight in order to break more muscle fibres and increase strength.
Eccentric exercises allow you to not only strengthen your muscles but also the connective tissues in the body helping to prevent injuries and rehab any aches and pains you already have.
2. Get stronger and breaking plateaus
Eccentric training capitalises on the fact that you’re able to lower more weight that you can lift. This makes eccentric training a great way to break through plateaus in your training or approach movements you wouldn’t consider as you don’t have the strength levels yet.
A great example of this is pull-ups. For those who aren’t yet strong enough to pull their body weight up, focussing instead on the eccentric action of lowering your body slowly can help build strength and increase your confidence using a pull-up bar.
However, while eccentric movements are great for drastically increase your strength gains, they also tend to drastically increase delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). So you’ll make more gains with eccentric training, but you’ll also be in more pain while you do it.
3. Improved flexibility
Performing eccentric exercises can greatly reduce the need for dedicated flexibility workouts. With the focus of your movement on the eccentric phase, you’ll not only be more focused on form but also range of motion. With less desire to “cheat” and shorten the range of movement in order to achieve those more difficult lifts, eccentric training could work to increase your range and flexibility over time.
In one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study of 75 athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as much as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching.
4. Increasing your metabolic rate
Research has shown that slowing down the eccentric phase of a movement can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR) – that is the number of calories you burn while at rest.
One study of 16 participants (which admittedly is not a lot) in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eccentric training boosts RMR for up to 72 hours post-exercise. Which does seem to make sense, as eccentric exercise causes more muscle damage, and therefore should require more energy to repair it.
So even though research on this topic is still fairly limited, the added benefit of greater metabolic boosts is a good enough reason to try adding a few eccentric exercises to your training.
Gay Personal Trainers
If you fancy adding some eccentric training to your workouts but you’re not sure where to start, you might benefit from working with a gay personal trainer. They can design a training and nutrition program to suit your individual needs, and be on hand to help coach you towards your goals.
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