Eccentric training is one of the most effective strength training methods of all time. In fact, eccentric training might be the single fastest way for intermediate to advanced athletes to break through strength and hypertrophy plateaus.
- Method #1: Slow Eccentric Reps
- Method #2: The Last Slow Eccentric Rep
- Method #3: Yielding Isometric Reps
- Method #4: The Last Yielding Isometric Rep
- Method #5: Cheating Reps
- Method #6: Novel Eccentric Exercises
- Method #7: The 2/1 Eccentric Method
- Method #8: Forced Reps
- Method #9: Supra maximal Forced Reps
- Method #10: Multiple eccentric-only repetitions
- Method #11: Single eccentric-only repetitions
This may not sound like much in the modern era of professional strongmen putting up 1100 lb deadlifts left and right. However, in Bob’s time this was truly an Earth-shattering accomplishment!
Of course eccentric training is just as effective today as it was in Bob Peoples’ era. After all, the human genome has not changed much sense the 20th century!
Eccentric training methods have one thing in common: they increase the stress placed on your muscles and nervous system during the eccentric portion of a repitition.
This can be accomplished in many. For example:
- Slowing down the eccentric tempo of some or all of your repetitions
- Inserting isometric pauses in some or all of your repetitions
- Bypassing the concentric range of an exercise to overload the eccentric range
- Performing additional eccentric-only reps after reaching technical failure
- Increasing the amount of weight lifted on the eccentric range
All of these methods (and many more!) will be covered in this comprehensive guide.
Many of the world’s top strength and physique coaches continue to use eccentric training today to get superior results for their athletes.
Christian Thibadeau believes that eccentric training is the single greatest training tool for helping intermediate and advanced athletes bust through strength and hypertrophy plateaus.
Josh Bryant is another world-class strength coach who has repeatedly used eccentric training protocols to help is bodybuilding and powerlifting clients achieve outstanding results in the gym
I have used all 11 of these eccentric training methods over and over with my online clients, and for good reason: they produce results in record time!
Be warned: eccentric training is one of the most demanding training methods that you can use.
It places severe stress on the neuro-muscular and musculo-skeletal systems. And I do mean severe.
I agree with Charles Poliquin that you should have at least 2 years of hardcore strength training experience before you even attempt any of these training methods.
If you attempt to utilize these training methods too early in your training career then you are putting yourself at unnecessary risk for injury.
This is especially true for the eccentric training methods that are covered towards the end of this article.
You had better know what you are doing if you are going to use something as demanding as supra-maximal eccentric training in your own programming.
Of course you are free to do as you please, but I HIGHLY recommend you play around with the methods at the top of the list before moving on to the more advanced methods.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
If you meet these training requirements and aren’t afraid of a little pain in the weight room then allow me to introduce to you the 11 greatest eccentric training methods of all time!
Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines provided in this guide then please consult this article.
Now let’s get down to business…
Method #1: Slow Eccentric Reps
The next time you are in the gym I want to carefully observe everyone around you.
I have lifted in gyms literally all over the United States, and I can tell you for a fact that almost NO ONE controls the eccentric (lowering) phase of their reps!
I talked about this a lot in my article on tempo training.
OK, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. But seriously, it is very very rare to see anyone putting any effort into controlling the speed of the lowering phase of their reps.
This is a huge mistake!
If you are at all familiar with my other work, then you probably already know how important it is to control all of the loading parameters for optimal results.
And by far the most neglected loading parameter is tempo.
As a very general rule of thumb, for optimal results, you should use an eccentric tempo between 1-5 seconds on most of your exercises.
That is, the lowering phase of most of your exercises should take between 1 and 5 seconds to complete.
This is in stark contrast to most trainees, where they simply drop the weight as fast as possible on every repetition (even on things like bench presses!).
These slower eccentric tempos will place additional stress on your muscles and nervous system and improve the effectiveness of your training stimulus.
Of course, a specific tempo is only as good as the time it takes for your body to adapt to it.
For example, let’s say you are using the following tempo for an exercise:
This means that you are lowering the weight under a controlled 2-second time frame and lifting the weight as explosively as possible.
