Eccentric training is one of the most powerful strategies you can use in the gym. Science has shown that eccentric reps are superior to concentric reps for building muscle mass and strength. If you are serious about reaching your size and strength goals then eccentric training is for you!
- Part 1: Beginner Eccentric Training Strategies
- Part 2: Intermediate Eccentric Training Strategies
- Part 3: Advanced Eccentric Training Strategies
In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how to maximize your size and strength gains with eccentric training. There are three kinds of muscular contractions:
- Concentric muscular contractions
- Isometric muscular contractions
- Eccentric muscular contractions
Concentric contractions occur any time you are lifting a weight up. For example when you bench press the bar off your chest during a bench press you are performing a concentric contraction.
Isometric contractions are a little different. They occur when your muscles are contracting without moving. If you perform a pause in the bottom position of a squat or any other exercise then you are performing an isometric contraction.
Finally there are eccentric contractions. Eccentric contractions occur when you are lowering a weight down. For example if you slowly lower the weight down during a set of squats then you are performing an eccentric contraction for all of the squatting muscles.
Here is just one example of what eccentric squats might look like in the real world:
Most trainees focus most of their effort on the concentric portion of an exercise when they are lifting a weight up. They try as hard as they can to lift the weight and then let it drop back down to the starting position.
I am sure you have seen someone do a set of bench presses where they try really hard to lift the weight off their chest and then let it fall back down to their chest extremely fast. This is a huge mistake!
In reality the eccentric portion of the rep builds more muscle mass and strength than the concentric portion. This has been confirmed by countless studies since the 20th century.
Here are 5 of the biggest reasons to start focusing on the eccentric phase of your reps:
- Eccentric reps build more muscle mass and strength than concentric reps
- Eccentric training builds tendon and connective tissue strength
- Eccentric training overloads the fast-twitch muscle fibers
- Eccentric training improves your exercise technique
- Eccentric training may induce muscle hyperplasia in advanced trainees
Of course it really doesn’t matter what the scientific literature says about any training method. What matters is whether or not that training method produces results in the real world. Real-world experience shows that eccentric training is the real deal.
Many bodybuilders such as Dorian Yates were also big believers in lowering weights under control and using training methods such as forced reps to overload the eccentric range of an exercise. Here is Dorian Yates himself talking about the benefits of overloading the negative phase:
In this comprehensive guide I’m going to teach you 13 of the best eccentric training methods ever invented. I divided the material into three parts:
- Part 1: Beginner Eccentric Training Strategies
- Part 2: Intermediate Eccentric Training Strategies
- Part 3: Advanced Eccentric Training Strategies
In part 1 I’m going to teach you the 3 best eccentric training methods for beginners.
All 3 of these methods focus on controlling the negative phase of your reps and lowering your reps under control.
These methods are safe and appropriate for anyone who wants to get bigger and stronger.
In part 2 I’m going to teach you 6 intermediate level eccentric training methods.
Don’t let the name fool you: these methods work best for advanced trainees with AT LEAST 2 years of hardcore training experience under their belts.
If you are new to lifting weights or if you have been training hard for less than 2 years then these methods are not for you. I’m going to teach you how to perform methods like hybrid eccentric exercises, forced reps and post-failure yielding isometrics.
These methods work awesome for building both size and strength although they are more geared towards bodybuilders and people who want to build muscle. If you think of yourself as a “power builder” then you will LOVE these intermediate level eccentric training methods.
Finally in part 3 I will teach you 4 advanced eccentric training strategies.
I’m going to warn you right now: these advanced eccentric training methods are reserved for advanced trainees only. If you have less than 2 years of hardcore training experience or if you are new to eccentric training then these methods are not for you.
I am going to teach you how to use supra-maximal eccentric training to build strength and functional hypertrophy. In other words I am going to teach you techniques where you lower down a weight that is more than your 1-rep max on that exercise.
These are high-risk / high-reward training methods.
If you are a bodybuilder then you may not even need them. However, if you are truly dedicated to getting as strong as humanly possible then these methods will build strength faster than anything else in the world.
Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: Beginner Eccentric Training Strategies
In my experience eccentric training is one of the most versatile training methods.
Absolutely everyone should be using some form of eccentric training in their training program. The key is you have to use the methods that are appropriate for you based on your training experience.
If you have less than 2 years of serious training experience then these are the best eccentric training methods for you:
- The Controlled Eccentric Tempo
- The 10-Second Eccentric Tempo
- The Yielding Isometric Method
Let’s take a closer look at each of these beginner-friendly eccentric training methods.
