im trying to understand this eccentric lifts i heard from a friend. I’m wondering if it can be explained clearly hear on the board as my friend talks to fast. How does this work, you max out or reach a peak, and you proceed to do eccentric type lifts like squats do a partial slowly over 100% of your max to develop a better elastic reactive response? If it does help this type of lift when should i incoroporate it and how, should i do it when i plataue or throughout maintenance every once in awhile?
Try 3-5 singles at 100-120%. Only do them during impact weeks.
Eccentric Action Training
The eccentric action of a muscle refers to a resisted lengthening of that muscle. In short, the muscle is exerting force while it’s being lengthened. This type of action has also been called the yielding action (opposed to the overcoming action which refers to the actual lifting of the resistance) as well as negative action.
Eccentric action is present in most free weight and machine exercises; however, since concentric strength potential is lower than the eccentric strength potential, the yielding portion of a movement is rarely fully stimulated: the relative weakness of the overcoming portion prevents a complete overload during the yielding portion of the exercise.
As I’ll explain more in-depth later, it’s the yielding or negative portion of an exercise which gives us the most bang for our buck. So, an individual seeking maximum results should plan training methods emphasizing eccentric overload. How? I’m glad you asked.
Eccentric Stress as a Superior Stimulus for Strength Improvements
It’s been a while since we’ve known that the yielding (eccentric/negative) portion of an exercise is responsible for more strength gains than the overcoming (concentric/miometric/positive) portion. For example, a study by Hortobagyi and coworkers found that the total maximal strength improvement from eccentric-only training brought more strength gains than a concentric-only program followed for six weeks.
By total maximal strength, I mean the sum of maximum concentric, isometric, and eccentric strength. In that parameter, eccentric training gave a mean improvement of 85% while concentric training led to an improvement of 78%. Furthermore, this study used submaximal yielding actions and maximal overcoming actions. Surely this tells us a lot about the potential of yielding strength training, at least when maximum strength gains are concerned.
It’s to be noted that these results are in accordance with the body of scientific literature on the subject. For example, a study by Higbie et al. (1996) found a combined strength increase (concentric strength improvement plus eccentric strength improvement) of 43% with an eccentric-only regimen compared to one of 31.2% with a concentric-only regimen.
We should also note a study by Hilliard-Robertson and coworkers which concluded:
“A resistance training protocol which includes eccentric as well as concentric exercise, particularly when the eccentric is emphasized, appears to result in greater strength gains than concentric exercise alone.”
This is in accordance with an early study by Komi and Buskirk (1972) who recorded greater strength increases after an eccentric training regimen than after a concentric-only regimen. It was also found that omitting eccentric stress in a training program severely compromise the potential strength gains (Dudley et al. 1991).
Eccentric Stress as a Superior Stimulus for Muscle Growth
The last study mentioned above found that eccentric-only training led to an average muscle size gain of 6.6% over ten weeks while a concentric-only program led to gains of 5%. While the difference may not seems to be huge, any bodybuilder who knows his stuff understands that 2% more muscle over a ten week period can be important, especially in the long run.
These results are backed by another recent study (Farthing and Chilibeck 2003) which concluded that eccentric training resulted in greater hypertrophy than concentric training.
One recent study (LaStayo et al. 2003) even found accentuated eccentric training to cause 19% more muscle growth than traditional strength training over eleven weeks!
Why is Eccentric Training Effective?
Eccentric training allows one to stimulate greater strength and size gains than pure concentric training. Why is that? There are five major reasons:
- There’s a greater neural adaptation to eccentric training than to concentric training (Hortobagyi et al. 1996).
- There’s a more important force output produced during a maximal eccentric action (greater overload) because you can use a higher external load (Colliander and Tesch 1990).
- There’s a higher level of stress per motor unit during eccentric work. Less motor units are recruited during the eccentric portion of a movement, thus each of the recruited motor units receives much more stimulation (Grabiner and Owings 2002 , Linnamo et al. 2002). Furthermore, since the nervous system seems to recruit less motor units during a maximal eccentric action, the potential for improvement could be greater than with maximal concentric action.
- There’s some evidence that maximal eccentric actions will preferably recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are more responsive to muscle growth and strengthening (Nardone et al. 1989, Howell et al. 1995, Hortobagyi et al. 1996). In fact, eccentric training may stimulate an evolution towards a faster contractile profile (Martin et al. 1995).