While this is a perfectly reasonable tempo, your body will likely become “bored” with it after only 3-6 workouts.
At this time you will have to change the tempo, along with other variables such as your chosen exercises etc. to keep making progress.
If you are brand new to eccentric training and have never controlled the lowering phases of your reps then I recommend you start with just a 2 second lowering phase.
Over time you can build up to a five second lowering phase on most exercises. This will increase the eccentric stress on your muscles and provide a novel stimulus for strength and size gains.
Just make sure that you keep varying the tempo over time as there is no single best eccentric lowering speed!
For example, if you are brand new to lowering your weights under control, then you may want to try the following upper body routine.
Check it out:
- A1 – Close grip bench press, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
- A2 – Close pronated grip chinups, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
- B1 – 45 degree incline dumbbell press (pronated grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2 – T-bar rows, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1 – Decline ez-bar extension to forehead, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- C2 – Incline cable curl, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
I highly recommend you perform the vast majority of your sets with a 1-5 second eccentric or lowering phase.
There are some instances where an even slower lowering phase, such as 10 seconds or more, can be justified.
Powerlifting legend Matt Wenning sometimes even works 10 second lowering phases into his speed bench press workouts.
I can’t emphasize this enough: you MUST master the 1-5 second eccentric phase before you advance onto the other more advanced eccentric training method covered in this article.
Method #2: The Last Slow Eccentric Repetition
This method is a little bit different from the 1-5 second eccentric phase covered in Part 2 of this article.
Just like method #1 you will perform a set where every repetition includes a 1-5 second lowering phase. However, unlike method #1 you are going to take at least 10 seconds to lower the final repetition!
This can get pretty confusing, so let’s look at a sample arm training routine.
- A1: V-bar dips, 5 x 5, 4/0/X/0**, 100 seconds rest
- A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 5 x 5, 4/0/X/0**, 100 seconds rest
- B1: Prone 45 degree bilateral trap 3 raise, 4 x 8-10, 4/0/2/2, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Seated DB external rotation (elbow on knee), 4 x 8-10, 4/0/2/2, 60 seconds rest
**Performed with a 10-second negative phase on the final repetition
You will notice that a 10 second eccentric phase is included on the final repetition of each set for both the “A1” and “A2” exercises.
Here is what this would look like for one set of dips (where you start the movement with an eccentric contraction):
- Rep 1: 4 second lowering phase, explosive lifting phase (this is what 4/0/X/0 means)
- Rep 2: 4 second lowering phase, explosive lifting phase
- Rep 3: 4 second lowering phase, explosive lifting phase
- Rep 4: 4 second lowering phase, explosive lifting phase
- Rep 5: 4 second lowering phase, explosive lifting phase
- Rep 6: 10 second lowering phase, no lifting phase (set is terminated)
Because you START with the lowering phase on dips, one final (6th) eccentric rep is included where you lower your body weight under control over 10 seconds, and then terminate the set by landing your feet on the ground.
Here is what this would look like for preacher ez-bar curls (where you start the movement with a concentric contraction):
- Rep 1: explosive lifting phase, 4 second lowering phase (this is what 4/0/X/0 means)
- Rep 2: explosive lifting phase, 4 second lowering phase
- Rep 3: explosive lifting phase, 4 second lowering phase
- Rep 4: explosive lifting phase, 4 second lowering phase
- Rep 5: explosive lifting phase, 10 second lowering phase
After the final 10 second lowering phase, you are done. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Your biceps will feel like they are ready to fall of the bone if you did this right!
So why does the last slow eccentric rep method work so well?
What we are doing here is first exhausting our concentric strength levels.
Completing the concentric portion of the fifth and final rep should be extremely demanding, but you will get it.
Normally this is where a set ends. Of course, this is no ordinary set.
With the last slow eccentric rep method we then proceed to further exhaust our eccentric strength levels.
After the last 10 second negative, not only would you struggle to LIFT the weight another time, but you would struggle to be able to LOWER it under control another time!
Exhausting eccentric strength levels is the name of the game when it comes to eccentric training.
