The Pros And Cons Of Eccentric Training!


the advantages and disadvantages of eccentric training

Eccentric training is easily one of the most powerful and most effective training methods that you can use. If you want to get the most out of your training then you must familiarize yourself with the advantages and disadvantages of eccentric training!

Introduction

  • Advantage #1: Superior Strength Gains
  • Advantage #2: Superior Hypertrophy Gains
  • Advantage #3: Increased Connective Tissue Strength
  • Advantage #4: Improved Exercise Technique
  • Advantage #5: Shift To A Faster Twitch Muscle Profile
  • Disadvantage #1: Very Difficult To Recover From
  • Disadvantage #2: You Must Use A Reduced Training Frequency
  • Disadvantage #3: You Need 2 Years Of Prior Training Experience
  • Disadvantage #4: You May Need Specialized Equipment
  • Disadvantage #5: You May Need Multiple Spotters For Safety Reasons

In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you everything you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of eccentric training.

As you may already know there are three major types of muscular contractions:

  • Concentric
  • Isometric
  • Eccentric 

The eccentric portion of a repetition refers to the phase of the lift where you are lowering a weight and your muscles are lengthening.

The scientific literature has demonstrated over and over again that the eccentric or lowering phase of a lift is more important than the concentric or lifting phase of a lift for stimulating size and strength gains!

It is almost always a good idea to control the lowering phases of your exercises. However, when I say “eccentric training” I am really talking about “accentuated eccentric training.” In other words I am talking about training methods designed to overload the lowering phase of a lift!

There are many ways of performing accentuated eccentric training. For example, Dorian Yates used forced reps to overload his eccentric strength on the Nautilus pullover machine after first reaching concentric muscular failure:

If you watch closely Dorian performs 5 reps to failure followed by 3 additional forced reps with the help of a spotter. Talk about a tough set!

The real magic behind Dorian’s forced reps strategy is overloading the eccentric phase of his exercises. This isn’t just my opinion though – you can click right here to listen to Dorian Yates talking about  the benefits of taxing your eccentric strength with forced reps on a podcast with Joe Rogan:

Another great strategy is to use weight releasers to overload the negative phase of a rep and perform supra-maximal eccentric repetitions. These are extreme training methods that can result in unbelievably fast size and strength gains.

Here is Josh Bryant giving a perfect demonstration of this superior training tool:

Of course there are also many drawbacks to these accentuated eccentric training methods that you need to be aware of. By the end of this article you will have a thorough understanding of the pros and cons of eccentric training and how to incorporate eccentric training into your own workouts.

If you want more information on eccentric training then I highly recommend the following 3 articles available here on Revolutionary Program Design:

Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines in this article then check out this guide on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Advantage #1: Superior Strength Gains

Eccentric training is one of the best training methods that you can use to get stronger. This is especially true if you are an intermediate or advanced trainee. 

Here are just a few of the reasons eccentric training is so effective for improving maximal strength:

  • It increases the mechanical tension on your muscle fibers
  • It improves your “strength deficit”
  • It down-regulates the golgi-tendon organ
  • It increases your confidence with heavy weights

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Reason #1: Eccentric Training increases The Mechanical Tension On Your Muscle Fibers

One of the reasons eccentric training works so well for rapidly boosting strength is it places a tremendous overload on your individual muscle fibers.

The scientific literature has shown that eccentric contractions place 1.3 times more tension on your muscle fibers than concentric reps. And this is just with regular loads!

When you start lowering weights that exceed 100% of your 1-rep max the mechanical tension on your muscle fibers shoots through the roof!

Reason #2: Eccentric Training improves Your “Strength Deficit”

The “strength deficit” refers to the difference between your concentric strength and your eccentric strength. This can be a confusing topic so let’s compare two hypothetical lifters.

Our first lifter will be called “Mr. Average Gym Bro” and our second lifter will be called “Mr. Eccentric.”

Mr. Average Gym Bro never bothers to lower his weights under control. He lifts his weights up as fast as he can and then lets them drop back down as fast as possible.

Because he trains this way Mr. Average Gym Bro has very poor levels of eccentric strength. He can bench press 300 pounds concentrically but he can only lower about 310 pounds under control.

Mr. Eccentric takes a very different approach to training. He lowers his weights under control on every set. He likes to mix up his eccentric tempos from one routine to the next but he usually keeps them in the 1-5 second range.

