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Eccentric Loading Exercises for Fitness and Health

There are three different phases of muscular contractions – concentric, eccentric, and isometric. The concentric contraction phase is when the muscle shortens, the eccentric contraction phase is when the muscle lengthens during contraction, and the isometric contraction phase is when there is no change in muscle length during contraction. All of these contractions are important for producing force and for overcoming external forces which everyday activities entice. 

Concentric contractions are important for starting various movements whereas eccentric contractions can slow down these movements. If you were to start running, your gluteus muscle group would extend your hip and set you in the forward running motion by contracting concentrically. If you were to start slowing down or come to a halt then your hamstrings would start to contract eccentrically. An example of isometric contraction is a plank/bridge exercise.

It’s important to note that strengthening all these phases are key for sports performance as well as to help reduce risk of certain injuries. Eccentric strength is really important for daily functions for example walking down stairs/slopes or lowering objects to the ground. Eccentric strength can also be useful to improve your mobility as well as your balance. 

If you have ever heard or have been told to do some “negatives”, then you have definitely incorporated eccentric loading in to your resistance training program. These two terms can be interchangeable in the right context. 

Examples of eccentric loading activities include performing a calf raise off the ledge of a stair, an exercise that has been shown to decrease the risk of achilles tendon injuries. Another example is the nordic curl exercise, which have been shown to help reduce the risk of hamstring strains.  

A simple example of eccentric loading is the lowering part of a bicep curl. When it comes to eccentric loading, the individual might actually feel that he/she is exercising at a lower intensity. This is because you might be able to lower a heavier weight than actually lift. You utilise a greater effort in your muscles performing concentric contractions compared to eccentric contractions.

When it comes to designing a training program, the inclusion of eccentric loading typically takes the form of lifting the weight in the concentric phase for about 2 seconds and then lowering the weight in the eccentric phase roughly between 4-7 seconds long. This helps in maximising strength gains, specifically in the eccentric phase of muscular contraction. When utilising eccentric loading, it’s important to note that the force your muscles generate during the eccentric contraction are greater than in the concentric portion of the lift. 

Eccentric contractions can cause an increased amount of muscle damage, and increase soreness. From this, it might be important for you to rest between 3-5 days between eccentric loading days to optimise your recovery. This delegated recovery time can allow for muscle repair and adaptation thus preparing for the next session.

Like all training sessions and modalities, there are precautions you should take into consideration when incorporating eccentric loading into your training session:


  • ·      Warm up appropriately·
  • ·      Start off slowly (start with fewer reps, gradually progressing in order to prevent extreme stiffness and soreness)
  • ·      Focus on the correct technique of the exercise before increasing weight further
  • ·      It is very important to utilize a spotter when including heavier free weights. This will assist with injury prevention.
  • ·      Muscle stiffness and soreness is very common 24-48 hours following eccentric loading.

Other factors to consider for older individuals embarking on an eccentric resistance training session:


  • ·      Using machines like an eccentric flywheel ergometer
  • ·      Use maximal eccentric loading sparingly (once a week)
  • ·      Try consulting a physician before undertaking eccentric loading for those who are recovering from injury
  • ·      The utilisation of eccentric loading for adults suffering with current joint pain (i.e. osteoarthritis) might end up making their symptoms worse in the joint               that is affected


Here are some of the benefits for eccentric loading:


  • ·      Improves balance
  • ·      Increases muscle power capacity
  • ·      Increases strength (within various movement speeds)
  • ·      Increases strength within the full range of motion of joints
  • ·      Creates less cardiovascular stress than hard concentric movements
  • ·      Improves muscle coordination
  • ·      Decreases risk of tendinopathies and promotes recovery from tendon related injuries.
  •       ·Increases Blood flow and nutrient to the joint assisting with recovery

Most exercise professionals would prescribe eccentric loading within their planned training program as it is full of benefits. The biggest benefit it can provide is a reduction in your risk of various soft tissue injuries. Therefore, if you know you are quite injury prone then make sure you add eccentric loading in your weight training schedule!

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