Beginner Eccentric Strategy #1: The Controlled Eccentric Tempo Method
Most trainees never even bother to control the eccentric phase of their exercises. Someone needs to tell them that the eccentric phase is where you build the most muscle mass an strength! If this describes you then the first eccentric training strategy you should use is just lowering your weights under control.
I recommend you experiment with a 2-5 second lowering phase per exercise. If you are new to eccentric training then this may sound ridiculously slow! Don’t worry, it will feel normal after a few workouts.
The world’s greatest strength coach Charles Poliquin used 2-5 second lowering phases about 80% of the time with his athletes and his results speak for themselves.
You can (and should!) use an explosive concentric contraction on these reps. This will help you to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible during your sets. Just make sure that the lowering phase is performed over 2-5 seconds.
For inspiration here is the bodybuilding coach John Meadows demonstrating a 3-second lowering phase on bicep curls:
The 3-second lowering phase is one of John’s favourite high-intensity training techniques for building bigger biceps.
Here is a John Meadows style biceps workout featuring 3-second eccentric curls that you may want to try. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Style Beginner Bicep Workout
- A1: Seated DB hammer curl, 4 x 6-8, 1/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
- B1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Bilateral machine preacher curl (supinated grip), 3 x (12, 10, 8**), 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
**Perform 12 reps on the first set, 10 reps on the second set and 8 reps on the third set. On the third set perform a double drop set. Perform 8 reps, drop the weight, perform another 4-8 reps to failure, drop the weight and perform another 4-8 reps to failure.
I think you will be surprised at how fast your size and strength gains come once you start lowering your weights over 2-5 seconds. You don’t have to use these tempos on all of your sets.
There is certainly a time and place to use a 1-second eccentric tempo or even to perform reps in a “ballistic” manner. However, lowering your weights over at least 2 seconds is the way to go most of the time.
As Charles Poliquin used to say, “you have to lower weights slower than you lift them!”
Beginner Eccentric Strategy #2: The 10-Second Eccentric Tempo
It takes most trainees a few months to really get the hang of lowering their weights under control over 2-5 seconds. It’s important to really master that technique because it should form the foundation of your training going forward.
If you’ve truly mastered the 2-5 second eccentric phase then it’s time to move onto some slightly more advanced eccentric training strategies.
The first one is the 10-second eccentric tempo. The idea is simple: you lower yourself down over 10 seconds on each rep.
Here is a great demonstration of this method on the back squat. Check it out:
Many Olympic weightlifters such as Dmitry Klokov use these slow-tempo squats to build up their superhuman leg strength. If you are using 10-second lowering phases then you want to perform no more than 1-7 reps per set. Otherwise the time under tension would be too high for the set.
Here is a sample 10-second eccentric tempo squat routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
Beginner Lower Body Hypertrophy Workout
- A1: Back squat, 6 x 5, 10/0/X/1, 100 seconds rest
- A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing straight), 6 x 5, 10/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
- B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 4 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 4 x 12-15, 2/0/X/2, 60 seconds rest
These ultra-slow tempo squat routines work best if you squat with a full range of motion. In other words they work best when you use an athletic squat where your butt “leaves a stain on the gym floor.”
If you like to use a powerlifting style squat then this is not the best method. It will put too much stress on your lower back and not enough stress on your legs.
The 10-second eccentric tempo is NOT something you should use all the time. Instead you should use it every once in a while in your training program. If you use it no more than once every 4-6 months or so then you are on the right track.
If you use it too often then your body will be accustomed to it and it won’t work as well.
Beginner Eccentric Strategy #3: The Yielding Isometric Method
This is another good strategy to use if you have less than 2 years of training experience under your belt.
Yielding isometrics occur when you perform an isometric pause in the middle of an exercise and you contract your muscles to prevent gravity from pulling the weight down. For example if you hold your arms straight out to your sides and hold them there as long as possible you are performing a yielding isometric contraction for your side delts.
Yielding isometrics are actually another form of eccentric training because they work your muscles in a very similar way.
One of the best ways for a beginner to use yielding isometrics is to pause 3 different times on the lowering phase of an exercise for 2 seconds each. Here is a perfect example of this method on the flat dumbbell press:
If you watch closely the athlete pauses 3 times in the eccentric part of the exercise for 2 seconds each. This strategy works well during an accumulation phase of training where you are trying to build muscle mass.