If this is your first time using this method then you may be surprised at how sore your muscles get, and how much bigger / stronger you are then next time you train those same muscle groups!
Method #3: Yielding Isometric Reps
If you are paying attention, then you might be asking yourself the following question:
“Isometric reps? I thought we were talking about eccentric training! Have you gone off your rocker!?”
The truth is I probably went off my rocker a long time ago, but not for the reasons you might think.
Yes, this is an article on eccentric training. But yielding isometrics are completely unlike the overcoming isometrics that I’ve written about so much in the past.
In fact, yielding isometrics are really another form of eccentric training!
With yielding isometrics, you are trying to hold a load in place by preventing it from lowering to the ground.
Perhaps one of the best examples of a yielding isometric is the crucifix hold in the sport of professional strongman.
Competitors are tasked with holding extremely heavy weights at shoulder-height with their arms fully extended for as long as they can bear.
The act of resisting the weight from dropping down heavily taxes eccentric strength!
Even though the load is not moving, you are still getting all the usual benefits of eccentric training with yielding isometrics.
Of course, you don’t need to want to be a professional strongman to get the most out of yielding isometrics. Instead, a very simple technique is to insert 6-8 second isometric pauses during the lowering phase of your exercises.
I recommend you use 3 separate 6-8 second pauses during each isometric hold during the eccentric range.
These could be at the shortened, mid-range, and lengthened positions of the strength curve (or at the top, middle, and bottom of your lifts).
Here is an excellent video demonstration of yielding isometrics for preacher curls and dips:
Because the eccentric phase of each rep could easily last 18-24 seconds, the rep ranges with this method will be rather low.
For example, here is a lower body accumulation-style routine you may want to try.
Check it out:
- A1: Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlifts, 3 x 3, 3/1/X/1**, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Front foot elevated split squat (DBs for added weight), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Side step up (DBs for added weight), 3 x 6-8, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- C1: 45 degree back extension (bands around neck), 2 x 8-12, 3/1/1/1, 120 seconds rest
**3 separate pauses for 6-8 seconds each during the eccentric phase
This is an absolutely brutal workout and is not recommended unless you have an above-average pain tolerance.
If you have been neglecting your posterior chain in your training then this may be just what you need to kick-start the strength and size gains.
Method #4: The Last Yielding Isometric Rep
This is another variation of yielding isometric reps.
However, instead of performing yielding isometrics on every repetition, you ONLY perform them on the final repetition of your set.
This can be thought of as a “post-failure” or “high-intensity” bodybuilding technique where you further exhaust eccentric strength levels after achieving concentric failure (or close to it).
Like most high-intensity bodybuilding techniques, this method is far more effective for building muscle than it is for getting stronger.
This does not mean that you cannot get stronger training this way! Rather, it is normally best reserved for accumulation methods where increases in muscle mass are desired.
You have to be very careful with your exercise selection when using the last yielding isometric rep method. After all, we we are training beyond technical failure here!
You don’t want to use this method on bench presses without a spotter as you will be trapped there with a barbell stuck on your chest!
This method works best with exercises where you don’t need a spotter, such as deadlifts, chin ups, dips, overhead presses, and various arm exercises.
This method can also work well on movements like bench presses etc. if you have a highly trained spotter to help you out.
Here is a great chest / back routine that you may want to give a try.
Check it out:
- A1: Supinated shoulder-width chin ups, 4 x 6-8**, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- A2: 30 degree incline dumbbell press, 4 x 6-8**, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B1: Barbell dead-stop row, 4 x 8-10, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: 60 degree incline dumbbell press, 4 x 8-10, 2/2/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- C1: Standing cable external rotation (elbow by side), 3 x 10-12, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
**perform 3 separate 6-8 second isometric pauses during the eccentric phase of the final repetition.
The isometric pauses are only performed on the final repetition of the first 2 exercises in this routine. They are far more demanding in real life than they appear on paper.
If you do the isometric pauses correctly you will be shaking so much that you look like you have a bad case of Parkinson’s disease!
Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. This is just your body struggling to recruit dormant motor units. After all, your body can recruit more motor units during isometric contractions than either concentric or eccentric ones.
Method #5: Cheating Reps
Ah, good old-fashioned cheating reps.
Most people lift with such atrocious form that almost all of their reps can be considered cheating rips!
All kidding aside, cheating reps are easily one of the most abused training methods the world over.
The classic example of this is people cheating during standing barbell curls.
Most people use a tremendous amount of “body English” to get the barbell moving and barely using their biceps at the very end of the movement to complete the lift.
Again, this is an example of what NOT to do!
The lifter just drops the weight down to the starting position without bothering to control it. What a monumental waste of time!
Do you aspire to be an über-dweeb like the man in this video? Then don’t bother lowering your weights under control!!
In reality cheating reps can be quite effective if you use them properly. After all they are just another form of eccentric training.
I highly doubt you’ve heard someone make this claim before, so I’ll go into some more detail here.
The ENTIRE POINT of “cheating” during the concentric phase of a movement is to be able to more effectively tax the eccentric portion of the movement with more weight!
There are many ways to take advantage of this training concept. For example, I am a HUGE fan of barbell dead stop rows. They are one of the very best rowing exercises for overloading the entire backside.
For example, here is Brian Shaw performing a picture-perfect set of dead stop rows with 500 pounds:
You’ll notice that this isn’t completely strict like a Pendlay row. Instead, Brain is treating the beginning portion of the movement like a deadlift to get some momentum going.
Once the weight gets to just below his knees he begins to row the barbell into his stomach, and then return it to the ground.
I can guarantee you that Brian cannot “strict” (Pendlay) row 500 pounds, but he can certainly dead-stop row 500 pounds!
The real benefit is that he is lowering 500 pounds under control and maximally overloading his upper back musculature!
There are other exercises where “cheating” can be justified. Here is a short non-inclusive list:
- Dead-stop barbell rows
- Dead-stop T-bar rows
- Dead-stop cable V-handle rows
- Preacher curls
- Various other curls
- Rolling dumbbell extensions
- Pullover extensions (aka PJR pullovers)
As you can see, cheating reps tend to work best for rowing exercises and isolation exercises for the arms.
Cheating reps are in fact more taxing than regular reps due to the increased eccentric stress they create.
It would therefore be smart to perform fewer overall sets on any workout employing cheating reps to reduce the overall stress on your recovery reserves.
Here is a sample back / triceps hypertrophy workout featuring “cheating reps” that you may want to try.
Check it out:
- A1: Barbell dead stop row, 4 x 6-8, 3/1/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- A2: PJR pullover, 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
- B1: Wide overhand grip pulldown, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Wide neutral grip pulldown, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B3: V-bar upright dips, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- B4: Seated overhead dumbbell extension (using one single dumbbell), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
Cheating reps are by far one of the most abused eccentric training methods in the entire world.
Most people make the mistake of rapidly dropping the weight down instead of deliberately controlling the eccentric phase of the exercise.
If you have the discipline to control your weights on the way down then you may find cheating reps to be a fantastic training tool to boost muscular hypertrophy.
Method #6: Novel Eccentric Exercises
There are some exercises that literally have an eccentric loading component built-in with the exercise.
These exercise variations can be an extremely effective way to increase the eccentric stress you are exposing your body to but without having to worry about dramatically increased levels of soreness.
Let’s run down a list of some of my favourite novel eccentric exercises:
- Zottman curls
- Hamstring curls with the Poliquin technique
- Back extensions with loads held at arms-length
- Lean-away chinups on rings
I am so fond of these exercise variations that we are going to examine each one in detail.
Exercise #1: Zottman Curls
Zottman curls are different from any other curling exercise you have ever done. The idea is to curl the dumbbells up with a supinated grip and then lower them back down with a pronated grip.
In order to do this you simply pronate your hands at the top position of the exercise and supinate them at the bottom position. The reason why this works so well is quite interesting.
You are far weaker curling with a pronated (palms down) grip vs a supinated (palms up) grip.
