In part I of this article series we saw squats performed by Jazmine Fenlator in this video. Now we are going to look at examples of eccentric specific exercises that you can perform in the gym and outdoors.
You might be already today using the Eccentric Overload principles unknowingly. In bodybuilding and weightlifting the term 'forced rep' is used for an assisted repetition done at the end of a set when the athlete is uncapable to complete a set on their own. In a forced rep the concentric (shortening) muscle contraction is lightened by the spotter and therefore the eccentric (lengthening) muscle contraction is in comparison overloaded. You might have also heard the term 'negatives' used in weight lifting. This refers to solely performing the eccentric (negative) portion of movement with weight resistance.
When people talk about 'strict form' and 'no swinging of the weights' it is worthwhile considering the effects on the eccentric part of the exercise. Training the eccentric muscle contraction has been proven to be more effective than training the concentric muscle contraction (ref 1). However, there is a thin line between performing repetitions with an increased speed and compensating with other muscles. But it might not be a bad idea to try swinging the weights up and performing the movement normally on the way down.
Gyms that forbid members from throwing weights on the ground may actually do the members a favor. Especially in explosive movements such as the Olympic lift 'Jerk' (where a barbell is jerked quickly above the head) the concentric movement is very technical and strength specific. The goal of a jerk is to lift as much weight as possible above the head in the most efficent manner. Bringing down the weight is secondary. But lowering the weight will actually be very taxing on the body. If the goal is to break down the muscle, then pay attention when lowering the barbell.
Should you lower the weight exceptionally slow? After all, it feels more difficult to move weights slowly in whatever direction (concentric or eccentric). In all the videos where I have demonstrate eccentric exercises, I have mentioned that the negative movement should be done slowly and controlled. That is what my gut feeling is telling me. But interestingly, science says 'no'. The faster speed actually results in a release of more growth factors and greater protein synthesis (ref 2). It appears as if the same principle applies for both concentric and eccentric movements. Hence, Explosive Mode training should not just be quick concentric movements, but also quick eccentric movements.
Weight resistance machines offer an easy solution for focusing on the eccentric movement. Leg extensions can for instance be performed by extending two legs and then applying the weight resistance only on one leg when returning to the starting position.
Another way is to skip the concentric part completely. This can be done for instance when doing negative pull-ups: jump up instead of pulling you up, then lower your body and release the bar. You can do this as a chin-up variation or wide grip pull-up. If you use additional weight, you can use a box instead of jumping.
You can perform negative dips in the same way. Just choose a work station or bars that are so low that you can enter the starting position by standing on your toes. Keep a medicine ball between knees for added resistance.
One of my favorite eccentric exercises is the stair drops. You can perform these in a stair case. Start in a squat position and drop silently down one step a time from the top of the stair case.
You can use a partner to emphasize the eccentric movement as well. An example is leg raises done by laying on your back on the floor. Ask your partner to give your legs a push on the way down.
You can also modify exercises by making the concentric movement easier than the eccentric movement. In the below video you see an example of hanging leg-raises. By bending the knees we can make the concentric motion easier than the eccentric motion.
For more ideas and inspiration, download the Outdoor Edition Video Guide.
1. Braz J Phys Ther. 2014 Jan-Feb;18(1):30-7The influence of resistance exercise with emphasis on specific contractions (concentric vs. eccentric) on muscle strength and post-exercise autonomic modulation: a randomized clinical trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24675910
2. Shepstone TN, et al. Short-term high- vs. low-velocity isokinetic lengthening training results in greater hypertrophy of the elbow flexors in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 May;98(5):1768-76.