Eccentric exercises – who are they for and what results do they bring?

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Eccentric muscle training is an increasingly common exercise model in sports, and many people actually praise it a lot. What does it consist of and what results can you count on? 

Eccentric phase – what is it?

To understand the idea of eccentric muscle training, you need to refresh your knowledge of the division of skeletal muscle contractions. A muscle contracting during exercise can work in the concentric phase, shortening while doing the work. The barbell press or the positive movement during a pull-up on a bar are the most frequently mentioned exercises in which we are dealing precisely with the concentric phase. Muscles can also work in the eccentric phase of interest, in which the muscle lengthens. We have to deal with this phase, for example, when descending while performing a squat or in the negative phase of lowering oneself on a bar. It is worth being aware of the existence of an isometric phase, in which the muscle tenses without changing its length.

Eccentric exercises – what do they consist of?

How does the eccentric phase differ from the concentric phase in practice? First of all, the fact that during the eccentric phase our muscle can work at a load 10% to even 60% higher! The difference is best illustrated by the example of barbell pressing. If we assume that a given athlete presses a maximum of 100 kg in one repetition, then he is able to perform eccentric training with a load of up to 160 kg. It’s easy to see that this kind of training is done at a higher load on muscle fibers. In addition, compared to the concentric phase, the time under tension also increases – 3-8 seconds is recommended here.

Eccentric exercises – training effects

Increased load combined with a definite increase in time under tension leads to increased damage to muscle fibers, which is the basis when it comes to effective muscle tissue growth. It’s no surprise that eccentric training is so readily used in strength training and natural bodybuilding. The increase in muscle strength and explosiveness of the muscle is a great benefit for those practicing any other sport – whether we are talking about combat sports, team games or athletics.

Among the arguments in favor of eccentric exercises is their use in rehabilitation – they improve the range of motion in the joint, strengthen tendons and have a positive effect on the nervous system. It has been proven that this type of training performed regularly over 12 weeks can be helpful in the treatment of Achilles tendinopathy. Eccentric exercises increase the synthesis of collagen proteins in the damaged tendon several times, significantly reducing recovery time. 

We also have good news for people who are not fond of classical stretching – eccentric exercises can be a valuable and even slightly safer alternative to it. Static stretching has the distinction of increasing our mobility only temporarily and can lead to a variety of injuries. When performing eccentric weight training, we are not only able to stretch our muscles, but also improve their glide in the fascia. The increase in joint mobility is much greater with eccentric exercises than with stretching.

main photo: Freitas

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