In fact, even someone with optimal structural balance (which is very rare) will only be able to reverse curl 82% of the weight they can curl with a supinated grip.
This means that you are lifting the dumbbells with your stronger grip, and lowering with the weaker grip. So you are overloading the eccentric phase of the lift!
In fact, the zottman curl is probably the single best exercise you can do for boosting brachialis strength!
You may want to perform it one arm at a time on a preacher bench to make it even more effective.
Exercise #2: Leg Curls With The Poliquin Method
This is a fantastic way to eccentrically overload the hamstrings.
Pay close attention! The athlete lifts the weight with his ankles pointed towards his shins (dorsiflexed).
At the top of the movement the athlete points his toes away from his shins (plantarflexion) and then lowers the load under control.
What the heck is this accomplishing? Actually it is very similar to the idea behind zottman curls. The Poliquin method on leg curls lets you overload the eccentric portion of the movement!
While the hamstrings are by far the primary muscles that flex (bend) the knee, they are not the only ones.
It turns out the Gastrocnemius (upper calf) muscle also assists with knee flexion.
But the Gastrocnemius can only assist with knee flexion when the toes are dorsiflexed (pointed towards the shin)!
When the toes are plantarflexed, the Gastrocnemius “taps out” as a knee flexor and dumps all the work back onto the hamstrings. Surprisingly we can use this information to eccentrically overload the hamstrings!
With the Poliquin method on leg curls, we flex (bend) our knees concentrically against the load with our feet dorsiflexed.
This means our Gastrocs are assisting with the concentric phase so we can move more weight than usual.
Then at the end of the concentric range we plantarflex our toes. In this way our Gastrocs are tapping out and only the hamstrings are left to lower the weight down!
This means we are lowering a weight down using only our hamstrings that is heavier than what we can lift concentrically!
This allows us to maximally eccentrically overload the hamstrings as knee flexors!
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know your anatomy, or work directly with a coach who knows their anatomy. The difference in results is night and day.
Exercise #3: Eccentric Back Extensions
I am a big fan of both 45 degree and 90 degree back extensions.
But back extensions are also one of my favourite ways to eccentrically overload the lower back!
Watch closely: the athlete is hugging the dumbbells by her chest on the way up, and fully extending her arms on the way down.
She is playing with levers to make the load heavier on the way down! How cool is that?
I’ve probably lost some of you, so let’s go into this in a little more detail. A weight is always going to “feel” heavier to you when you hold it further away from your body.
For example, try holding a dumbbell against your chest and then extend your arms straight while holding it. It is going to feel much heavier with your arms extended straight out in front of you!
Let’s take another look at the back extensions video:
With back extensions, the further away from your lower back the load is, the heavier it will feel. When you bring the weight in close to your chest, the load on your lower back is lighter.
However, when you straighten your arms out (like the woman in the video), the load becomes heavier on the lower back!
In this manner you can overload the spinal erectors on the eccentric portion of the movement with a weight you normally could not lift concentrically!
How cool is that?
Exercise #4: Lean Away Chinups On Rings
This exercise is a personal favourite of mine, although I know many of you will not have access to gymnastic rings.
If that is the case, you have three options:
- Skip this mini-section and go straight to “Part 7: The 2/1 Eccentric Method”
- Change gyms
- Piss and moan about your current poorly equipped gym
The choice is yours. I won’t lose any sleep if you choose option 3!
If you have never attempted chin ups on rings then you know how hard they are. An interesting way to make them even more challenging is to lean away on the descent of the lift.
This technique eccentrically overloads your scapular retractors (traps and rhomboids). In fact, you will find that lowering yourself under control on the way down is MORE taxing than pulling yourself up to the top!
It is virtually impossible to have scapular retractors that are too strong, so it is a great idea to have many tools in your toolbox for training these muscles!
There are other novel exercises that you can use to overload the eccentric range of a movement, but these are four of my favourite.
I highly recommend you give zottman curls, leg curls with the poliquin method, eccentric 45 degree back extensions, and lean-away chin ups on rings a shot. I am confident you will be pleased with the results!