- Most of the muscle microtrauma to the cells occurring during training is a result of the eccentric action performed (Brown et al. 1997, Gibala et al. 2000). It’s been established that this microtrauma acts as the signal to start the muscle adaptation process (Clarke and Feedback, 1996).
Further Benefits of Eccentric Training
For most of us, strength and size gains are the name of the game. However, the positive effects of negative training don’t stop there. We could also note the following “fringe” benefits:
- Greater cross-education will occur (Hortobagyi and Lambert 1997). Cross-education refers to transfer of strength gains from one limb/side to the other. In practical terms it means that if you were to work only your right arm using eccentric actions, some of the strength gains would transfer to the left arm. This can be very beneficial to prevent excessive strength loss if one limb is immobilized.
- Eccentric training is also a superior method to treat tendinitis when compared with concentric exercise (Mafi et al. 2001). It could be argued that this form of training is beneficial to injured athletes and that it’s relatively safer than concentric training even if the loads used are greater.
- A last point of interest is that strength gains from eccentric training are maintained longer during a period of detraining than concentric-only training (Collinder and Tesch 1992, Housh et al. 1996). This may be very important for athletes who can’t train as much during the season as they can in the off-season.
In Layman’s Terms, Please!
The last few sections were very dense in scientific information, but what does it all mean in the real world? It means:
- If you deemphasise the yielding portion of your strength exercises (lowering the bar very fast, not contracting your muscles during the eccentric portion, etc.) you might as well not be training at all, at least if maximum strength and size are important to you. Be careful though, it doesn’t mean you should accentuate/emphasize the eccentric stress in all of your exercises, just that some exercises should target a very large eccentric overload.
- Accentuating the eccentric stress during a session will lead to more strength gains. The reasons are related to structural as well as neural adaptations.
- The eccentric portion of a movement is the main stimulus for muscle growth as it’s the cause of most of the microtrauma inflicted on the muscles. This acts as the signal to kick the muscle-building process into overdrive.
- One more benefit I found from experience is that overloading the eccentric portion of an exercise allows one to get used to holding big weights and controlling them. This can have a very important confidence-building effect when attempting to lift maximum weights.
Basically, it can helps reset your gorgi tendon organ (GTO) reflex. I simple terms the GTOs are receptors that send a message to your muscles to relax. When your body strains against a weight that the brain thinks is too much for it, the GTOs are fired and the muscles relax to prevent injury. This often happens when going for max deadlifts. You choose a weight that is too much and the GTO is fired. Now even if you reduce the weight substantially you just can’t lift it because the muscles refuse to contract!
By training excentrically (lowering the weight) you expose your body to a stimulus that concentrically it cannot handle. Therefore, over time, the GTOs reset to a higher threshold. So now when you try and lift a weight (concentrically) that would previously trigger the GTOs you are now able to do so.
Should you do it? The question is do you really need to? The GTO is a protective mechanism after all. It can be dangerous (you could collapse under the weight) and it puts a lot of strain on your joints. Unless you are a powerlifter or have a coach that knows what he is doing I’d advise you to steer clear.
Its not as dangerous as you make out I have done it for short periods its very effective.
It is effective. I’m just cautious because injured athletes tend not to run too fast
It all depends how extreme you make it. If your going past about 200-250Kg then things can get hairy (assuming ur a 75-90Kg guy). Plus you can usually reach 140% 1RM which may be a little close for comfort unless you spend lots of time building up to it. If a little’s good, more is better…
Fred Hatfield will tell you that a lot powerlifting injuries occur while unracking the weight and walking backwards!
If you do it. 1. Make sure you apply tension to the bar slowly when unracking it (build up over 3-5s)
- Brace your trunk muscles hard before stepping back (if ur squatting).
A safer system is simply to set pins in a powerack close to the bar position on the top of your lift. Lift the weight, lock it out and then simply hold the weight for as long as you feel comfortable. Simply exposing yourself to the weight seems to work.
ok so how can i input this in squats. I do a best of 285lbs for 3 reps as my max so far, how do i perform it do partial squats very slow for single rep?
Reduced golgi tendon inhibition is far from the only benefit. Reread my post…
i see were all on so care to answer on how i can possibly do this as im clueless, for the squat, and if necessary for upper body like the bench.
Follow a typical 4 week cycle:
Wk 1 6x3r @ 72%
Wk 2 5x3r @ 77%
Wk 3 4x3r @ 82%
Wk 4 3x3r @ 87% Plus 3x1r @ 110%
3rd session in wk 4 test max.
ok and how do i perform it by doing squats for example going down very slowly to partial position then coming back up fast or slow? i wonder what kind of results this will get me in sprinting, i see some already with squats i’ve been doing but with this eccentric stuff makes me wonder.
