Eccentric Weight Training

Marjus Tahiraj

Sometimes during training sessions, clients will ask me why we perform the lowering portion of a movement so slowly. I love being asked this question because it affords me the opportunity to explain the methodology behind one of my favorite training techniques: Eccentric Training (emphasizing the “negative,” or lowering part, of any concentric/eccentric lift).

Eccentric Training is commonly used in athletic training programs and physical therapy settings, especially when focusing on rehabbing ligament injuries, because the benefits are extensive. In essence, this type of training focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscle process so that the muscles are more acutely challenged while under a load. This leads to stronger muscles, increased metabolic activity and faster muscle repair. Eccentric Training is a great way to teach someone how to stabilize and control their body-weight, while also teaching proper form; strengthening the mind-body connection.

I began exploring this style of training when I was suffering from back pain. I was lifting weights incorrectly, and the injuries were piling up. I was always in pain and I was very frustrated. I do not believe in the “no pain, no gain” theory of exercise. I do believe, however, that our bodies can do amazing things if we treat them well and have the right exercise programs in place. I changed my whole training regimen to incorporate an Eccentric Training routine and the results were undeniable. I have since implemented Eccentric Training, in some form or other, with 85% of my clients.

Studies have shown that Eccentric Training can be beneficial to those who are trying to lose weight, too. While an eccentric contraction uses less energy and oxygen than a concentric contraction, the negative movement creates more force. This enhances muscle growth but also increases the rate of metabolism, and the conversion of energy, promoting weight loss. And we all know, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Building muscle allows you to eat more, while looking better and feeling stronger. According to research conducted at Wayne State University, a full-body eccentric workout increased the resting metabolism in athletes by nine percent for up to three hours following an exercise session.

Eccentric Training can also build muscle size and strength more efficiently than standard concentric-eccentric movements. It is important to remember, however, that since we are focusing on elongating the muscle slowly by lowering the weights downward, we must be mindful of how much weight we are using. In order to avoid injury, (since pushing or pulling the weight back up is more strenuous than lowering it) it is recommended that you are using 50-70% of your max capacity or 1RM (one-repetition maximum) while you are performing eccentric-based movements. Additionally, eccentric exercise strengthens your muscles and your connective tissues, which helps to prevent injuries and improve mobility.

I have found Eccentric Training to be greatly beneficial to my older clients. I have seen them get stronger and faster, all while accumulating less aches and less complications with their form. Eccentric Training can help increase bone strength and density, in turn lowering the risk of osteoporosis.

As you consider any new workout program, it is wise to have an expert coach or trainer help you to set your limits and perfect your form. The results of Eccentric Training are proven and I strongly suggest that you try incorporating this style of training into your workout regimen. You will not be disappointed!

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