concentric vs eccentric

Concentric vs. Eccentric: Slow it Down

Table of Contents

Working out to get stronger and more muscular is hard work. But it’s also precise work. Mindlessly throwing weights around won’t get you the results you’re after. In order to maximally stimulate your muscle fibers, you need to train smart. A key to smart training is to focus on the repetition phases to get the most benefit from them. That means knowing how to manipulate the concentric vs. eccentric parts of the movement. This article will show you precisely how to do it.

The Phases of the Rep

Repetition is the most basic part of your workout. Get it right, and everything else will flow. Every repetition you complete on every exercise you perform has the following three phases:

  • Concentric
  • Transition
  • Eccentric

The concentric or positive phase is the lifting part. For example, when you do the leg extension exercise, the concentric part is when you push against the pads to bring your legs up to full extension. During this phase, you are shortening or contracting the muscle fibers.

The transition phase is the pause between the concentric and the eccentric phase.

The eccentric, or negative, phase lowers the weight back to the start position. During this phase, you are lengthening or extending the muscle fiber.

When a workout program is written out, the cadence, or speed, of the 3 phases is often included. This is written in the following manner: 1-1-2. Meaning that the concentric phase would take 1 second, the transition phase would take 1 second, and the eccentric phase would take 2 seconds. 

Eccentric Phase Benefits

Several unique benefits have been identified for the eccentric part of the rep. Firstly, you are stronger during the eccentric muscle contraction. That means that you can lower more weight than you can lift. It has been estimated that we have the capacity to handle as much as 1.25 times more weight on the eccentric than on the concentric phase of a movement. 

More weight means more potential muscle growth. There is greater muscle fiber recruitment and increased anabolic response. Research has also shown that concentrating on slow eccentric training can actually increase your concentric phase strength.

The eccentric part of the rep produces a higher level of muscle damage than the concentric part. When your goal is to increase the size and strength of your muscles, that’s a good thing. The more muscle fiber damage that occurs, the more potential there is to rebuild that muscle with rest and nutrition to grow it back slightly larger and slightly stronger than it was. 

The negative part of the rep also does a better job of strengthening your muscle ligaments and tendons. That’s because you are lengthening your muscles during this phase. Stronger connective tissue will make you less likely to suffer injury. 

When you emphasize the eccentric part of the rep, you, naturally, make the rep and then the set longer. This increases your time under tension. Research shows that the ideal time under tension for maximum muscle gains is between 45 and 55 seconds. 

The majority of weight trainers take less than 20 seconds to complete a set of 10-12 reps. Performing slow eccentric training with a cadence of 1-0-5 will put you in the sweet spot when it comes to time under tension. 

Focusing on a slow eccentric will also lessen your chances of injury while training. Most resistance training accidents occur during the lowering part of the rep. That’s usually because you lower the weight too fast. Strength through the eccentric muscle contraction will also make you less prone to an injury outside of the gym. It will allow you to recover when you begin to fall.

How to Train Eccentrically

There are three main ways to incorporate eccentric training into your training program:

  1. Slow Down – Perform the eccentric phase of the rep more slowly than you normally would. Use the 1-0-5 cadence, so that the lowering phase of the rep takes 5 seconds.
  2. Extend the Set – Concentric failure is the point where you can no longer lift the weight with proper form. At this point, however, you can still perform the eccentric phase. You can extend the intensity of the set by having a training partner assist you on the concentric phase and then doing the eccentric part without any assistance. This will allow you to get another 3-4 quality reps.
  3. Up Your Poundage – When you hit a plateau with the weight you are lifting on a particular exercise, you can use negatives to push beyond that level. Add an extra ten percent of the weight to the bar and have your training partner assist you during the concentric phase of the rep. Then perform the eccentric phase on your own, with a cadence of 1-0-5. Perform three sets of 6-8 reps. After three weeks of this eccentric-focused training, you will have pushed through your training plateau. 

Putting Eccentric Training Into Practice

It takes some time to get used to the slower cadence of eccentric training. Most of us are used to a one-second up, one-second down cadence, so slowing down to 5 seconds will take real focus. 5 Seconds is a long time when it comes to lowering weight. Concentrate on the feeling in the muscle as you slowly extend the muscle to its full range of motion. 

You will experience a greater level of muscle soreness when you begin to focus on the eccentric phase of the rep. Remember, that is a good thing as it indicates muscle fiber stress. 

An Eccentric Bodyweight Workout

Eccentric training isn’t all about lifting weights. You can and should incorporate eccentrics into your bodyweight workouts as well. In fact, it makes sense to start with eccentric bodyweight training and then advance to resistance moves once you have mastered the technique. Here is a sample eccentric bodyweight routine that you can do in your own home

The Exercises

Eccentric Squats

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pointing out slightly. Hold your hands at chest level clenched into fists.
  2. With your back slightly arched and your torso upright, push your butt back as you begin lowering into a deep squat. Keep your chest up as you go down. 
  3. To maximize the muscular force, push through your heels as you squat down and back – your knees should be coming forward. 
  4. Mentally focus on putting as much force as possible on just one leg. Try to put as much as your body weight as you can on that leg. This is a one-legged assisted squat.
  5. Take 5 seconds to go down. 
  6. Push yourself back up with both legs. 

Eccentric Push-Ups

  1. Lie on the floor, face down in a standard push-up position.
  2. Focus on lowering yourself to a slow, five-second count.
  3. As you lower, concentrate on squeezing your elbows together as you go down. This will work your chest far more effectively.
  4. Push back up to the start position, taking one second to go up. Hold the contracted position for one second.

Eccentric Pull-Ups

  1. Place a chair in front of a pull-up bar. Stand on the chair and pull yourself up to the top position of the pull-up bar so that your chin is at the level of the bar.
  2. Try to stay in this position for five seconds. Squeeze your back muscles as you resist the pull of gravity. 
  3. Lower to the start position and repeat.

Eccentric Reverse Dips

  1. Place a chair directly behind you and place your palms on the seat. Your knees should be bent and your arms straight.
  2. Lower yourself down to a count of five as you bring your butt toward the floor. Do not allow your elbows to drift apart.
  3. Push back to the start position.

Get the Most of Your Workouts

The best way to get the most out of your workouts is to do so under the guidance of a professional. Fort Fitness has many classes and opportunities to push yourself to the limits and get the most out of your training than you have ever got before; call us at 949-544-1557 to learn more! 

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