Eccentric Training Part I: Smart, not Kooky  

 by Jari Love

         First of all what is eccentric training?  Eccentric training doesn’t mean exercising in a kooky way it simply means that the focus of the training session is on slowing down the eccentric, or lengthening, phase of the muscle movement. When we perform an exercise like a bicep curl, our muscles both contract and elongate. The contraction phase of the movement is called the concentric phase and when the muscle is lengthening, this is called the eccentric phase.

            Eccentric training uses slow, controlled movements during resistance training to enhance the overall workout quality. This type of training puts more stress on muscles in both phases. This stress means a higher number of muscle fibers are fired because in both phases muscles are both contracting and relaxing; consequently, a more complete workout is experienced. The objective in eccentric training is to push the muscles to failure.  This happens by making them bear the weight, therefore keeping them in tension, for longer.

            We are actually strongest in the eccentric phase of a movement. This means that we can bear a heavier load for longer when our muscles lengthen. Because eccentric training focuses on slowing down this stronger phase, we can build greater strength during this type of training. Studies have shown that eccentric training can build 50% more muscle in 10 weeks than regular weight lifting. No wonder celebrities like Brad Pitt use this type of training when they need to build muscle fast.

Eccentric training can be safer than traditional resistance training.  Because the concentration is on long, slow movements, there are no erratic or jerky motions.  If we lower, or worse, swing weights without control, then we not only risk injury but we also miss out on all the benefits of slow training. Eccentric training can be done by any individual safely because slow training diminishes erratic movements to allow greater attention to form and quality of movement.

Resistance training in general offers many benefits including: improved muscular strength, increased muscle mass, greater bone density, greater flexibility of joints. Additionally, as you build strength, this increased muscle raises our resting metabolism which means that we will continue to burn more calories even after our workout is over.  

Eccentric training delivers all these benefits as well as some extra advantages. By bearing muscle tension for longer periods of time, slow training offers many benefits. Eccentric training recruits of a higher number of reserve muscle fibers which allows for greater long-term gains in strength. Eccentric training also stimulates our metabolism to an even greater extent than traditional strength training and therefore can result in greater weight loss.

Bottom line: Eccentric training increases weight loss, improves strength, balance and stability, improves and stimulates gains in bone density reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis as well as reducing risks of hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.

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