Do them in squat rack onto pins. Unload and reset…
Senri, I think you can do a full squat (instead of the higher angels – or maybe both if that is you wish). The point is, than you test your squat once in a while; just like David’s advice of doing 3x1r @ 110% on week 4. Before that (weeks 1–3) you kind of build up to the fourth impact week. If you hit the hard eccentrics every week, things will eventually start working against you; remember you still have to sprint or jump or whatever during the week (more than enough eccentrics there also).
In short, I would advice you not to make your lifting routine too extreme (too focused on eccentric lifting, especially the hard percentages). If you wish, or maybe should, you could lower the bar slowly in every squat – even with the lighter weights. But again, stay within reason. There is an eccentric portion in the squat without the need for you to search for it; just go down with good and careful posture.
i see i only maxed out twice since the beginning of the year my next max is surely gonna be past the 300lb mark i can feel it. Racking onto the pins. So i go down slowly rack it unload the weights put back top repeat?
i suppose that’s what David means
how would you come back up at 110%?
seems difficult to me
Unless he got stronger and surprised himself ;), Yesterdays max. might be today’s sub-max.
I usually squat about 10-15kg more with spotters than without them. It could be the same with the rack (but not 10%; more like 5%). With increased safety, there seem to be more power left for the actual lift; psychology in action I suspect. Or perhaps, the extra effort just comes from the enjoyment of having the chance to give everything you have. But of course in eccentric terms, the focus is on getting down.
The whole point is that you only go down. Don’t try to come back up! You are asking for trouble because you will have fatigued so much from the slow eccentric plus you have less stretch reflex from the slow decent. Take about 5sec to go down and make sure the pins are set right! You can overload by taking longer to go down rather than lowering more weight if you want.
Martn, other benefits noted. I use negatives extensivly in my programmes but usually at below 1RM! Plus you get very sore if you don’t mind out!
have you noticed great improvement in the coming weeks from incorporating this to your training?
I use negatives mainly for pull ups and bench press with girls - when they start training. I get amazing results compared to other people who simply use positive multiple sets. One girl went from not being able to even lower herself to 5 full pull ups at 3 sec up 3 sec down from just 1 set of negatives to local fatigue twice a week in just 8 weeks! However, you can severly overtrain and it can take some skill to know when enough is enough.
In a famous experiment DeLand highschool Florida, started an Olympic weightlifting team in the 1970s (I think 1972). They split thier training into strength work and skill work. For strength they trained pure negative - simply lowering the weight 3 times a week. Then they practiced thier lifts with simply the bar. They won something like 300 straight matches using this method and were never defeated in 7 years.
Don’t take this too seriously. Like pliometrics, olympic lifting and “secret russian methods” negative/eccentric exercise is not your training “god”. But like all the above systems it is very good if you can match your recovery to the amout of fatigue. Experiment but don’t rush things - it literally takes time for change to occur.
As Zatsiosrky points out in “Science and Practice of Strength Training”, there is much more soreness relating to DOMS then just your typcial ecc-con lift. Therefore, in line with Charlie’s CFTS program the ecc loading should be done on Fridays bc it gives you 3 days to recover before your Monday session. On the Monday session you should be lifting light or better yet have a regeneration week at this time.
In terms of testing your 1RM after ecc loading I would do this in the regeneration week on the Friday with the previous two days (i.e. Monday and Wednesday being very light like 80-85%).
David W is this what you had in mind?
Do it in a squat cage. Set the limiters to a height that stops you at 90 degrees at the knee. Load the bar with the correct amount of weight. Set yourself under the the bar pick-up lower under control for 3-6 secs, DECELERATE the bar CONCENTRATE. Rest the bar on the limiters. Strip bar to a manageable weight load and start again. Use 110-150% of your max. Do this kind of training once a week, more than enough. Use spotters.
READ REFERENCE BELOW TO SUPPORT DAVID W’s posting.
Check out excerpt below from “Science in Elite Sport”. By E Muller, G Zallinger, F Ludescher ISBN 0-419-24530-8
“Testing and training for top Norwegian athletes” by P.E. Refsnes page 97-115
Training (eccentric training)
We have done several studies on the effect of eccentric training that have not yet been published. Central for these studies are adequate equipment. Since little commercial equipment was available, we have designed and built our own equipment for eccentric training at load well above 1RM.