Mr. Eccentric also occasionally performs accentuated eccentric training methods such as the 12+3 method or yielding isometrics. Mr. Eccentric can bench press about 300 pounds concentrically but he can safely lower about 360 pounds under control.

Both trainees can bench press 300 pounds but Mr. Eccentric has far superior levels of eccentric strength. This is means Mr. Eccentric has a superior “strength deficit.” This is really important because the greater your strength deficit is the greater your potential for long-term strength gains is!

More likely than not Mr. Average Gym Bro is in the middle of a long training plateau while Mr. Eccentric is increasing his strength at a very rapid pace.

Reason #3: Eccentric Training down-Regulates The Golgi-Tendon Organ

Another major benefit of eccentric training for boosting strength is that it down-regulates the golgi tendon organ. The golgi-tendon organ is a sensory organ located in all of your major muscle groups throughout your entire body.

The golgi-tendon organ is designed to prevent you from injuring yourself. For example, let’s say you are performing a bench press but your golgi tendon organ believes that you might injure yourself if you use all of your strength.

The golgi tendon organ will send inhibitory messages to your brain that prevent you from exerting your full strength.

It is great that the golgi tendon keeps you from injuring yourself. However, it tends to be overactive. It is like an overprotective mother that won’t let her child play on the dirt mound even though it is perfectly safe to do so.

One of the benefits of accentuated eccentric training is that it actually down-regulates the golgi tendon organ over time! This is extremely important if you want to make long-term strength gains.

You can click right here to listen to the world-class strength coach Christian Thibadeau talking about this concept.

Reason #4: Eccentric Training increases Your Confidence With Heavy Weights 

This is another huge benefit of eccentric training in terms of boosting strength. A lot of eccentric training protocols involve you lowering more than 100% of your 1-rep max! This really goes a long ways in terms of boosting your confidence with maximal weights.

Partial reps as recommended by Anthony Ditillo are another great means for accomplishing this.

However, I particularly like accentuated eccentric protocols because you are working the muscles through a more complete range of motion. 

Sample Training Routine

Here is a sample accentuated eccentric training routine that you can use to rapidly boost strength in your entire body. This routine does require weight releasers. If you do not have access to weight releasers then I recommend you either purchase a pair or choose another one of the eccentric routines provided in this article. 

For this routine I want you to use an upper body / lower body split performed 4 days per week. For example:

  • Monday: upper body #1 (eccentric emphasis)
  • Wednesday: lower body #1 (eccentric emphasis)
  • Friday: upper body #2 (regular lifting)
  • Saturday: lower body #2 (regular lifting)

Of course you can choose to train on different days of the week as long as you do not schedule more than 2 training days in a row. On this routine you are going to perform accentuated eccentric workouts early in the week and more traditional workouts later in the week.

Eccentric training is extremely taxing on the body and should not be performed more than once every 7-10 days. If you attempt to use weight releasers on all 4 training days then you will likely burn out and make little to no progress.

Here are the actual workouts:

Upper Body Eccentric Training Routine #1

  • A1: Bench press w/ weight releasers (shoulder-width grip)**, 5 x 3***, 3/0/X/0****, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated zottman curl, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated DB external rotation, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

**Use approximately 80% of your 1-rep max on the barbell and an additional 10-30% of your 1-rep max on the weight releasers. This is combined, so each weight releaser should represent an extra 5-15% of your 1-rep max.

***Perform the first rep with the weight releasers and the second two reps without the weight releasers. These reps are performed back-to-back in the same set.

****Perform the first rep on an 8/0/X/0 tempo (that’s an 8-second negative) and the last 2 reps on a 3/0/X/0 tempo as written.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1, exercise C2.

Lower Body Eccentric Training Routine #1

  • A1: Back squat with weight releasers (medium stance / heels flat)**, 5-6 x 3***, 3/0/X/0****, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Lying leg curl 2/1 method (feet plantarflexed / pointing straight), 5 x 3, 8/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated DB split squat, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (band tension), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest 

**Use approximately 80% of your 1-rep max on the barbell and an additional 10-30% of your 1-rep max on the weight releasers. This is combined, so each weight releaser should represent an extra 5-15% of your 1-rep max.

***Perform the first rep with the weight releasers and the second two reps without the weight releasers. These reps are performed back-to-back in the same set.

