Why is eccentric training effective

Eccentric training allows one to stimulate greater strength and size gains than pure concentric training. There are five major reasons why:

1. There is a greater neural adaptation to eccentric training than to concentric training (Hortobagyi et al. 1996).

2. There is a more important force output produced during a maximal eccentric action (greater overload) because you can use a higher external load (Colliander and Tesch 1990).

3. There is a higher level of stress per motor unit during eccentric work. Less motor units are recruited during the eccentric portion of a movement, thus each of the recruited motor units receives much more stimulation (Grabiner and Owings 2002, Linnamo et al. 2002). Furthermore, since the nervous systems seems to recruit less motor units during a maximal eccentric action, the potential for improvement could be greater than with maximal concentric action.

4. There is some evidence that maximal eccentric actions will preferably recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers (high threshold motor units), which are more responsive to muscle growth and strengthening (Nardone et al. 1989, Howell et al. 1995, Hortobagyi et al. 1996). In fact, eccentric training may stimulate an evolution towards a faster contractile profile (Martin et al. 1995).

5. Most of the micro-trauma to the muscle cells incurred during training is a result of the eccentric action (Brown et al. 1997, Gibala et al. 2000). It has been established that this micro-trauma acts as the signal to start the muscle adaptation process (Clarke and Feedback, 1996).

1. If you de-emphasize the yielding portion of your strength exercises (lowering the bar very fast, not contracting your muscles during the eccentric portion, etc.) you might as well not be training at all (at least if maximum strength and size are important to you). Be careful though, it doesn't mean that you should accentuate/emphasize the eccentric stress in all of your exercises, just that some exercises should target a very large eccentric overload.

2. Accentuating the eccentric stress during a session will lead to more strength gains. The reasons are related to structural as well as neural adaptations.

3. The eccentric portion of a movement is the main stimulus for muscle growth as it is the cause of most of the micro-trauma inflicted on the muscles, which acts as the signal to kick the muscle building process into overdrive.

4. One more benefit that I have found from experience is that overloading the eccentric portion of an exercise allows one to get used to holding big weights and controlling them. This can have a very important confidence-building effect when attempting to lift maximum weights.

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