Eccentric Training in Strength Sports

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Welcome, fellow strength enthusiasts. Today, we will be delving into the world of eccentric training and how it can improve your performance in strength sports. Whether you are a powerlifter, weightlifter, or strongman, eccentric training can be a game-changer in your quest for new personal bests. In this article, we will explore what eccentric training is and how it works. So, sit back, grab a protein shake, and get ready to learn how eccentric training can take your strength to the next level.

What is eccentric training?

Eccentric training, also known as negative training, is a type of resistance training that focuses on the lengthening, or eccentric, phase of the muscle contraction. This phase occurs when the muscle is under tension and is lengthening, such as when you lower a weight during a bicep curl. The eccentric phase of the movement is often considered the “negative” part of the exercise.

During eccentric training, the athlete performs exercises in a controlled manner, emphasizing the lowering phase of the movement. This technique used with supramaximal weights has been shown to increase muscle strength, size, and power, as well as improve muscle fiber recruitment in the following sets (when used as an activation protocol).

One of the main benefits of eccentric training is that it allows athletes to handle heavier loads than they would be able to during the concentric, or lifting, phase of the exercise. This increased load can help stimulate muscle growth and improve overall strength and power.

Eccentric training can be performed using a variety of training equipment, including free weights, machines, and sometimes even with resistance bands. Some common exercises that incorporate eccentric training include squats and bench presses.

It is important to note that eccentric training can be challenging and should be approached with caution. Athletes should start with light weights and gradually increase the load as their strength and technique improve. It is also important to work with a qualified coach or trainer who can provide guidance and ensure proper form during eccentric training exercises.

Eccentric training is a valuable training method that can help athletes improve their strength, size, and power. By focusing on the eccentric phase of the muscle contraction, athletes can handle heavier loads, stimulate muscle growth, and improve overall athletic performance.

Eccentric strength

Eccentric strength training involves lowering down the weight (usually supramaximal) to take advantage of your eccentric strength being greater than the concentric strength. This way of training allows you to accumulate more time under tension with a given weight or simply use more weight. Some use it for strength building, some to gain muscle mass but what are the exact mechanics of eccentric training and how can it actually benefit your situation?

Eccentric training happens when the working muscle tissues are producing force while lengthening. It means that you are lowering the weight under control. Since you are generally stronger eccentrically than concentrically, you can either lower the weight down slower than you lift it up (and accumulate more TUT on the way) or use more weight to overload your myofascial system and central nervous system. Such training will produce a certain type of adaptions and it’s important to highlight what kind of adaptations does it actually produce so you can incorporate this method into your routine correctly and get the most out of it.

Eccentric training benefits

First of all, let’s talk about how can eccentric strength limit your performance. As you should already be aware, you are only as strong as your weakest link. You can be weak in a certain movement, in a certain range of motion, or in a certain type of contraction. Eccentric strength is not different from any other type of contraction and it can actually limit your performance in certain cases. Not having enough eccentric strength can hinder your performance during the negative portion of the lift and it can affect your limit strength. If you can only lower down 102% of your 1rm under control, it probably means that your eccentric strength may be the limiter here. In order to increase it, you would be advised to implement eccentrics into your regular routine. It can help you have more control of the weight while lowering it down and familiarise your nervous system with supramaximal intensity. By doing so and increasing your eccentric strength, it will be easier in the future to achieve a similar level of concentric strength and it will be easier to control the weight when going for maximal or circamaximal lifts. However, bear in mind that if you are already strong enough eccentrically, it will not carry over to your concentric 1rm at all.

Eccentric contraction

Eccentric contraction is a type of muscle contraction where the muscle is producing force while lengthening. Eccentric contraction allows you to build strength while lowering the weight down. It means you will be able to control more and more weight while the muscle fibres are lengthening. They will be used specifically in this manner and it will create specific adaptions to imposed demand. If you are competing in a sport where controlling and lowering down a lot of weight is your bread and butter, this style of training would definitely suit you, however, if you’re a powerlifter or weightlifter, I wouldn’t say so. Becoming better at lowering the weight down is not necessarily related to your main goal, which is to lift the weight up, especially if power is a meaningful factor there. You need to be aware that you have to train in a specific manner to force your body to respond to a stressor in the desired way. What happens inside of the muscle tissue is the myocytes produce force as their length is increasing contrary to concentric contractions where they are producing force and shortening at the same time.

Eccentric training and strength sports

If we think of powerlifters, bodybuilders, strongmen and MMA fighters (these are the types of athletes I work with most of the time), they usually do require some level of eccentric strength but anything above that would be a waste of time and energy. The procedure that I would start of before commencing eccentric training, would be to test the athlete, analyse their strength levels and determine if their levels of eccentric strength are acceptable. If not, I would work on it. If they are, I would leave it. Simple as that. However, there are certain circumstances under which eccentric training can become really valuable for such an athlete regardless of their eccentric strengths levels. That could be when trying to increase the muscle mass or control over the weight when they are lacking it. It could be used to increase the technical proficiency or to overload the myofascial system in a new way to trigger the hypertrophic response. Let’s talk about these 2 methods that I believe can be beneficial regardless if you actually need to increase your sole eccentric strength or not.

  • Tempo repetitions

Tempo reps allow the athlete to encode the bar path and make it easier to replicate it on the way up. By using submaximal weight and prolonged time under tension, I teach my athletes the correct bar path and correct technique. Upon mastering it during the eccentric phase, we decrease the tempo on the way down and try to replicate the movement on the way up. I have had great success with this method countless times and so have other coaches. It is a shame that tempo repetitions are being overlooked so often. If I was to describe this method in a single sentence, I would say something like “learn how to lower the weight down while maintaining the form and the technique will be easier to maintain while lifting the weight up later”.

  • Training to eccentric failure

Eccentric failure can be a really helpful tool when working on hypertrophy. As you are aware, that would usually be done either in the off-season or during the beginning of a training cycle. Again, I do not use supramaximal weights in order to achieve my goal. All I do is I instruct my athletes to go for an AMRAP and then if they can’t complete any more concentric repetitions, I would either tell them to lift the weight down as slowly as they can in the last rep to experience the eccentric failure or help them on a way up and repeat the process a couple of times to make them experience eccentric failure multiple times. As I use it only occasionally with my athletes, it is usually introduced as a form of a new training stimulus that intends to stress the body beyond its limits and force it into adapting to the stressor via building more muscle mass. In a nutshell, if you’re unable to lift the weight up anymore, achieve the state of fatigue that makes you also unable to lower it down under control.


Eccentric training can be beneficial in specific cases and it allows you to squeeze a bit more out not only of your CNS (Central Nervous System) but also MFS (Myo-Fascial System). If utilised correctly, it can be applied to achieve a varied range of results and pack on some quality muscle mass on your athletes as well as improve their technique and control over the weight.

P.S. Since you just found out what eccentric training is, why don’t you try going through this article and read about the Compensatory Acceleration Training that makes you faster and more powerful.

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