Eccentric training is one of the most effective training methods for boosting strength and size in intermediate to advanced lifters. It is also one of the most difficult methods to recover from, which is why you shouldn’t use eccentric training in every workout. How often can you do eccentric training? The answer may surprise you!
Eccentric training is a massive topic. In order to give this training method the attention it deserves I have broken up this article as follows:
- Part 1: What Is Eccentric Training?
- Part 2: How Frequently Can You Do Eccentric Training?
- Part 3: Mildly Demanding Eccentric Training Protocols
- Part 4: Moderately Demanding Eccentric Training Protocols
- Part 5: Extremely Demanding Eccentric Training Protocols
- Part 6: Conclusion
I am confident that you will have a much better understanding of how often you should use eccentric training after reading this article!
Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: What Is Eccentric Training?
There are three different types of muscular contractions:
Concentric muscular contractions occur when you are lifting a weight or shortening your muscles.
Isometric contractions occur when your muscles are contracting hard but the are not actually moving.
Pushing against a wall or holding jugs of water at arms-length are good examples of isometric contractions.
Eccentric contractions are a little different. They occur when you are lowering a weight down or when the muscle is lengthening.
Most people ignore the eccentric portion of a repetition.
They lift the weight up with a lot of force, but instead of controlling the weight on the way down they just let it drop down in preparation for the next concentric contraction.
This is a huge mistake!
In reality there are tons of benefits for focusing on the eccentric phase of a lift.
Studies have shown over and over again that it is the eccentric part of an exercise, not the concentric, that is responsible for most of the gains in muscular strength and size!
Eccentric contractions have many other benefits as well, such as improving connective tissue strength including tendons and bones, as well as reinforcing good lifting form.
Some people have taken the idea of eccentric training one step further.
Instead of just lowering the weight down under control, they actually find ways to make the eccentric portion of the exercise harder than usual to perform.
There are many ways to accomplish this, including using forced reps, using novel exercises like the dead stop row, and even using specialized equipment called weight releasers that let you lower supra-maximal weights.
That is, the weight releasers let you lower a weight that is greater than your 1 repetition maximum!
While eccentric training is extremely beneficial, it is also much harder to recover from than regular training.
This brings us to the core question of this article:
Part 2: How Frequently Can You Do Eccentric Training?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many different types of eccentric training protocols!
For example, an individual rehabilitating an injury under the close observation of a healthcare professional may find themselves performing eccentric training at least 3 times a week!
However, I believe you are more interested in knowing how often you can use eccentric training in your local gym, so we will focus on that topic.
As a general rule of thumb, you will get your best results incorporating eccentric training once every 3-10 days per body part.
This does not include using a controlled 1-5 second eccentric tempo – this is something that you can and probably should be doing every workout!
When I say you should do eccentric training once every 3-10 days, I am talking about some of the more difficult eccentric training methods.
I believe in eccentric training so much that I wrote about the 11 greatest eccentric training methods of all time.
Some of these eccentric training methods are more difficult than others.
As a general rule of thumb, the more demanding the eccentric training method, the more rest you need in between workouts for that body part that incorporate eccentric training.
To make things as simple as possible I have divided these 11 eccentric training methods into 3 categories:
- Mildly demanding eccentric training methods
- Moderately demanding eccentric training methods
- Extremely demanding eccentric training methods
Each of these categories has slightly different rules in terms of the optimal training frequency per body part.
Let’s examine each of them one-by-one.
Part 3: Mildly Demanding Eccentric Training Protocols
Great examples of these training methods from my comprehensive guide on eccentric training include the following:
- The last slow eccentric rep
- Yielding isometric reps
- Novel eccentric exercises
These methods do increase the eccentric stress on your muscles to above-normal levels, but they aren’t that terribly difficult to recover from.
You can use these eccentric training methods and keep your normal training frequency.
Let’s look at an example of a novel exercise that incorporates eccentric training.
I present the Zottman curl:
The key with this exercise is that you curl the weight up with a supinated (underhand) grip.
Then, right before you lower the weight back down you pronate (turn over) your hand so you are lowering the weight with a pronated grip.
You may already know that you are stronger with a supinated grip than you are with a pronated grip.
This means that you are lowering a weight down with a pronated grip that you couldn’t lift on your own with a pronated grip.
This means you are eccentrically overloading the brachialis muscle! Of course the brachialis muscle is the muscle recruited the most when you curl with a pronated grip.
You may have some increased soreness from using the zottman curl or other novel exercises discussed in my comprehensive guide to eccentric training but there’s no need to radically change your routine over it.
Part 4: Moderately Demanding Eccentric Training Protocols
This is where things get quite a bit trickier. These training methods really are fairly tough on your recovery reserves.
Here are some examples:
- Forced reps
- Cheating reps
As a general rule of thumb you can use either of these eccentric training methods once every 5-7 days per body part.
For example, you could train body parts twice per week.
Another option would be to include something like forced reps in literally every workout for a given body part but to include a little more rest between workouts.
This is exactly what Dorian Yates did and it worked awesome for him!
- Day 1: Chest / Biceps
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Shoulders / Triceps
- Day 5: Back / Rear Delts
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Repeat
If you are really into forced reps then I highly recommend you give Dorian’s training routine a shot!
Part 5: Extremely Demanding Eccentric Training Protocols
This is where things really get tricky.
Some eccentric training methods are so taxing that they can only be done once every 7-10 days per body part.
Here are a couple of examples:
- The 2/1 method
- The 4+2 method
- Supra-maximal eccentric reps
If you try to use one of these methods more often than every 7-10 days then you will probably overtrain yourself into the ground!
For example, the 2/1 method is a great way to eccentrically train the hamstrings:
The trainee is using two legs to lift the weight, but then only one leg to lower the weight back down.
The leg that is lowering the weight back down is being exposed to supra-maximal eccentric loads!
In this case I would definitely recommend using the 2/1 method for one workout, then regular training the next.
For example, here is how the trainee might want to organize his next 6 hamstrings workouts:
- Day 1: 2/1 Method leg curls
- Day 6: Regular leg curls
- Day 11: 2/1 Method leg curls
- Day 16: Regular leg curls
- Day 21: 2/1 Method leg curls
- Day 26: Regular leg curls
This way the trainee is using the eccentric training method only once every 10 days (with more normal training in between), which matches our recommendation perfectly!
Here is a great training split that you can use to train legs once every 5 days:
- Day 1: Arms
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Chest / Back
- Day 5: Off
- Day 6: Repeat
Of course there are many other training splits that you may want to choose from, but this is a great one.
Part 6: Conclusion
How often should you do eccentric training?
The short answer is once every 3-10 days. The long answer is it depends a lot on the eccentric training method you use.
The more demanding the training method, the more rest you need in between eccentric training workouts.
I hope this answers your question.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on 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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