Of course, the 2/1 method is another great way to go about it…
Method #7: The 2/1 Eccentric Method
The 2/1 Eccentric method is really quite simple:
- You lift the weight with two limbs
- You lower the weight with one limb
By lifting a load with two arms or legs and then lowering with just one, you are providing some massive eccentric overload to the working limb!
One of the most important factors when selecting exercises for the 2/1 eccentric technique is to make sure the exercise is safe.
I don’t want too see you doing barbell squats down with one leg and up with two!
Here is a list of exercises that are appropriate for this method:
For example, here is a set of hamstring curls performed with the 2/1 method:
His form is a bit looser than I would like, but you get the idea.
Here is a decent demonstration of seated cable v-bar rows using the 2/1 technique:
As a rule of thumb, this technique works better in accumulation phases where increases in the cross-sectional area of the muscle are desired.
If you’re looking to add on slabs of muscle, then this would be a great choice.
If, on the other hand, you are more interested in strength, then this would not be your best option.
Method #8: Forced Reps
This was and perhaps still is the most savage training DVD ever recorded by a professional bodybuilder, let alone a Mr. Olympia winner.
You won’t find someone like Phil Heath training anywhere near that hard anytime soon! Sorry Phil!
If there was one thing that defined Dorian’s training style, besides his in-human intensity, it would have to be his reliance on forced reps.
In fact, Dorian Yates is one of the only individuals that I have seen make the connection between forced reps and eccentric training.
There are a couple of main ways to use forced reps in your training.
They squeeze some benefit out of this training method before cycling it out of their training for a while.
This is definitely the more reasonable approach and the one I tend to use with my clients.
The other approach is to literally base your entire training program around forced reps.
For example, here is the exact biceps workout that Dorian used in his bodybuilding prime.
Check it out:
- A1: 60 degree incline curl (hammer grip), 1 x 6 + 1 forced rep, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- B1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide supinated grip), 1 x 4 + 2 forced reps, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- C1: 1-arm preacher machine curl (supinated grip), 1 x 5 + 3 forced reps, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
If you want to make forced reps the foundation of your training then I highly recommend you give the Dorian Yates training program a shot.
You won’t be disappointed with the results!
Method #9: Supra maximal Forced Reps
If you thought forced reps were hard, then you might be shitting your pants the first time you try supramaximal forced reps!
OK, maybe this isn’t the greatest name for this method, but I haven’t seen anyone else come up with a better name so I’m sticking to it!
The idea is simple:
First, you take a set to concentric failure. Usually you will fail anywhere between 4-12 reps.
After this, you will ADD weight to the bar and complete an additional 2-3 eccentric-only repetitions.
Depending on the chosen exercise you may need a competent spotter to help you through the concentric range to do this method properly.
Exercises where you don’t need a spotter include:
- Chin ups
- Preacher curls
- Reverse ez-bar curls
- Cable external rotations
The procedure for dips is rather simple:
First you complete the desired number of repetitions in good form. Then, with your feet on the ground, you ADD WEIGHT to your dipping belt and perform 2-3 eccentric-only repetitions.
Ideally you want to use a 8-10 second negative on these eccentric-only reps, regardless of your tempo on the first 4-12 reps!
Chin ups are similar:
Simply complete 4-12 normal chin ups in good form. Then with your feet on the ground, ADD WEIGHT to your dipping belt.
Then stand on a platform that allows you to grip the chinning handles from the top position, and slowly lower yourself down to the staring position. Repeat for another 1-2 repetitions.
Preacher curls are even easier:
Complete 4-12 repetitions in good form with one arm.
Then swap your current dumbbell for a HEAVIER one, use your other arm to assist you into the top position, and lower the weight in good form for another 2-3 eccentric only repetitions.
Other exercises are also possible with supramaximal forced reps.
For example, these can be performed with bench presses, incline presses, squats etc.
However, you will need a highly competent spotter (and possibly some weight releasers) to make it work.
Here are two sample routines that you can perform using supramaximal forced reps.
I learned these from none other than Charles Poliquin and they are known as the 12+3 method and the 4+2 method.
The 12+3 Training Method
Here is a sample arm routine using the 12+3 method.
