Have you ever heard of eccentric loading or eccentric training? No? What about negative repetitions or negative work in the gym? Whether this triggers a memory deep in your brain or doesn’t ring a bell at all, we’ve broken down the basics of what this is all about.
When your muscles contract, there are four different ways this can happen:
- Concentric contraction – the shortening of the muscle
- Eccentric contraction – the lengthening of the muscle
- Isometric contraction – the muscle is activated but isn’t lengthened or shortened, but instead held at a constant length
- Isotonic contraction – a type of contraction resulting in the length of the muscle changing
Now, unless you’re a seasoned or professional athlete, this information might not appeal to you straight away. However, understanding muscle contractions and more specifically eccentric muscle contractions could be beneficial for you to achieve your fitness goals.
Eccentric muscle contractions are induced by eccentric loading or eccentric training exercises. Most people use this type of exercise to help improve their strength however, it can also be used for injury prevention and rehabilitation. Eccentric loading exercises require less energy to be performed and allow you to exercise injured joints, soft tissues and muscles without further increasing your injury risk. The low energy requirements of these exercises combined with the muscle strength improvement they offer ensure that they help to prevent injuries from occurring. Eccentric loading also helps to improve mobility and balance, further contributing to either injury prevention or rehabilitation.
So, how does eccentric loading result in all these benefits? These types of exercises increase blood flow to the muscle. With increased blood flow comes an increase in nutrients moving to the muscle. This helps with injury prevention as well as injury rehabilitation as increased blood flow to an injured muscle helps to boost the healing process. Eccentric loading also allows muscles to absorb more energy, which further helps in preventing injuries.
This style of training can also be used to improve both muscle strength and size. Eccentric loading allows for the use of a much heavier weight because it focuses on the slow lowering movement of the muscle. Using a heavier weight, that can be increased weekly, in slow sustained movements allows for a steady increase in muscle strength and size.
With all the good things, it is important to consider the drawbacks. The same concept is important when it comes to eccentric loading. Because this style of training allows for the use of heavier weights it can make it riskier to perform. Therefore, it is important that you do have someone to spot you if you are using these heavy weights. The slow and sustained movements of eccentric loading allow for an increase in blood flow to the muscles. While this is beneficial, if done too often this can lead to a lot of muscle stiffness. Lastly, as with any form of training, eccentric loading does lead to micro-tears in the muscle. Therefore, if you include this style of training too often then it may contribute to prolonged muscle soreness.
To end off, it is important that we look at an example of an eccentric loading exercise. One of the easiest examples to look at is a bicep curl.
If you do decide to implement eccentric loading exercises, then it is best to work with the following recommendations for each of those exercises.
- Perform each exercise for 6-10 repetitions
- Perform each set of repetitions for 3 sets
- Rest for at least 1 minute between each set
- The eccentric contraction movement (the lowering phase) should last between 4-7 seconds
Now that you know what eccentric loading is, how could you maximize its benefit on your training plan? It’s time to find out your risk factors to injuries and whether you may benefit more from eccentric loading according to your genes. To find out more, make the better choice and choose to do FitwellgxTM test today!
Boundless.com. (2020, August 14). 9.3E: Types of Muscle Contractions: Isotonic and Isometric. Retrieved from Medicine Libre Texts: https://med.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Anatomy_and_Physiology/Book%3A_Anatomy_and_Physiology_(Boundless)/9%3A_Muscular_System/9.3%3A_Control_of_Muscle_Tension/9.3E%3A_Types_of_Muscle_Contractions%3A_Isotonic_and_Isometric
Scholes10. (2015). Isometric, Isotonic, Concentric, and Eccentric Contractions. Retrieved from Quizlet: https://quizlet.com/131394876/isometric-isotonic-concentric-and-eccentric-contractions-flash-cards/