The systems are mechanically very simple. An external load, consisting in fact of two separate components, is in direct connection with a bar. In training, the athletes are lowering both the bar and the external load. In a predetermined position, part of the external load is automatically released. Thereafter the subject lifts the reduced load (bar and reduced external load) to the standing position. The released external load is automatically lifted to the start position by a piston before being coupled to the system. In this system, a higher load is therefore used in the eccentric phase of a lift than in the concentric.
We have built several systems for eccentric training designed for elbow flexion, bench press, and squat respectively. The systems are used in training experiments and in the daily training of many top Norwegian athletes. In particular ice hockey players, alpine skiers, track and field athletes, powerlifters, and weight lifter among others use the systems regularly. Even cross-country skiers have used the squat machine periodically in off-season training. Top foreign athletes have also used the systems at the elite athlete centre as well. Lately some of the best weight lifters in the world from the former Soviet union have tried it, and a similar system is built in Stockholm for top Swedish athletes.
Eccentric training is extremely hard and can be dangerous. One can of course do eccentric training by overloading the weights in traditionally free weight training, and thereupon get help in the concentric phase. But it has a few disadvantages. Naturally one must train with weights that are heavier than those one can handle alone, and therefore it requires help from a training partner. The partner, however, should be properly trained so that he can spot the athlete safely whatever happens. In the squat, for instance, a tremendous load is put on the partner. Eccentric training can also be done on ordinary strength training machines for leg extension, leg curl, bench press etc. One can for example lower weights in the eccentric phase with one leg or arm, and use both legs or arms in the concentric phase.
We do not recommend athletes starting eccentric training too early. A minimum requirement is that they are well familiar with traditional strength training and have reached a specific strength minimum before they are introduced to eccentric training. The moral is that ‘one should learn to crawl before walking’. Thus, eccentric training is not recommended for younger athletes. We are especially afraid of injuries of the tendons and ligaments since these structures do not adapt to strength training as fast as muscles. A former Olympic 10,000 m runner (Jeff Galloway) once said that ,the single greatest cause of improvement is remaining injury-free". We agree, one can have the best trainer in the world, the best training program as well, it is worth nothing if one gets seriously injured. As a conclusion, eccentric training can be compared to high altitude training: It is used primarily for top athletes who have trained for years.
In recent years we have done several training studies with eccentric training, and we have also received much information from top athletes who have regularly trained eccentrically. It is a common experience that strength training leads to tremendous muscle soreness, referred to as ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (muscle soreness that appears 24 to 48 h after a hard workout) and unpleasant sensation. This is especially the case when introducing new exercises to a program, and in previous studies it is well documented that this muscle soreness and temporarily reduced force generation is associated with eccentric training. As the training continues, muscles adapt to this training, and muscle soreness will diminish.
Newham et. al. (1987) reported a 50% decrease in MVC after one bout of extreme eccentric training, and MVC was significantly lower even 14 days later. Our experience is that the restitution process is much faster for top athletes. A few athletes performed better both on jumping tests (SJ and CMJ) and on the maximum isometric test 24 h after an extremely hard eccentric training session. This is very rare, however, and we recommend a longer recovery period for most athletes. Normally we recommend eccentric training once or twice a week for top athletes. One of the most successfully Norwegian female powerlifters (Beate Amdahl), with a body mass at the time of 60 kg, trained eccentrically once a week for 2 years. She always lifted three sets with three repetitions in both the squat and bench press. Her IRM in squat increased from 180 kg to 210 kg during this period, and this is still the world record for her body mass. She is convinced that eccentric training was important for her success. It is also worth mentioning that Beate, and also two other female powerlifters, have some of the best test results ever on the vertical jumping test at the elite Norwegian athlete centre. The same tendency is also clear for male powerlifters. Two of them are among the best ever tested on the SJ and CMJ, and both of them were among the best powerlifters in the world.
The literature quotes scientists and coaches recommending training loads at 100-180% of 1RM for eccentric training. We have experienced that well-trained athletes tolerate a lower eccentric load relative to their IRM than untrained athletes. World class elite powerlifters use loads no more than 105-110% of their IRM in squat lift and bench press, whilst athletes on a lower level can use loads up to 120-130% of IRM. In a test, the men’s alpine skiing European Cup team performed 1.19 times the IRM in eccentric squat. In other exercises however, such as elbow flexion, the loads can be higher (130-180 % of IRM), but it is still the case that well-trained athletes use a lower eccentric load than untrained athletes. It is difficult to give the exact load, but the load should be high enough that the working muscles are stretched despite maximum effort to avoid stretching.