For example here is a chest / shoulder / tricep routine that a beginner bodybuilder might use. Check it out:
Beginner Bodybuilder Chest / Shoulder / Tricep Workout
- A1: 30 degree incline bench press (medium grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Flat DB press, 3 x 8-10, 6/0/1/0**, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Seated hammer strength overhead press, 3 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- D1: Rear delt pec dec, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Lying ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- F1: Standing rope cable overhead extension, 3 x 15-17, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Use 3 different 2-second pauses during the eccentric phase of each rep. You may need to use a weight you can lift about 15 times with a normal tempo for this exercise.
As you gain more experience you can experiment with longer isometric pauses during the eccentric range.
Charles Poliquin used to use 8-second isometric pauses during the eccentric range of exercises like chin ups, preacher curls and snatch grip deadlifts. These 8-second pauses are absolutely brutal but work extremely well for boosting muscle mass and eccentric strength levels.
If you use the 8-second isometric pauses then you should perform no more than 3 reps per set. Performing more than 3 reps would force you to use too light of a weight for it to be effective.
Part 2: Intermediate Eccentric Training Strategies
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! I consider this the “heart and soul” of this article. I’m going to teach you 6 of the most effective eccentric training strategies for more advanced trainees.
Don’t let the label “intermediate eccentric training strategies” fool you: these methods are for advanced bodybuilders and strength athletes who have a lot of training experience and a high pain threshold. I recommend you have at least 2 years of hardcore training experience before you use ANY of these methods.
I will cover the following 6 strategies:
- Hybrid Eccentric Exercises
- The Post-Failure 10 Second Eccentric Tempo
- The Post-Failure Yielding Isometric Method
- Manual Eccentric Overload Exercises
- Forced Reps
- Forced Reps On Steroids
All of these strategies work awesome for “power builders” or anyone looking for a blend of size and strength gains. If you are a serious bodybuilder or a powerlifter in the offseason then these methods have your name written all over them!
Intermediate Eccentric Strategy #1: Hybrid Eccentric Exercises
Eccentric training is so effective that many coaches have invented new exercises that allow you to eccentrically overload your muscles. Three great examples of “hybrid eccentric exercises” include the zottman curl, the eccentric 1-arm french press and leg curls using the Poliquin method.
Let’s talk about the Zottman curl first.
The zottman curl is one of the most effective exercises you can perform for your brachialis muscle. The idea is simple: you are going to curl the weight up with a supinated grip and lower the weight down with a pronated grip.
Here is a perfect video example:
As you can see the bodybuilder lifts the weight up with a supinated (palms facing up) grip and lowers the weight down with a pronated (palms facing down) grip. He just turns his hand in the top or bottom position to switch between these two grips.
Every serious trainee knows that you are stronger when you curl with a supinated grip vs a pronated grip. The zottman curl lets you curl the weight up with your stronger grip and lower the weight down with your weaker grip.
This means you are eccentrically overloading your brachialis with a heavier-than-normal weight. How cool is that?
I think you will be shocked at how fast your strength shoots up on zottman curls. I have seen many trainees increase their strength by 25-50% in as little as 3-6 weeks while using this exercise.
Another great “hybrid eccentric exercise” is the eccentric french press. I have to admit that I have a soft-spot for this exercise. Check it out:
As you can see the trainee lowers the weight down as a triceps extension and then presses the weight back up as an overhead press. This technique lets you lower a heavier-than-normal weight through the eccentric range to eccentrically overload your triceps. Again, how cool is that?
I have to admit that I have a soft-spot for this exercise. NOTHING hits the long head of my triceps as hard as this exercise. It doesn’t matter how many times I use it. The next morning I always feel like a gang of angry ninjas beat the long head of my triceps with bamboo sticks for 3 hours the previous day!
If you want to eccentrically overload your hamstrings then performing leg curls with the Poliquin method is a great choice.
The idea is simple: you are going to curl the weight up with your feet dorsiflexed (toes pointing towards your shins) and lower the weight down with your feet plantarflexed (toes pointing away from your shins). For example:
It’s time for a lesson in human anatomy! When your feet are dorsiflexed (pointing towards your shins) your calves actually help your hamstrings to bend your knees. However, when your feet are plantarflexed (pointing away from your shins) only your hamstrings can bend your knees.
With the Poliquin method you are using your calf muscles to lift a heavier-than-normal weight so that you can eccentrically overload your hamstrings!
I’ll say it a third time: how cool is that!?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a human anatomy nerd like me to take advantage of these hybrid eccentric exercises in your own training. You just have to use them and reap the benefits!
