It is not only about how you LIFT those weights, it’s about how you LOWER them, too! Slow, controlled lowerings help build muscle and strength faster.
I found this article from Self Magazine interesting and you may too. I’ve hit the highlights below.
An eccentric movement is the lowering part of a move. It’s when your muscle works as it’s lengthened like your glutes do when you’re lowering into a squat, or like your biceps do as you’re lowering a dumbbell after a curl. And, it turns out, every muscle fiber in your body is the strongest as it moves eccentrically.
It’s not just because of gravity. When muscles work eccentrically, more of the parts of the muscle used for contracting remain attached to each other at any given time, so together they can produce more force. There may also be increased tightness in some proteins within the muscle fiber during eccentric actions, which make the muscle stronger. This is why lowering into a squat feels a heck of a lot easier than getting back to standing.
Through eccentric training, you turn the focus of every rep away from the concentric (contracting) portion to the eccentric (lengthening) portion. Why should you do such a thing? Check out these five body-rocking benefits of eccentric training:
1. Faster muscle gains
Rep per rep, eccentric training is superior to concentric training at building both muscle size and strength. After all, since your muscles are strongest when they move eccentrically if you want to push your limits, you’ve got to work eccentrically. Warning: Eccentric exercises increase delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that soreness you feel up to 72 hours after a tough workout, in a big way. That’s because, in eccentric actions, the weight is greater than the amount of force produced by the muscle, so it creates more microscopic damage to the muscle.
2. Greater metabolic boosts
To recover from your sweat sessions, especially those that leave you riddled with DOMS for days, your body has to work super hard to recover. Although the studies are small (fewer than 20 subjects), some research shows found that slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the number of calories you burn at rest. One study of 16 participants in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eccentric training boosts RMR for up to 72 hours post-exercise. In the study, subjects performed the concentric phase quickly over one second and slowed down the eccentric over three seconds. Another study of 16 male participants found significant increases in RMR for up to 48 hours after leg presses that stressed the eccentric movement. Even though the research is limited, the mechanisms make sense: Eccentric exercise does more muscle damage, which then requires more energy to repair.
3. More flexibility
Perform eccentric exercises, and you may reduce the need for performing dedicated “flexibility” workouts. In a study of 75 athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger. A research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that eccentric training is an effective way to increase flexibility.
4. Lower risk of injury
Eccentric exercises strengthen not just your muscles, but also your body’s connective tissues, helping to both rehab any aches and pains as well as prevent injuries ranging from tendinitis to ACL strains. Eccentric exercises are vital in sports rehab settings and are great for people sidelined with exercise injuries.
5. Better sports performance
Eccentric actions aren’t just something you do in the weight room. They are a given in any workout—from beach volleyball to 10K races. (Eccentric actions are why your quads feel destroyed after a long run downhill.) So, by performing strength training routines and focusing not just on concentric or isometric, but also eccentric moves, you better prepare your body for any challenges to come.