An eccentric muscle contraction, also known as an eccentric movement, occurs when a muscle lengthens while under tension, as opposed to contracting through shortening (concentric). The muscle is doing negative work because it is applying force in one direction but moving in the opposite way.
During an eccentric contraction, the muscle fibres are actively lengthening while resisting an external force, such as gravity or a weight being lowered. This type of contraction can produce greater force than concentric contractions (when the muscle shortens) and is particularly effective for building strength and increasing muscle size.
Eccentric contractions are often used in resistance training exercises, such as the downward phase of a bicep curl, the lowering phase of a squat or deadlift, or the downwards portion of a push-up. They are used to build shock absorbing and elastic properties in the muscles. Eccentric contractions are commonly used in rehabilitation programs to improve muscle function, and tendon strength. Eccentric is also beneficial in most sport disciplines, as it has been shown that it improves the concentric phase of a muscle contraction when the muscles are shortening and stretching during running, jumping, throwing, and slowing down movements.
It is important to note that eccentric contractions can also cause more muscle damage compared to concentric contractions leading to muscle soreness, particularly when performed at high intensities or with improper technique. Therefore, it is important to gradually increase the intensity and volume of eccentric training and to seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional.
Eccentric training has numerous benefits for both athletes and non-athletes.
Here are some of the most notable benefits:
- Increased muscle strength: Eccentric contractions can produce greater force than concentric contractions and are therefore an effective way to increase muscle strength. Eccentric training has been shown to be particularly effective for building strength in the lower body muscles.
- Increased resting metabolic rate: The slowing down of the eccentric phase causes greater micro-damage to the muscles which then results in an increased resting metabolic rate that helps the muscles to recover.
- Improved muscle size: Eccentric training can also lead to increases in muscle size, especially when combined with concentric training.
- Enhanced athletic performance: Eccentric training has been shown to improve performance in activities that require high levels of strength, such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing.
- Injury prevention: Eccentric training can help to reduce the risk of injury by improving muscle function, increasing muscle strength, and improving movement patterns.
- Rehabilitation: Eccentric training can be an effective way to rehabilitate muscles after an injury, as it helps to improve muscle function and increase range of motion (improved flexibility).
- Improved bone health: Eccentric training can help to increase bone density, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
- Time-efficient: Eccentric training can be more time-efficient than traditional resistance training because it allows for a greater training stimulus in less time.
It is important to note that eccentric training should be performed with caution and under the guidance of a qualified fitness professional or healthcare provider, as it can be harmful if it is progressed too quickly too soon.