Here is a sample arm hypertrophy routine featuring the zottman curl that you may want to try. Check it out:
Poliquin-Style Elbow Flexors Tri-Set Routine
- A1: Seated DB zottman curls, 3-5 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: 60 degree incline cable curls, 3-5 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Preacher ez-bar curls (narrow / supinated grip), 3-5 x 8-10, 3/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
This tri-set routine is so effective because it overloads all of the elbow flexors. The zottman curls really hit the brachialis and the brachioradialis hard although the biceps brachii also gets a decent amount of work. O
n the other hand the incline cable curls target the long head of the biceps and the preacher curls target the short head of the biceps.
If your elbow flexors haven’t grown since Gangnam Style was a thing then this tri-set routine is for you!
Intermediate Eccentric Strategy #2: The Post-Failure 10 Second Eccentric Tempo
If you want to use eccentric training to get bigger and stronger then one of the best strategies is to use eccentric training as a post-failure training method.
The idea is simple: you perform your regular set to failure or just shy of failure. Then you find a way to eccentrically overload your muscles at the every end of the set.
One of the most effective strategies is to use a 10-second negative phase on your last rep. This strategy works best on exercises like chin ups and deadlifts where you start in the bottom position of the exercise.
Unfortunately I don’t have a video for this training method. Here is what it looks like in practice:
- Perform 5-10 reps just shy of failure. You last rep should be a grinder!
- After your last rep you would lower the weight back down to the starting position over 10 seconds. You want the weight to move at the same speed over the entire 10 seconds.
This technique will allow you to eccentrically overload your muscles after reaching concentric muscular failure. This combination of concentric and eccentric muscular fatigue creates a TON of muscular damage and is fantastic for boosting size and strength.
Here is how you could structure a deadlift workout using this method. Check it out:
Post-Failure 10-Second Eccentric Tempo Deadlift Routine
- A1: Snatch grip deadlift (4 inch deficit), 3 x 6-8, 3/1/1/0**, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Kneeling leg curl (Poliquin method / feet pointed out), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Seated chest supported machine row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
This is a great “power-building” style routine for anyone who wants to build up their back and legs.
Intermediate Eccentric Strategy #3: The Post-Failure Yielding Isometric Method
This eccentric training method is very similar to the last one we discussed. You are going to perform several reps performed just shy of failure. Your final rep should be a total grinder!
After your last rep you will perform 1-3 isometric pauses on the way down. If you pause in 1 position then you should hold the weight for as long as you can. On the other hand if you pause in 3 different places then you should hold the pauses for 3-8 seconds.
Here is Christian Thibadeau giving an excellent overview of the post-failure yielding isometric method:
This strategy was actually a favourite of the strength coach Charles Poliquin. He used the post-failure yielding isometric method to rapidly boost his athletes’ chin up / pull up strength.
Here is a sample Poliquin-style back / shoulders routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
Post-Failure Yielding Isometric Back / Shoulder Routine
- A1: Chin ups (supinated / shoulder width grip), 5 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Standing behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 6-8**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Seated cable rope face pull, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/2, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Seated DB Poliquin lateral raise, 4 x 10-12, 4/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Pause 3 times during your last eccentric rep for 8 seconds each. Your last eccentric rep should take about 24 seconds to complete. Try to pause once in the top part of the range of motion, once in the mid-range and once in the bottom part of the range of motion.
Charles believed this was one of the fastest ways to improve an intermediate trainees chin up strength. I highly recommend you give this method a shot!
Intermediate Eccentric Strategy #4: Manual Eccentric Overload Exercises
You must have a training partner to perform this training method. If you don’t have access to a training partner then you have three options:
- Cry yourself to sleep
- Make some friends
- Pick a different training method
The choice is up to you!
For this training method your training partner is going to PUSH DOWN on the weight during the eccentric range of every single repetition. Here is John Meadows giving a perfect demonstration of this method on the lat pulldown machine:
John calls this exercise the “stretch pulldown.” When you perform a regular set of pulldowns the hardest part of the movement is pulling the bar down to your chest. When you use stretch pulldowns the eccentric range of the movement is actually the hardest part!
These heavy eccentric reps create a TON of muscular damage and are great for stimulating muscular hypertrophy. You also get a very deep stretch in your lats with this method. The manual eccentric overload method can be used on many different exercises but I find it is especially effective on lat pulldowns.
