If your Instagram bio says “gym rat” but you have never heard the term “eccentric” before, don’t worry. You are not alone. You might be unaware of eccentric exercises, but you perform them every time you are in the gym.
Confused? Let us explain.
There are three main types of muscle contractions:
- Eccentric: Refers to when the muscle lengthens. Eg: when you are lowering down into a squat.
- Concentric: Refers to when the muscle contracts. Eg: When you are curling a dumbbell.
- Isometric: Refers to the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint. Eg: plank.
Although most training regimens incorporate all three movements, eccentric is often the most overlooked and underutilized. Most lifters will spend hours curling dumbbells and focusing on contracting their guns at the top of the movements for building a solid bicep peak, but they fail to make the most of the eccentric part of the lift. Furthermore, their plan for the eccentric movement of a lift is usually to let gravity do its thing.
Concentric and eccentric motions are two different sides of the same coin. The eccentric movement is the yin to the concentric motion’s yan. You need to capitalize on both movement patterns to get the best of both worlds and ensure overall muscle and strength development.
Check out: Eccentric Vs. Concentric Training
Benefits of Eccentric Training
Here are a few advantages of streamlining eccentric training in your training routine:
1. Helps Generate Energy For The Concentric Part of a Lift
Also referred to as the negatives or negative training, controlling the eccentric part of an exercise helps absorb the mechanical energy exerted by the heavy load on your muscles. The energy is then released with an elastic recoil, essentially a spring-like action that facilitates the concentric movement.
According to a study, lengthening the muscle fibers during eccentric training can also improve flexibility and range of motion, and lessen the risk of injury during training. 
2. Helps Build Muscle Size and Strength Better Than Conventional Movements
According to research, eccentric training can build muscles size and strength better than standard concentric-eccentric movements. Since you only have to focus on the eccentric part of an exercise, you can lift heavier and find a better mind-muscle connection than the conventional lift. Over time, the strength from the eccentric lifts will carry over to the concentric part of a lift. 
3. May Be Beneficial in Weight Loss
An eccentric contraction uses less energy and oxygen than a concentric contraction. However, the negative (or yielding) movement creates more force, enhancing muscle growth and increasing metabolism rate in the process.
As per a Wayne State University study, a full-body eccentric workout increased the resting metabolism in athletes by nine percent. Additionally, the subjects showed an elevated metabolic rate for at least three hours following exercise. 
4. Muscle Rehabilitation
Eccentric exercises are common in physical rehab and therapy. Eccentric contractions create more force with less energy, making it less likely to overtax injured joints and muscles.
ACL injuries are typically treated with eccentric exercises as the downward movement is less likely to compromise the stabilizing ligaments of the knee. On the other hand, concentric movements require you to lift and stabilize the weight and your body simultaneously, placing extreme stress on your joints.
A few other injuries for which eccentric training can be helpful include:
- Patellar tendonitis, aka “Jumper’s knee”
- Muscle-tendon injuries
- Osteopenia — diminishing bone mineral density
5. Great For Beginners
While ‘negatives’ are considered an advanced training technique and are usually performed by the biggest guys in a gym, it doesn’t have to be that way. Eccentric exercises require you to follow a slow and controlled motion throughout the lift, which can be a great way of learning the correct form of performing a movement. It can also help in establishing a mind-muscle connection, inducing muscle-ripping pumps.
Additionally, eccentric training needs less oxygen, a lower cardiac output, and is known to produce less lactate build-up within the muscle than concentric training when using similar loads, all of which are easier on your body.
Disadvantages and Risks of Eccentric Exercises
Eccentric exercises can increase the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOS) as the micro-tears that develop as a contracted muscle lengthens, causing soreness and pain 24 to 72 hours after a workout.
Additionally, lifting more weight than you can handle in eccentric-focused exercises significantly increases the odds of an injury. As a rule of thumb, while performing the eccentric exercises, you should use the weight you use while performing the conventional eccentric-concentric lifts. Many people put themselves at risk of injury by thinking they can handle heavier weight since they only have to focus on one part of the lift.
Check out: 5 Ways To Speed Up Muscle Recovery
Different Ways of Incorporating Eccentric Exercises in Your Workouts
Eccentric/yielding/negative training methods increase the stress placed on your muscles and nervous system during the ‘lengthening’ part of the lift. Eccentric movements can be used in your training in the following ways:
- Slowing down the eccentric tempo of some or all of your reps.
- Inserting isometric pauses in the eccentric part of the lift in some or all of your reps.
- Forgoing concentric and sticking with the eccentric part of an exercise — negatives.
- After reaching failure on the conventional eccentric-concentric lift, performing additional negatives-only to failure.
- Using heavier weight while performing the eccentric-only reps.
5 Eccentric Training Methods
Here are some ways of incorporating the eccentric exercises into your workouts:
1. The 3-5 Seconds Eccentric Rep Tempo
This is one of the most common and basic yielding-focused training techniques. However, if you don’t already use negative training in your workouts, slowing down the eccentric part of a lift will set your muscles on fire. All the methods in the article result in a longer time-under-tension (TuT) which can help ignite muscle growth.
2. Eccentric Isometrics
While performing the eccentric isometrics, perform the concentric part of the lift as usual but pause midway for two to ten seconds during the muscle lengthening part of the movement.
With some trial and error, you will find the sweet spot where you get the best muscle contraction in the range of motion. Pause at that spot to maximize muscle activation and recruitment. The techniques mentioned in this list can be used for each rep in a set or just the last rep.
