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Understand the fundamentals of eccentric training

This is an excerpt from Essentials of Eccentric Training With Online Video by Len Kravitz & Aaron Bubbico.

Eccentric Emphasis Training Method

The eccentric emphasis training method provides a unique external load methodology by slowing the lowering or eccentric-loading phase of an exercise. As a training stimulus, this increase in the time under tension elicits changes in the muscles that improve their strength, function, and size (Schoenfeld, 2010). In fact, recent research indicates that longer times under tension increase the metabolic processes that promote muscle protein synthesis, which have been observed for 24 to 30 hours after the muscle experiences the training stimulus (Burd et al., 2012).

This training method must be applied in a gradual overloading fashion, particularly when working with entry-level clients. And for all fitness levels, research shows that a unique exercise stimulus is required for continued muscle growth and development (Burd et al., 2012). Strong scientific evidence supports the use of all of the eccentric training techniques presented in this text.

Theories about why eccentric loading leads to increases in strength include the following: enhanced neural stimulation to and within muscle, higher stored elastic energy in muscle, and increases in muscle hypertrophy. These factors are all discussed further in chapter 5. The current chapter focuses instead on the specific technical steps in performing the three eccentric training methods. When using the eccentric emphasis technique, exercise professionals should allow time for the client to become familiar with this method of training. Figure 2.1 shows an exercise using the eccentric emphasis method.

Steps for Eccentric Emphasis Training

  1. Start with a weight that the client normally uses for the particular muscular fitness goal.
  2. For instance, let's assume that the client normally does an 8-repetition maximum (8RM) set, meaning that she or he does eight repetitions using a weight that produces momentary muscular fatigue (i.e., failure) after the eighth repetition.
  3. The client does the concentric contraction - that is, the muscle-shortening phase of the movement - by lifting the load in a one-second motion.
  4. The client proceeds to the eccentric contraction - that is, the muscle-lengthening phase of the movement - by lowering the load in three to four seconds, thus emphasizing the eccentric phase of the exercise. (This is why the training method gets the name "eccentric emphasis.") For each repetition in the set, the client performs a one-second shortening (concentric) action followed by a three- to four-second lowering (eccentric) action.
  5. The client completes eight repetitions to momentary muscular fatigue (thus an 8RM). The exercise professional will likely need to aid the client with the concentric lifts as he or she begins to fatigue.
  6. Individualize the number of sets to each client's goals.
  7. Decide the number of repetitions in each set based on the client's training goal: strength, explosive power, endurance, weight loss, muscle size, or rehabilitation. The number of repetitions may range from as few as 2 to 20 or even more - all using the one-second shortening motion followed by the three- to four-second lowering action.

For a specific example, let's now consider a client who typically does six repetitions on the seated shoulder press. In preparation for having the client use the eccentric emphasis technique, the trainer gives the client the appropriately weighted dumbbells for this exercise. The trainer then instructs the client to proceed as follows:

• Step 1: Grasp the two dumbbells tightly and bring them to your shoulders. Keep your upper arms toward the sides of your torso. Push the dumbbells upward in a one-second extension until your arms are fully extended.
• Step 2: Lower your arms back to the sides of your torso with an even, slow motion in three to four seconds, thus emphasizing the eccentric phase of the exercise. Continue the set with this eccentric emphasis training technique.

Supramaximal Eccentric Training Method

The supramaximal eccentric training method has been shown to be quite effective in eliciting changes in muscle strength and hypertrophy (Schoenfeld, 2011). To produce the desired changes, the principles for designing strength training involve manipulating the number of repetitions and sets, the movement speed, the rest interval between sets, the recovery between workouts, the selection of exercises, and the load. The specific combination of repetitions, sets, exercises, resistance, and force help define the goal or purpose chosen by the individual performing the exercise.

The supramaximal eccentric training method (see figure 2.2) closely parallels the theoretical concepts validating progressive overload. To develop more strength, the skeletal muscles must be challenged in a way that stimulates the body's natural adaptive processes to manage new demands. In progressive overload resistance training, the participant exercises his or her muscles against a resistance that is gradually increased. Progressive overload may be applied creatively by using exercise machines, free weights, medicine balls, elastic bands, and other exercise devices. Progressive overload not only stimulates muscle strength and hypertrophy but also contributes to the development of stronger bones, ligaments, tendons, and joint cartilage, thus protecting the skeletal system.

Learn more about Essentials of Eccentric Training.

More Excerpts From Essentials of Eccentric Training With Online Video