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What Exactly Is Eccentric Exercise And What Are Its Benefits?

Following fitness trends mindlessly is not the solution. Ask any fitness guru, and they will tell you that it’s all about quality and not quantity when it comes to fitness training. Working out without emotionally getting involved doesn’t pay off. For example, when you do a push-up, and you already know taking your body down and then back up completes one set. However, you might not know that one of these is an eccentric movement, and the other one is a concentric movement. When you know your movements and you focus on them separately, it actually pays off. Here’s what you need to know about eccentric exercise and how you can incorporate it into your fitness regime.

What Is Eccentric Training?

Under tension, your muscle fibers can perform three different kinds of contractions, such as concentric, isometric, and eccentric. A concentric contraction happens when your muscles are shortened, an isometric one happens when they are neither shortened nor lengthened (at usual length), and an eccentric one happens when they are lengthened.

You can actually imagine these three contractions during your workout sessions. Take a bicep curl for example. When you are pulling up the weight by flexing your elbow, a concentric contraction happens. When you stretch out your elbow again to put back the weight, an eccentric contraction happens. If you hold the weight at a ninety-degree angle, you can experience an isometric contraction. In other words, eccentric contraction is the braking mechanism for your muscle fibers. You are still controlling the weight while, at the same time, you are maintaining tension in your muscles. To put it differently, when you are doing an eccentric exercise, you are actually resisting gravity.

Eccentric Exercise – The Benefits

As eccentric exercise is the lengthening phase of any workout and building resistance, it’s actually great for building strength. When you lower weight without losing control, you gradually learn to create a stimulus for strength building as the gravitational force is greater than your muscular force.

A research paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Physiology revealed that this kind of training is effective in building muscle strength and size, and is actually more effective than concentric training. It’s a way to train your body to overload and make adaptations. During an eccentric workout, your muscle fibers get tense to such an extent that it induces the inflammatory response of your muscles, sometimes leading to microscopic tears in your muscles. If you give your muscles adequate recovery time, they will rebuild themselves and you will come back stronger.

So yes, eccentric training does damage your muscles, but for good reasons. This is because you move slowly through the entire motion and your force increases with time. Gradually, your muscles will get stronger and accommodate that extra force. Another big benefit of eccentric training is that it requires much less oxygen, nominal cardiac output, and produces much less lactate compared to concentric training.

Moreover, it’s not just about building strength. The continuous stretching of your muscle fibers also helps in improving flexibility and motion. Some fitness experts think that eccentric training is also effective in improving the flexibility of lower limbs. The right mix of strength training and resistance training can reduce the risks of exercise-induced injuries to a great extent.

Are There Any Risks?

All sorts of workouts come with risks, and eccentric training is not an exception. This kind of training can induce muscle soreness, albeit it’s delayed by 12 to 24 hours. You may not experience soreness right after leaving the gym. The delayed onset usually subsides in almost a week.

Another important thing about eccentric training is that you need to allow your muscles adequate time for recovery. Minimal tearing is actually good for you, but when the muscles are recovering, they are susceptible to further injuries. This is why you should not work out all day. You need to walk, swim and do yoga, to give your body the time and effort it needs for recovery.

On the other hand, you need to bear in mind that eccentric exercise lets your body handle more weight than concentric one. You may want to lift more weight, sooner than you should, but this way, you may end up injuring some of your muscles.

If you want to incorporate it into your fitness routine, consider getting the help of a spotter. Always start easy and increase your intensity step by step.

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