****Perform the first rep on an 8/0/X/0 tempo (that’s an 8-second negative) and the last 2 reps on a 3/0/X/0 tempo as written.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

Upper Body Eccentric Training Routine #2

  • A1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5-6 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow neutral grip pull ups, 5-6 x 3, 3/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated zottman curl, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated DB external rotation, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

Lower Body Eccentric Training Routine #2

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing straight), 5 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated DB split squat, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (band tension), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest 

This is an extremely demanding but rewarding training routine. If you perform it correctly you can expect some of the fastest strength gains of your entire life! 

Advantage #2: Superior Hypertrophy Gains

Another major advantage of accentuated eccentric training protocols is increased muscular hypertrophy.

Eccentric training is perfect for adding slabs of muscle mass onto your frame! Dorian Yates was famous for using forced reps on most of his exercises and he built himself into one of the largest bodybuilders the world has ever seen. 

It turns out that very little muscular damage actually occurs during the concentric range of a repetition. Instead almost all of the muscular damage occurs during the eccentric range! By using accentuated eccentric training protocols you are able to really focus on the part of the repetition that actually builds muscle.

One of the interesting things about eccentric training is that it primarily increases the size of your fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Normally during a set your body will start out by recruiting the slow-twitch muscle fibers and only call upon the fast-twitch fibers if a set approaches muscular failure. Accentuated eccentric reps are unique in that the body immediately starts recruiting the fast-twitch muscle fibers from the get-go!

Powerlifters and other strength athletes are obviously interested in hypertrophying their fast-twitch muscle fibers as these are the fibers responsible for powerful muscular contractions. However, bodybuilders should also be interested in hypertrophying the fast-twitch muscle fibers because they are the ones with the greatest potential for growth.

Here is an eccentric routine you may want to try for adding muscle mass onto your shoulders and back. The routine features yielding isometric reps which are another fantastic eccentric training method.

If you want to design your own workouts for your other body parts then I recommend the following Poliquin-style split:

  • Day 1: Shoulders / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Chest / Arms
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

Here is the workout:

Shoulders / Back Eccentric Training Routine

  • A1: Seated DB overhead press, 4 x 7-9, 2/0/X/0**, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Narrow supinated grip chin ups, 4 x 7-9, 2/0/X/0**, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated Poliquin DB lateral raise, 4 x 7-9, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar row, 4 x 7-9, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Perform a 30-second lowering phase on the final repetition. If you are unable to lower the weight over 30 seconds then lower it as slowly as you can. You should be able to lower it over at least 10 seconds at worst.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The Poliquin DB lateral raise is an interesting exercise which you may not be familiar with. The basic idea is that you bend your elbows to 90 degrees during the concentric range and fully straighten your arms during the eccentric range.

Essentially we are playing with lever arms to make the weight “feel” lighter during the concentric range and “feel” heavier during the eccentric range.

This is an AWESOME exercise as it allows you to perform strict lateral raises with very heavy weights. In my opinion this is a far better solution to the “cheating” reps that most people perform with heavy dumbbells. Expect some serious side delt growth from this exercise!

Advantage #3: Increased Connective Tissue Strength

It is fairly difficult to strengthen your connective tissues such as your tendons and ligaments.

Of course lifting progressively over time helps in this regard. However, one of the challenges with increasing the strength of these supporting structures is that they have very little blood flow.

This means that it is difficult to get critical nutrients to these structures so that they can grow bigger and stronger.

Fortunately eccentric training is a superior tool for increasing the strength of your connective tissues!

Eccentric reps have actually been shown to increase blood flow to your connective tissue and kick-start the remodeling process so that they grow bigger and stronger. Of course in order to force your connective tissue to grow stronger we need to use accentuated eccentric training protocols. 

Here is an awesome eccentric training workout that you can use for your arms to increase the strength of your tendons and ligaments. Many trainees find that they have issues with their elbows after many years of hard training.

If this describes you then this routine may be just what you need! You can use this specific workout with any split that you want. However, I recommend you train your arms no more than once every 5-7 days on this routine. Check it out:

Arms Eccentric Training Routine

  • A1: V-bar dips (upright torso / eccentric-only reps)**, 8 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral barbell preacher curls (supinated grip / eccentric-only reps)****, 8 x 3, 8/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

**Initiate the movement from the top position with your arms straight. Once you reach the bottom position of the exercise let your feet hit the floor and then use your legs to boost yourself into the starting position. In this manner you can bypass the concentric portion of the exercise and perform several eccentric-only repetitions.

