Written by Antonio Lombardo, Physical Therapist, PT, DPT, USA-W, USA-PL, CPT, Pn-1
I love lifting heavy. I live for workouts, especially when I realize that I’m ready to go up in weight! It makes me feel so strong and accomplished. But over the last few years working as a fitness enthusiast, I’ve learned that my strength-training workouts ignored one very important thing: eccentrics! And doing so as. Slowly. As. Possible. An eccentric movement is the lowering part of a move. It’s when your muscle works as it’s lengthened, like those glutes do when you’re lowering into a squat, or like your biceps do as you’re lowering a dumbbell after a curl. And, in turns out, every muscle fiber in your body is the strongest as it moves eccentrically! To understand why I can spend five to 10 seconds lowering into a squat—and why you should, too—you first need to understand a few things about those muscles you’re trying to build in the gym.
So what are the benefits of eccentrics?
Faster muscle gains
Rep per rep, eccentric training is superior to concentric training at building both muscle size and strength, research shows. After all, since your muscles are strongest as they move eccentrically, if you want to push your limits, you’ve got to work eccentrically.
Greater metabolic boosts
Eccentric are great to improve calorie burning, even when you’re resting! Studies Show from the Strength and Conditioning Foundation that slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the number of calories you burn at rest binge-watching and this can occur up to 72 Hours!
Perform eccentric exercises, and you may reduce the need for performing dedicated “flexibility” workouts! Studies also show that, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger.
Lower risk of injury
Eccentric exercises strengthen not just your muscles, but also your body’s connective tissues, helping to both rehab any aches and pains as well as prevent injuries ranging from tendinitis to ACL strains!
Better sports performance
Eccentric actions aren’t just something you do in the weight room. They are a given in any workout—from beach volleyball to 10K races. So, by performing strength training routines on eccentric emphasis, and also eccentric moves, you better prepare your body for any challenges to come!
Eccentric exercises increase delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that soreness you feel up to 72 hours after a tough workout, in a big way. That’s because in eccentric actions, the weight is greater than the amount of force produced by the muscle, so it creates more microscopic damage to the muscle.
If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort during exercise, you may benefit from physical therapy. Schedule an appointment with a Professional physical therapist and find a location near you by clicking here.
Commentary featured on: MindBodyGreen blog