Again, you perform 12 reps in clean form, then increase the load by approximately 5-15% and complete 3 additional eccentric-only repetitions.
Check it out:
- A1: V-bar dips, 3-5 x 12+3**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Unilateral preacher DB curls (supinated grip), 3-5 x 12+3**, 4/0/X/0, 12 seconds rest
- B1: Decline DB extension, 3 x 5-7, 3/2/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: 60 degree incline DB curl, 3-5 x 5-7, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
**Perform 12 reps just shy of failure, put down the load, add 5-15% more weight to the load, and perform 3 more eccentric only repetitions on a 8/0/1/0 tempo.
**You should rest no more than 15 seconds between the set of 4 and the 2 additional eccentric only repetitions.
The 12+3 method tends to work best during an accumulation phase, but it is not just for bodybuilders.
Strength athletes who want to add some size while taking a break from the pounding of low-repetitions may find this training method extremely useful.
The 4+2 Training Method
Here is a sample arm routine using the 4+2 method.
Again, you perform 4 reps in clean form, then increase the load by approximately 5-15% and complete 2 additional eccentric-only repetitions.
I have a soft spot for this set / rep scheme, as it has given me some of the best gains of my life. Many of my long-term clients have also used it to destroy old training plateaus.
Here is a sample 4+2 arm training routine.
Check it out:
- A1: Close grip bench press, 3-5 x 4+2**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Medium pronated-grip chin ups, 3-5 x 4+2**, 4/0/X/0, 12 seconds rest
- B1: Decline DB extension, 3 x 5-7, 3/2/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: 60 degree incline DB curl, 3-5 x 5-7, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
**Perform 4 reps just shy of failure, put down the load, add 5-15% more weight to the load, and perform 2 more eccentric only repetitions on a 10/0/1/0 tempo.
**You should rest no more than 15 seconds between the set of 4 and the 2 additional eccentric only repetitions.
Note: do not attempt the 4+2 method on the close grip bench press without a pair of HIGHLY competent spotters and possibly a pair of weight releasers!
You’ve been warned!
Method #10: Multiple Eccentric-Only Repetitions
Now we’re really getting into the good stuff.
Do not ignore this warning:
The training methods discussed in sections 10 and 11 are for highly experienced trainees only.
If you do not have at least 2 years of hardcore training experience and 6 months spent building up your tolerance for eccentric training THEN YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS DOING THESE METHODS!
Again, this is for the methods detailed in parts 10 and 11 of this article.
Eccentric-only repetitions are just like they sound: we are skipping the concentric range of an exercise entirely and focusing exclusively on the eccentric range.
This is the maximalist approach to overloading eccentric strength levels.
This can be considered a very high-risk, high-reward training technique.
The training stimulus is simply out of this world, especially for inducing strength and size gains within the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
However, there is also a downside: supra-maximal eccentrics are very very difficult to recover from.
In fact, they are so difficult to recover from, that I recommend you ONLY perform them every-other workout per body part.
For example, if you are training four days per week on an upper / lower split then you may want to organize your workouts like this:
- Sunday: Upper (normal)
- Monday: Lower (normal)
- Tuesday: Off
- Wednesday: Upper (eccentric-emphasis)
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Lower (eccentric-emphasis)
- Saturday: Off
It normally takes about 7-10 days to fully recover from an eccentric-only workout. This does not mean that you can only train a body part once every 7-10 days when training this way.
Instead, you can squeeze in a more “normal” workout for that body part in between the eccentric-only workouts, like in the above example.
So what the heck are multiple eccentric-only repetitions?
Actually, these are just as they sound: you are performing multiple eccentric-only repetitions as port of one set. Of course multiple sets are usually performed per body part.
One of the very best ways to perform multiple eccentric-only repetitions is with weight-releasers.
If you are not familiar with weight releasers, then I highly recommend you check out my article:
For example here is an excellent bench press routine featuring weight releasers that you may want to try.