****Lower the barbell over 8 seconds to the bottom position. From the bottom position use your non-working arm to help lift the weight back into the starting position. In this manner you can bypass the concentric portion of the exercise and perform several eccentric-only repetitions.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2.

Make sure that you are using a full range of motion. Your arms should be fully extended in the bottom position!

One of the great things about exercises such as dips and one-arm preacher curls is that you can perform supra-maximal eccentric reps without needing a spotter or any specialized equipment such as weight releasers.

Of course that does not mean that this routine is easy! One of the most common mistakes I see with this type of routine is trainees fail to use the appropriate tempos.

It is extremely important that you use a true 8-second lowering phase on every repetition. No, that is not a typo: you must lower the weight over 8 seconds! If you exceed this speed on the lowering phase then you are putting yourself at unnecessary risk for injury.

You’ve been warned!

Advantage #4: Improved Exercise Technique

As a general rule of thumb it is much easier to demonstrate good exercise technique when you have high levels of eccentric strength. The reverse is also true: it is extremely difficult to control your weights and demonstrate good technique when you have piss-poor eccentric strength levels. 

For example, consider the average person deadlifting with god-awful form in the gym. When they lift the weights off the ground their butt shoots up in the air and their lower back rounds significantly.

Now pay attention to what they do on the eccentric portion of the rep. Most of the time you will find these trainees dropping the weight back on the ground! They are skipping the eccentric portion of the lift entirely!

The same thing is true with people who have poor exercise technique on the bench press. They literally drop the weights onto their chest and then do their best to press the weights back up. This is a bad idea regardless of whether you are training primarily for size or for strength. 

One of the best training methods for improving exercise technique on the squat is to use a 7-second lowering phase and a 6-second pause in the bottom position.

This exercise was popularized by Dmitry Klokov and is often called a “Klokov squat” by many of the world’s best strength coaches including Wolfgang UnsoeldFor example:

The Klokov squat is excellent for boosting eccentric strength levels and reinforcing proper exercise technique. After 2-4 weeks using the Klokov squat your technique with more traditional lifting tempos will improve dramatically!

Here is a sample squat workout you may want to try:

Klokov Squat Routine

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 6-8 x 1, 7/6/X/0, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: Kneeling unilateral leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 4 x 5-7, 4/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Walking DB lunge (alternating legs), 4 x 5-7, 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 

Here are the sample training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise B2, exercise C1.

This is an extremely demanding training routine and should be reserved for an intensification phase where you are primarily training to get stronger.

I recommend you use a weight that is around 90-95% of your 1-rep max for this tempo. The goal is to complete all 6-8 sets with the same weight. If you are successful then you would increase the weight at the next workout.

Advantage #5: Shift To A Faster Twitch Muscle Profile

One of the more unbelievable benefits of accentuated eccentric training is that it can actually make your muscles as a whole behave more like fast-twitch muscle fibers!

For a long time this was thought to be an impossible task. However, newer research confirms that your muscles can actually shift to take on more fast-twitch properties over time thanks to eccentric training.

This is extremely good news for powerlifters and other strength athletes as the fast-twitch muscle fibers are the ones most responsible for strength gains.

There are many different ways you could organize an accentuated eccentrics workout to accomplish this goal. However, one of the most effective methods is eccentric cluster sets on the bench press.

Cluster sets is a special type of set / rep scheme that works unbelievably well for building strength. The basic idea is to perform 5 sets of 5 reps with 15-second rest breaks taken in between each repetition.

Of course we are combining cluster sets with accentuated eccentric training. To make this work we are going to use weight releasers. I suggest you use approximately 70% of your 1-rep max on the barbell and an additional 10-20% on each weight releaser.

For example, if you can bench press 300 pounds then you would use 210 pounds on the bar and an additional 30-60 pounds on each weight releaser. Check it out:

Cluster Sets Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press with weight releasers (shoulder-width grip)**, 5 x 5***, 8/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Wide pronated grip pull ups, 5 x 5***, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 75 seconds rest

**Use approximately 70% of your 1-rep max on the barbell and an additional 20-40% of your 1-rep max on the two weight releasers combined (or 10-20% per weight releaser).