Here is a sample Mountain Dog back workout featuring stretch pulldowns. Check it out:
Mountain Dog Style Back Routine
- A1: One-arm barbell row, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Cable pulldown (medium / neutral grip)**, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Chest-supported row machine, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
- D1: Lying DB pullover, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- E1: Rack pull (mid-shin height), 3 x 6, 1/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
- F1: 45 degree back extension (against bands), 2 x 12-14, 2/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
**Performed as a “stretch pulldown.” Have your training partner push down on the weight stack on the eccentric range of every rep.
One of the hardest parts about using this training method is figuring out how much to push down on the weight during the eccentric range. This is something that you will have to play around with yourself.
If your training partner is using 200 pounds on the weight stack then I want you to think about applying 20-40 pounds of force down on the weight stack. Of course you may need to increase or decrease how much force you apply based on your training partner’s feedback.
Intermediate Eccentric Strategy #5: Forced Reps
Forced reps are by far one of the most popular bodybuilding-style eccentric training methods. They were a favourite of Dorian Yates back in the 1990s. More recently professional bodybuilders like Stan Efferding and Antoine Valliant have popularized forced reps.
The procedure for performing a forced rep is simple:
- Train to failure in the 5-15 rep range. On your last rep you must physically fail!
- After reaching failure your training partner helps you perform another 1-3 reps. They provide manual assistance through the concentric range but you must lower the weight on your own.
Dorian Yates used to say that even if you reach failure on a set you still haven’t fully taxed your eccentric strength. Forced reps allow you to perform 1-3 more eccentric reps to really tax your eccentric strength after reaching failure.
Here is Dorian performing a set of machine pullovers with forced reps. Check it out:
Talk about a high-intensity set! Dorian performs 5 brutal reps on his own. On the 6th rep Dorian starts to fail about mid-way through the lift. At this point his training partner comes in and helps him complete 3 extra forced reps.
His training partner gives Dorian just enough help to complete the concentric part of the rep and Dorian lowers the weight back on his own.
Forced reps are easily one of the most demanding training methods you can use. I recommend that you use forced reps on only 1 working set per exercise. For inspiration here is the exact forced reps back workout that Dorian used in his prime. Check it out:
Dorian Forced Reps Triceps Routine
- A1: Pullover machine, 1 x 6 + 3 forced reps, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
- B1: Hammer strength bilateral pulldown, supinated grip, 1 x 6 + 2 forced reps, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
- C1: Standing barbell row to knees, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- D1: Seated 1-arm machine row, 1 x 5 + 2 forced reps, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
- E1: Bent-over rear delt machine, 1 x 11, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
- F1: Bent over rear-delt DB flyes, 1 x 8, 1/0/1/0, rest as needed
- G1: 90 degree back extension (BB on back), 1 x 10, 2/0/1/1, rest as needed
- H1: Conventional deadlift from floor, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
For this routine Dorian performed 1 all-out working set per exercise. Of course Dorian performed plenty of warm up sets for each exercise. However, these were just that: warm-up sets.
Dorian only counted his 1 working set performed to failure or even beyond failure with forced reps. This was the set that actually made his back grow.
Intermediate Eccentric Strategy #6: Forced Reps On Steroids
This training method is absolutely brutal. Your muscles are going to scream at you. Your body will feel like it was hit by a truck. Your nervous system will be so fatigued that your body will shake as if you have a bad case of Parkinson’s disease.
But if you have the “guts” to use this training method then you will be rewarded with some of the fastest size and strength gains of your entire life.
This training method was popularized by Charles Poliquin. It doesn’t have a name so I am going to call it “forced reps on steroids.” Here is how it works.
First you are going to perform a set just shy of failure. I recommend you perform anywhere from 4-12 reps. After your last rep you put the weight down and INCREASE the weight by 5-20%. Then you perform 2-3 eccentric-only reps with the heavier weight.
You want to lower yourself down over 8-10 seconds on these eccentric-only reps to really overload your muscles.
This training method is a lot like forced reps. You train just shy of failure and then perform extra reps to eccentrically overload your muscles. This method is called “forced reps on steroids” because you are INCREASING the weight for these eccentric-only reps. This method is absolutely brutal!
Charles Poliquin’s favourite version of this method is called the “4+2 method.” You perform 4 reps with your 4-rep max, then increase the weight and perform 2 eccentric only reps.
Here is a sample 4+2 arm workout that you may want to try. Check it out:
Forced Reps On Steroids Arm Routine
- A1: V-bar dips, 3-5 x 4**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- A2: Unilateral preacher DB curl (hammer grip), 3-5 x 4**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: 30 degree incline DB extension, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Perform 4 regular reps with your 4-5 rep max. Then increase the weight by 5-20% and perform 2 eccentric-only reps with a 10-second lowering phase.