Check it out:
- A1: Bench press w/ weight releasers, 5 x 5**, 8/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Decline ez-bar extension to forehead, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- C2: Band pull-apart, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
**Perform these five sets of five in cluster sets fashion. Rest 10-15 seconds in between each repitition. After the fifth rep rest 4 minutes before performing another set. See the video below for a perfect demonstration.
Technically the athlete was using 10-15 second rest intervals in between each repetition, so this would be more of a cluster set than a true straight set.
It is of course possible to perform multiple eccentric only repetitions without weight releasers.
However, a pair of highly skilled spotters is usually necessary to make it work (unless you are performing exercises such as chin ups or dips that don’t require spotters).
For example, if you are creative enough, eccentric deficit snatch grip deadlifts are possible. Here is an eccentric deadlift routine you may want to try if you have a pair of spotters and are feeling particularly daring.
Check it out:
- A1: 2 inch deficit snatch grip deadlifts (eccentric only), 8 x 3, 8/0/X/0**, 180 seconds rest
- B1: Front foot elevated split squat, 3 x 5-7, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: Seated hamstring curl (feet plantarflexed / pointed out), 3 x 5-7, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
**Performed as eccentric only repetitions with 2 training partners assisting through the concentric range
Talk about a brutal workout! I am sure Bob Peoples is smiling in his grave knowing that people have continued his legacy of using eccentric-only deadlifts to build super-human strength.
Trust me, you won’t need more than three exercises for your entire lower body when you are training like this.
Expect some serious delayed onset muscle soreness throughout your legs and your entire backside after one workout like this!
Method #11: Single Eccentric-Only Repetitions
This is perhaps the grand-daddy of all eccentric training protocols for pure strength gains.
Instead of performing multiple eccentric reps, you are only performing one single maximal eccentric contraction per set.
Weight releasers are almost always used here, although they may not be necessary for some exercises.
Here is a great demonstration on the back squat:
This is one of Christian Thibadeau’s athletes.
If you can believe it Christian Thibadeau is probably an even bigger fan of weight releasers than I am!
The benefits of this training method are clear:
- You maximally overload the eccentric portion of the strength curve
- The fast-twitch motor units are maximally recruited
- Connective tissue strength (tendons, bone density) is significantly increased
- The golgi tendon organ is disinhibited, so weights “feel” lighter in your hands and on your back
There are of course many other benefits to regularly performing supramaximal eccentrics. Check out this article for more information
Unfortunately there is only so much I can cover in one article!
Although the reward is very high with this training method, the risk is also very high. If you are not careful you run the risk of injuring yourself.
But if you have the guts to use weight releasers in this manner, you will be rewarded.
In my opinion there is no better method for inducing rapid strength gains in the intermediate to advanced lifter than with maximal eccentric singles.
After 2-4 weeks using maximal eccentrics you will want to switch to a higher-rep accumulation phase to give your muscles and nervous system a break.
Something like tri-sets would be perfect, but you are free to make up your own mind.
Here is a sample training routine using maximal single eccentrics to get you started.
Check it out:
- A1: Back squat** (heels narrow / flat), 7-8 x 1, 10/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Side step up (holding DBs), 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: Lying hamstring curl (bilateral, feet neutral / plantarflexed), 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- C1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 2 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2, 120 seconds rest
**Performed using weight releasers. The total load (barbell + weight releasers) should represent approximately 90-120% of your best 1 rep max on the back squat.
And yes, you have to use a TEN SECOND negative on the eccentric squats. If you cannot control the descent in 10 seconds, the weight is too heavy.
Remember: you have to leave your ego at the door on this routine!
You are now equipped with 11 of the most productive eccentric training methods ever conceived.
In fact, if you properly absorb the contents of this article, you will know more about eccentric training than almost anyone alive.
It trust you will find a way to make good use of this information.
Those of you with the guts to incorporate eccentric training into your yearly training plan will be rewarded with screaming-fast progress.
So get out there and start emphasizing your eccentrics!
Always remember: the mind is more important than the body. Where the mind goes the body will follow.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!
Chad Wesley Smith is one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry today. Chad has competed at the absolute highest levels in three different sports: shot put, powerlifting and strongman....
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