***Performed as a cluster set: take a 15-second rest break in between each of the five repetitions as described above.

Here are the sample training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

The goal is to perform all 5 sets with the same weight. Of course this has to be done using an 8-second lowering phase on every repetition. Eccentric cluster sets is by far one of the most powerful training methods that you can use.

If you can gut it out for 2-4 weeks on this routine you will be rewarded with a more fast-twitch muscle profile and some of the best strength gains of your entire life!

Disadvantage #1: Very Difficult To Recover From

Eccentric training is an unbelievable training method. However, there are some drawbacks to this training method that you should be aware of.

First and foremost eccentric training can be very difficult to recover from. Supra-maximal eccentric reps have been known to cause rather severe levels of delayed onset muscle soreness.

This is understandable as your muscles are exposed to significantly greater levels of mechanical tension during the lowering phase of an exercise than the lifting phase. The lowering phase is also where the vast majority of the actual muscle damage takes place.

There are many different strategies that you can use to get around this issue. First of all I recommend you start with some of the easier forms of eccentric training and only later progress to the more advanced forms.

For example, performing a 10-30 second lowering phase on your last repitition is far less demanding on your body than performing supra-maximal eccentric reps with weight releasers.

I have outlined 11 different eccentric training methods the following article:

The 11 Greatest Eccentric Training Methods!

I highly recommend you start out with the methods outlined towards the beginning of that article and progress over time to the ones located towards the end of the article. This will help your body get used to the increased demands of eccentric training gradually over time.

Disadvantage #2: You Must Use A Reduced Training Frequency

You have to be very careful that you do not perform eccentric training too frequently. As a general rule of thumb Charles Poliquin recommends that you perform eccentric training no more than once every 7-10 days.

I think this is generally good advice, especially for the more demanding eccentric methods such as supra-maximal eccentric reps.

Of course that does not mean that you have to wait a full 7-10 days between training body parts.

One great strategy is to alternate back and forth between two workouts for each body part. One workout would be an accentuated eccentrics workout while the second one would feature more traditional sets.

For example:

  • Monday: upper body (accentuated eccentrics)
  • Wednesday: lower body (accentuated eccentrics)
  • Friday: upper body (normal sets)
  • Saturday: lower body (normal sets)

The two different workouts for body parts could feature similar exercises or completely different ones. The choice is up to you.

The important part is that your body has a full 7 days of rest between eccentric workouts which is very important to ensure optimal recovery. The sample routine in part 1 of this article is a perfect demonstration of this strategy.

Disadvantage #3: You Need 2 Years Of Prior Training Experience

Accentuated eccentric training is NOT for beginners! Oh no – you need at least 2 years of hardcore training experience before you embark on a training program this intense!

If you are new to strength training then I recommend you just focus on lowering your weights under control.

A great place to start would be to use anywhere from a 1-5 second lowering phase on most of your exercises. After a couple of years you will have built up sufficient connective tissue strength to experiment with more advanced forms of eccentric training.

If you attempt any of these eccentric training protocols without having 2 years of hardcore training experience under your belt then you are setting yourself up for injury. You’ve been warned!

Disadvantage #4: You May Need Specialized Equipment

This is definitely one of the more annoying aspects of eccentric training. You are probably going to need some specialized equipment or 1-2 competent spotters to use these methods.

For example, it is very difficult to perform supra-maximal eccentric reps without a couple of weight releasers or 1-2 spotters. This does not mean that it is impossible. For example, the routine provided in part 3 of this article is a perfect example of how you might perform supra-maximal eccentric reps on dips and preacher curls.

But without some weight releasers or 1-2 spotters it is going to be rather difficult to make many of the best eccentric training methods work for you.

Conclusion

the advantages and disadvantages of eccentric training

Accentuated eccentric training is easily one of my go-to training methods for helping intermediate and advanced trainees blast through strength and size plateaus. It is an incredibly effective training tool. Of course no training method is perfect and eccentric training definitely has its downsides that you need to be aware of.

That being said I am confident your rate of progress will shoot through the roof if you start incorporating eccentric training into your long-term programming!

There are too many advantages to this superior training method to ignore it altogether.

Keep this quote from Louie Simmons in mind before you use eccentric training in your next training routine:

“The hardest thing for a human to do is to change. You have be willing to change.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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