This 4+2 arm workout is awesome because you don’t need a training partner to perform it. For the dips you just stand up on the dipping platform and perform your eccentric-only reps. When your feet hit the ground you just stand up on the platform again for your next rep.
For the preacher DB curls you can use your non-working hand to lift the weight up through the concentric range to perform your eccentric-only reps. This is very easy to do when you use a neutral or hammer grip on the dumbbell.
Charles Poliquin called the 4+2 method his #1 method for boosting functional hypertrophy (or hypertrophy of the fast-twitch muscle fibers). Talk about an endorsement!
If you want bigger, stronger arms then you have to give this training method a shot!
Part 3: Advanced Eccentric Training Strategies
If you’ve made it this far: congratulations. I’m going to teach you 4 of the most advanced eccentric training methods ever invented. These advanced eccentric training methods are not for beginners or intermediates.
In my opinion you need at least 2 years of hardcore training experience AND extensive experience with eccentric training before you try these methods. If you try them before you are ready then you run the risk of injuring yourself.
All of these advanced methods feature supra-maximal weights. In other words you are going to be lowering weights that are more than your regular 1-rep max.
Why on Earth would anyone want to train this way? The reason is simple: supra-maximal eccentric training is probably the fastest way to boost strength levels in advanced trainees. No other training method even comes close!
Supra-maximal eccentric reps are also unbelievably effective for boosting functional hypertrophy. I’m going to teach you 4 supra-maximal eccentric training methods:
- The 2/1 method
- The multiple eccentric-only reps method
- The eccentric cluster sets method
- The eccentric singles method
These methods are in order of increasing difficulty. For example I recommend you try the 2/1 method before trying the eccentric singles method.
Advanced Eccentric Strategy #1: The 2/1 Method
This is a very simple but very powerful training method. You are going to lift a weight with 2 limbs and lower the weight down using only 1 limb.
When you lower the weight down you want to use an 8-10 second lowering phase. Going any faster than this will give you worse results and increase your risk of injury.
In my experience this method works awesome when training a fast-twitch muscle group like the hamstrings. Here is a good example of the 2/1 method on the lying leg curl machine:
In my opinion the athlete is lowering the weight way too fast in the above video. You want to lower the weight down over 8-10 seconds for optimal results.
Here is how a bodybuilder might set up a leg workout using the 2/1 method on leg curls. Check it out:
Bodybuilder 2/1 Method Leg Routine
- A1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight)**, 3 x 6, 8/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- B1: Front squat, 4 x 6, 3/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Machine hack squat, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- C2: Machine leg extension, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
- D1: Romanian deadlift, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Performed using the 2/1 method. Lift the weight with 2 legs and lower it back down using 1 leg. Perform all 6 reps on 1 leg before switching to the other leg.
Of course this method could also be performed for much lower reps if you are a strength athlete trying to get stronger. I have had a lot of success using this method for multiple sets of 2-3 reps with some of my more advanced clients looking to get stronger.
Advanced Eccentric Strategy #2: The Multiple Eccentric-Only Reps Method
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! For this method you are going to perform multiple eccentric-only reps on an exercise of your choosing. I recommend you perform 2-6 reps in a row using an 8-10 second lowering phase per exercise.
Here are some general set / rep guidelines depending on whether you are training for size or strength:
- Strength gains: 5-6 sets of 2-3 reps
- Size gains: 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps
So how are you supposed to perform multiple eccentric-only reps on an exercise? That is a great question! It really depends on whether or not you have training partners. If you are training by yourself then you have to be creative.
Here are some ideas:
- Dips: stand up on the dip platform to perform your eccentric-only reps
- Unilateral preacher curls: use your non-working arm to lift the weigh through the concentric range
- Standing reverse curls: power-clean the weight to the starting position to skip the concentric range
- Pull ups: Stand on a bench or platform to skip the concentric range
And so on. Basically if you are training alone then you have to find a way to skip the concentric range of the lift. If you have training partners then things get much easier. You have 2 options with training partners:
- Option #1: Use weight releasers. Have your training partners re-rack the weight releasers after every repetition
- Option #2: Have 2 training partners lift the weight through the concentric range before you perform your eccentric-only reps
If you have 2 well-trained training partners then you can even perform eccentric-only reps on the deadlift! Check it out:
The training partners are providing tons of assistance to help lift the weight through the concentric range. Then the athlete performs 3 eccentric-only reps on his own. This is a brutally effective way to train for a stronger deadlift.