In eccentric training the athletes are instructed to use 3-6 s in the eccentric phase. Their entire concentration should be focused on decelerating the load. When the velocity in the eccentric phase becomes too fast, one should stop the training or reduce the load. Earlier, when our knowledge about eccentric training was poor, we also used a high eccentric load followed by a high concentric load (up to 80-90% of IRM). This was mentally very hard, and concentration was focused on the concentric phase since this phase seemed to be the hardest. In a later experiment we have found that it is the eccentric loading and not the concentric load that is important for increasing muscular strength and hypertrophy. Today we still use a very high load in the eccentric phase, but not more than 50% of IRM for the concentric phase.
In training experiments we usually test maximum strength (as 1RM, MVC, or maximal eccentric force), explosive strength (as SJ and CMJ), and cross-sectional area by using CT images (computer tomography). We conclude that strength, the cross-sectional area of the muscles, and power increase significantly more after eccentric training than after traditional isometric or concentric training. Even top athletes who have carried out hard traditional strength training for years show a considerable further increase in strength and muscle hypertrophy when they include eccentric training in their regular training programs.
We have found that traditional training with free weights leads to significant increases of 1RM and CSA, but no changes in SJ and CMJ. In one experiment we found that well-trained athletes who trained with weights in the traditional manner tended to decrease (not significantly statistically) in their performance of standing jumps, counter movement jumps, and drop jumps (DJ). This is consistent with findings by Hakkinen et al. (1985) who concluded that heavy resistance weight training caused primarily an increase in isometric force, whilst explosive jump training led to an increase in isometric rate of force development (RFD). The reason could be that the explosive jump training caused a specific increase in the rate of motor unit activation onset, but this adaptation was not found after high resistance weight training.
In our experiments with eccentric training we have also found a significant increase in standing jump and counter movement jump scores. Some coaches recommend slow eccentric training only in a preparation period, because this training is associated with decreased RFD. There are indications,’ however, that the fastest fibers are preferentially recruited in the eccentric phase (Nardone et. al. 1989). The selective activation of the fastest fibers was however most pronounced in fast eccentric actions.
This accords with our results in a case study of a national caliber bodybuilder. We found an increased proportion of Type IIB fibers after 8 weeks of plyometric training of the elbow flexors. He trained the elbow flexion in a way that can be compared to a drop jump. A load of 30% of 1RM was released and fell freely for 60 cm before causing a very rapid but short stretching of the maximally isometrically activated elbow flexors immediately followed by a concentric action. Before this training, the athlete had no fibers classified as Type IIB, but after the training period we found several Type IIB fibers. This may perhaps be explained as a selective recruitment of the fastest fibers during the extremely explosive training, and these results may indicate that training can convert other fibers to Type IIB fibers.
In some sports eccentric force generation will be particularly high, for example for musculature of the quadriceps in alpine skiing (Berg et. al. 1995). It may therefore be important to improve the maximal eccentric force in particular. We have found that after a period with eccentric training the increase in athletes’ maximal eccentric force is significantly higher than increase in their 1RM. In traditional weight training using the same load in eccentric and concentric phases, the eccentric force generation is far from maximal, and there is no optimal stress on the working muscles in the eccentric phase. To achieve this, one must load the muscles in the eccentric phase by more than a 1RM load. Eccentric training is therefore strongly recommended for alpine skiers, for example.
Its obvious that there is also a psychological effect in eccentric training. When one gets used to training with weights that are much higher than one’s initial 1RM, that weight will be found easy to handle after a period of eccentric training.
The results of our studies have led to changes in the training regimes of top Norwegian athletes. We regard eccentric training to be an excellent way to overload the muscles and many top athletes use eccentric training regularly in their strength and power training. In the future we assume that this type of training will be regarded as necessary for many groups of athletes. Even a manufacturer of commercial strength training equipment, the American Life Fitness company for instance, has built machines that are based on the principle of plyometric training, and these machines are used by people who are not engaged in top-level athletics.
We think that maximal strength is necessary also for improvement of the explosive strength. Many top athletes engaged in sports that require excellent explosive strength have neglected training of their maximal strength and have had to pay the price for this. When their motor is too small, they have by no means the same potential for increasing their performance, even with proper explosive strength training.