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Eccentric Exercise

You've probably heard the terms 'eccentric' and 'eccentrically' being discussed within strength and conditioning, endurance, or even rehabilitation discourse. But what exactly are eccentric exercises, and why are they beneficial?

Eccentric exercises are steady contractions that lengthen a specific muscle. Eccentric exercises are performed slowly with control, such as slowly sitting down on a chair, adding to the muscle's time under tension.

Eccentric vs. Concentric Exercise

What Is The Difference?

The concentric phase of a movement is when the muscle’s tension increases and the fibers contract, meaning they shorten.

For example, when performing a bicep curl, curling the dumbbell is the concentric or shortening phase for the biceps, and the lowering phase is the eccentric phase.

Examples of concentric exercises include
  • The first half of a deadlift, or lifting an object off the ground
  • Pressing to the top in a push-up
  • Standing up during a squat
  • Hamstring curl
  • The upward motion of a sit-up

On the other hand, muscles lengthen under tension with eccentric exercises, creating an adaptation that improves performance.

Why Use Eccentric Exercise?

Low Metabolic Cost

A study on nine healthy subjects, ages 18-34, found that eccentric exercises increased muscle strength, via eccentric work, with little demand for oxygen. They observed significant gains in isometric leg strength for the eccentrically trained subjects only.

The oxygen consumption required to do the eccentric work was equal to or less than that of the concentric work. The findings showed that you can make significant isometric strength gains with a minimal increase in metabolic demand for oxygen by progressively increasing the eccentric work rate.

Increase Flexibility By Increasing Muscle Length

Emerging studies have found that you can shift the optimum length-tension relationship in muscle to longer muscle lengths after certain types of eccentric exercise.

These are particularly interesting as greater structural stability at longer muscle lengths may positively impact injury prevention and athletic performance. Because of this, the effects of eccentric exercise on muscle injury prevention and athletic performance are of high interest to researchers.

Produce more force

A study on trained rugby players looked at the effects of slow and fast tempo resistance training incorporating accentuated eccentric loading (AEL) compared with traditional resistance training (TRT).

They found that slow AEL improved back squat 1RM and sprint speed versus slow TRT. Their findings were that the short-term incorporation of slow AEL was superior to TRT in enhancing strength and maximum velocity sprinting speed in rugby players undertaking a concurrent preparatory program.

Maintain Type IIX Muscle Fibers

A systematic review looked at the effects of eccentric training vs. concentric only resistance training. They found that eccentric training elicited more significant improvements in muscle strength, superior enhancements in power, and stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) function.

Furthermore, a preferential increase in the size of type II muscle fibers and the potential to exert a unique effect upon fiber type transitions was also reported.

Jump Higher and Sprint Faster

Eccentric training is a potent stimulus for enhancements in mechanical muscle function muscle-tendon unit morphological and architectural adaptations.

The same study on the effects of eccentric training compared to concentric-only resistance training found that eccentric training led to qualitative and quantitative changes in tendon tissue related to the magnitude of strain imposed.

Eccentric Exercise Examples

Here’s a series of eccentric exercises which you can achieve with Exerfly's equipment.
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Delayed Braking Action

  • Eccentric overload is achieved most commonly through a delayed braking action.
  • Resist maximally near the end of the movement.
  • For example, in a squat, ride the flywheel down and try to stop the flywheel with maximum force at the very end of the movement.
  • This eccentrically overloads the end range as you’re trying to stop movement in a short period.
  • The peak eccentric forces generated are massive.
  • Video example is James performing a flywheel delayed eccentric braking squat.

Impulse Overload

  • Impulse overload involves positioning yourself in the eccentric phase, so the load hits you, and you need to stop it.
  • For example, position yourself in a half squat and let the weight hit you.
  • You need to be able to quickly brake eccentrically.
  • Video example is James performing a flywheel impulse overload squat.

2 Up, 1 Down

  • Two up, one down is a strategy often used with machine-based training.
  • For example, in a lying leg curl, you can use heavier loads by using two legs to lift the weight.
  • Resisting on the way down with one leg eccentrically overloads the working muscles.
  • Video example James performing a 2 up, 1 down flywheel squat
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Priming

  • Priming exercise takes advantage of the post-activation potentiation phenomenon.
  • Considering there is little difference between using the flywheel or barbell for priming exercise, try flywheel training before activities or competitions where barbells and weights are not available.
  • According to James, 5-6 maximal reps on the flywheel are far less fatiguing than performing a heavy barbell exercise.
  • Video example is James performing an isometric flywheel deadlift.

For a detailed video breakdown on doing these exercises, visit Exerfly's video catalogue of easy-to-follow tutorials here.

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Flywheel training offers many advantages over traditional training, with variable resistance being a significant factor. There is no limit to the kinetic energy you can generate with Exerfly equipment. This means that you can always use a higher force and accelerate more. If you plateau, you can use the motorized technology to boost the eccentric phase.

Therefore, our equipment is suitable for all types of training- heavy strength training to rehabilitation- and users of different backgrounds and abilities. The more inertia added to Exerfly equipment, the more force can be produced by the user, which you can record via the app.

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