3. Super Slow Eccentric
Now, you might be wondering, “Aren’t eccentric exercises all about the slow lengthening of the muscle, so what’s new with the super slow eccentric technique?”
Well, super slow eccentric is just what the name says — super slow. We are talking 10 to 30 seconds slow. Imagine taking 10 to 30 seconds to lower down into a squat. I don’t know about you, but I could feel a pump in my legs writing the last line.
Tip: You do not have to perform the concentric part of the lift while doing the super slow eccentrics. You could use a spotter to help you return to the point of contraction.
4. Bilateral Concentric – Unilateral Eccentric
This method is one of the most brutal eccentric training techniques and is great for fixing muscle and strength imbalances. You will be using a machine or pulley for these types of eccentric exercises.
Use both limbs to explosively complete the concentric part of the lift. Pause at the top to shift the weight to one limb and perform a 3-5 second eccentric phase.
While performing a set of 10 reps, perform five reps on one limb before switching to the opposite limb.
5. Forced Reps
Forced reps are one of the most unforgiving eccentric training techniques. Choose a weight that will get you to muscle failure between 10-12 reps. After you reach failure, perform 3-5 reps with light assistance from a spotter through the concentric range of motion. You need to lower the weight without any help from your training partner.
Remember, light assistance from a partner means just enough help to push through the sticking point. Do not ask the spotter to lift the weight for you.
Choose one of the methods listed above and stick with it for at least five to six weeks to get the best bang for your buck.
Note: To make the most of eccentric training, you would need a training partner. The spotter would help you through the concentric part of the lift and stabilize you as you lower the weight — if necessary. They could also monitor your rep tempo and form.
Top Eccentric Exercises
The great thing about incorporating eccentric exercises in your training is you’re probably already doing most of these, but just faster. You could turn any exercise into an eccentric-focused move by either modifying the rep tempo or using the ‘negatives’ advanced training technique.
Here are a few of the eccentric exercises and how to perform them:
1. Eccentric Pull-Up (3-5 Eccentric Rep Tempo)
- Using a pronated grip, grasp the pull bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
- You could either jump to skip the concentric part of the movement or start by standing on a high platform.
- Once your chin is next to the bar, pause for a second, find stability and balance, and slowly lower your body towards the floor. The eccentric part of the movement should last between 3-15 seconds.
- Repeat for reps.
2. Eccentric Calf-Raise (Bilateral Concentric – Unilateral Eccentric)
- Set up an elevated platform under a Smith machine.
- Stand up on the block with the balls of your feet on the edge of the platform.
- Raise your heels as high as you can.
- Lift your right foot off the platform and slowly lower your left heel back down as far as possible.
- Once you reach the bottom of the movement, place your right foot back on the platform and repeat.
- Complete five reps on your left foot before switching sides.
3. Eccentric Barbell Bicep Curl (Forced Reps)
- Grab a barbell with a shoulder-wide supinated grip (palms facing up).
- Explosively curl the bar to the top of the movement.
- Return to the starting position with a 3-5 second controlled rep tempo.
- After completing 10-12 reps with the same technique, you should have achieved muscle failure.
- Use a spotter’s assistance to lift the bar to the top and slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
- Repeat for recommended reps.
4. Eccentric Bent-Over Barbell Row (Super Slow Eccentric)
- Stand with a shoulder-width stance while holding a barbell using a double overhand grip.
- Hinge forward until your torso is roughly parallel with the floor (or slightly above).
- Explosively pull the bar towards your belly button while keeping your elbows tucked to your sides.
- Take 10-30 seconds to lower the bar back to the starting position.
- Repeat for recommended reps.
5. Eccentric Barbell Shoulder Press (Eccentric Isometrics)
- Sit down on the bench and unrack the bar using an overhand grip.
- Explosively press the bar overhead to a lockout.
- Slowly begin returning to the starting position.
- Hold the weight in position for 2-10 seconds as you are halfway through the range of motion.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for reps.
6. Eccentric Cable Tricep Extension (3-5 Eccentric Rep Tempo)
- Attach a straight bar to a cable stack as high as possible and assume a standing position with a shoulder-width stance.
- Grab the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing down) and lean forward slightly by hinging at the hips.
- Push down the bar explosively by extending the elbows and flexing your triceps.
- Taking three to five seconds, return to the starting position in a slow and controlled motion.
- Repeat for reps.
Besides the exercises mentioned above, you could make any exercise more eccentric-focused by slowing down your rep tempo in the lengthening part of the lift.
Furthermore, if you are someone who routinely finds themselves going mindlessly through the motions just for the sake of it, incorporating eccentric exercises into your training routine will help you take your gains to the next level. The fact that you don’t need additional equipment to reap the benefits of the advanced training technique makes it worth a shot.
- Mackey AL, Kjaer M. Connective tissue regeneration in skeletal muscle after eccentric contraction-induced injury. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Mar 1;122(3):533-540. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00577.2016. Epub 2016 Aug 25. PMID: 27562842.
- Julian V, Thivel D, Costes F, et al. Eccentric training improves body composition by inducing mechanical and metabolic adaptations: A promising approach for overweight and obese individuals. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1013. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01013
- Hackney, Kyle J; Engels, Hermann-J; Gretebeck, Randall J Resting Energy Expenditure and Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness After Full-Body Resistance Training With an Eccentric Concentration, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: September 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 5 – p 1602-1609 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818222c5