I know some of you probably think that I’m a moron for recommending eccentric-only deadlifts. Don’t I know that it’s dangerous to slowly lower your deadlifts back down to the ground?
That statement is so ridiculous that I have to say it again: slowly lowering your deadlifts down to the ground is dangerous? What a load of bullsh@$!
Why is it that deadlifts are the only exercise where it’s dangerous to lower the weight under control? Is there some physiological reason why this is the case?
Even on an exercise like deadlifts the eccentric-range is where most of the size and strength gains occur. If you just drop your deadlifts to the ground then you are skipping the most beneficial part of the movement.
I’ll use one final factoid to drive this point home. Did you know that Bob Peoples was performing eccentric-only deadlifts in the 1940s to become one of the strongest deadlifts in the world? It’s true! He used a tractor to lift the weight up so he could slowly lower it back down to the ground.
He deadlifted 725 pounds at a bodyweight of 181 pounds way back in 1949. Bob was 40 years old at the time. Talk about an impressive deadlift!
Here is a sample eccentric-only deadlift routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
Eccentric Deadlift Routine
- A1: Eccentric-only snatch grip deadlift (2 inch deficit)**, 6 x 3, 10/1/1/0, 5 minutes rest
- B1: 90 degree back extension (bodyweight only)****, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/1, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Seated calf raise, 3 x 10-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
**Have 2 training partners help you lift the weight through the concentric range, then lower the weight on your own through the eccentric range.
****These should be extremely easy. The purpose is to decompress your spine following the heavy deadlifts and increase your speed of recovery.
Of course you can use the multiple eccentric-only singles method on any other major exercise. Some great choices include squats, bench presses, incline presses, overhead presses, dips, preacher curls, standing reverse curls and so on.
Advanced Eccentric Strategy #3: The Eccentric Cluster Sets Method
I’m really excited to share this method with you. Eccentric cluster sets are probably THE single best training method you can use to build strength in advanced trainees. Eccentric cluster sets is a hybrid of 2 incredible training methods:
In case you were curious I first learned about this training method from the Canadian strength coach Christian Thibadeau. I always give credit where credit is due!
One of the best ways to perform this training method involves weight releasers. Weight releasers are giant metal hooks that attach to either side of a barbell. Here is Josh Bryant giving a perfect overview of weight releasers:
As you can see the weight releasers drop off the barbell in the bottom position of the exercise. This means they make the exercise heavier on the way down and lighter on the way up. In other words weight releasers let you eccentrically overload the movement!
For this method you are going to perform 5 sets of 5 reps with 30 seconds rest in between each rep. Here is the exact protocol:
- Perform your 1st rep, rest 30 seconds while re-racking the weight releasers
- Perform your 2nd rep, rest 30 seconds while re-racking the weight releasers
- Perform your 3rd rep, rest 30 seconds while re-racking the weight releasers
- Perform your 4th rep, rest 30 seconds while re-racking the weight releasers
- Perform your 5th rep, rest 3-6 minutes, repeat
I recommend you use about 80% of your 1-rep max on the bar.
The amount of weight you use on the weight releasers depends on your eccentric strength levels. However, as a general rule you should use an extra 5-20% per weight releaser. In other words if you can bench press 300 pounds then you would use 240 pounds on the bar and an extra 15-60 pounds per weight releaser.
As long as you can lower the weight with a true 8-10 second lowering phase on each rep then you are good-to-go. If you cannot lower the weight over 8-10 seconds then it is too heavy and you need to lighten the load.
Here is a sample bench press eccentric cluster sets routine you may want to try. Check it out:
Eccentric Clusters Bench Press Routine
- A1: Bench press w/ weight releasers**, 5 x 5****, 10/0/1/0, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Standing overhead press (hanging band method)******, 4 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
- C1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 2 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- C2: Standing band pull-apart, 2 x 8-10, 1/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
**Use 80% of your 1-rep max on the bar and an extra 5-20% in weight per weight releaser. The total weight on the bar during the eccentric range should be 90-120% of your 1-rep max.
****Performed as a cluster set. Rest 30 seconds in between each rep on your sets of 5. Re-rack the weight releasers on the bar during your 30-second rest break so you are ready for your next rep.
******Search Youtube for “hanging band method” for more information.
If you are an advanced trainee and your bench press has not improved sense Goku reached level 9,000 then you have to give this routine a shot! Just make sure you get plenty of sleep and nail your nutrition.
You can expect some serious delayed onset muscle soreness from this routine!
Advanced Eccentric Strategy #4: The Eccentric Singles Method
This is the most extreme eccentric training protocol ever invented. You are going to perform eccentric-only singles with a weight that is well over your 1-rep max. The best way to perform this method is with weight releasers.
For example here is Josh Bryant taking one of his clients through an eccentric-only singles workout:
You have to be very careful with this training method. It is very easy to injure yourself if you are not extremely careful. I strongly recommend you perform this method with a training partner so that you have an “extra set of eyes” on you to make sure you stay safe.
For optimal results I recommend you perform 6-8 total singles.
These singles should NOT be all-out. Instead I want you to use a weight where you can safely perform all 6-8 singles without hitting failure. For the purposes of this routine failure occurs when you can no longer lower the weight over 10 seconds.
For example if on your 5th set you lower the weight in 8 seconds instead of 10 seconds then you have reached failure. Again you want to pick a weight that is heavy enough to be challenging but light enough that you can complete all 6-8 sets.
Here is a sample lower body routine that you may want to try. Check it out:
Eccentric Squat Routine
- A1: Back squat with weight releasers**, 6-8 x 1, 10/0/X/0, 5 minutes rest
- B1: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing straight), 3 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
- B2: Triple jumper step up (holding DBs), 3 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
- C1: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 12-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
**Use 80% of your 1-rep max on the bar and an extra 10-25% of your 1-rep max on each weight releaser. The total weight during the eccentric range should be 90-130% of your 1-rep max.
I am going to sound like a broken record but you need to have extensive experience with easier eccentric training methods before you try the eccentric-only singles method. It is like a double-edged sword.
On one hand it produces some screaming fast strength gains and is useful for boosting functional hypertrophy. On the other hand it is very easy to injure yourself if you are not careful.
If you are worried about injuring yourself then I recommend you use the eccentric cluster sets method instead. The strength gains are just as good but the risk of injury is quite a bit lower due to the slightly lighter weights used.
Eccentric training has been the “secret weapon” of many of the world’s best strength and bodybuilding coaches for many years. There are tons of different ways that you can perform eccentric training in your routine.
In my opinion most eccentric training methods can be divided into three categories:
- Beginner Eccentric Training Methods
- Intermediate Eccentric Training Methods
- Advanced Eccentric Training Methods
Beginner eccentric training methods may involve lowering your weights down over 2-5 seconds or even as long as 10 seconds in some extreme cases. These methods work great for anyone who is interested in getting bigger and stronger.
Intermediate eccentric training methods include forced reps, hybrid eccentric exercises and post-failure yielding isometric holds. These strategies are much more demanding and should be reserved for trainees with 2 years of hardcore training experience.
In my experience these methods work great for “power builders” or people who want to be freaky strong AND build lots of new muscle mass. Dorian Yates loved to use forced reps and he might be the quintessential power builder.
Finally there are the advanced eccentric training methods. These methods are reserved for advanced trainees with extensive experience with easier eccentric training protocols.
The advanced eccentric methods often feature weights that are greater than your 1-rep max. These methods are absolutely amazing for building strength and functional hypertrophy. The major downside to them is they can be dangerous if you are not careful.
I am particularly fond of the eccentric cluster sets method as popularized by Christian Thibadeau. In my experience it is the single best way to boost strength levels in advanced athletes.
Congratulations! You now have more “book knowledge” on eccentric training than almost anyone else in the world. Now it’s time for you to gain the “street knowledge.” And the only way to get street smart is to try these methods out for yourself in the gym.
As John Meadows likes to say, “nothing beats real-world experience.” I am confident that at least a few of these methods will give you some of the best gains of your entire life.
If you want to learn more about eccentric training then these resources are your best friends:
- The Science Of Eccentric Training!
- The 11 Greatest Eccentric Training Methods!
- The Pros And Cons Of Eccentric Training!
- How Often Can You Do Eccentric Training?
Of course this article wouldn’t be possible without the teachings of some of the world’s greatest strength coaches like Charles Poliquin, Christian Thibadeau and Josh Bryant. I am truly standing on the shoulders of these giants.
I am always searching for new sources of inspiration and Connor McGregor’s attitude towards life has really been resonating with me lately. With that in mind here is one of my favourite quotes from the Irish assassin:
“There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist, we are all human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that’s that. I am not talented, I am obsessed.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!
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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