While most focus is typically placed on the lift portion of an exercise, eccentric training gives the lengthening portion some much-deserved love.

Eccentric exercises are a fantastic way to keep your muscles strong and flexible while preventing injuries and speeding up recovery. Focusing on the controlled lengthening of muscles, these exercises help build resilience and improve overall muscle health.

Here’s everything you need to know!

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Photography by Studio Firma/Stocksy United

Unless you’re a bodybuilder or another pro, you might not know the 3 key parts of an exercise:

  • Concentric phase involves muscle shortening to overcome resistance, such as lifting a dumbbell.
  • Eccentric phaseinvolves muscle lengthening to control resistance, such as lowering a dumbbell.
  • Isometric phase involves muscle length consistency, such as holding a plank or wall sit.

Eccentric exercise usually focuses on slowing down the movement involved in the lengthening part of an exercise. Examples include:

  • lowering into a squat
  • lowering into a push-up
  • lowering a weight after you lift it
  • running down a hill

When running downhill, your knee extensors and quads perform vital eccentric work. Going slowly, you’ll feel muscles lengthening and strengthening.

Concentric contraction (aka positive work) differs from eccentric lengthening (aka negative work), where muscles absorb energy as they lengthen.

A 2019 review of eccentric muscle contractions suggests that eccentric training may increase muscle strength more than isometric and concentric moves. Researchers also concluded that eccentric training is more efficient, requiring less energy for the same amount of work.

Here are some more potential benefits of incorporating eccentric training into your workout routine:

  • Allows you to handle heavier weights during the lowering phase, making your workouts more effective.
  • Uses less oxygen and energy, making it more efficient than other types of exercise.
  • Boosts muscle growth (hypertrophy) more than just lifting alone.
  • Enhances joint stability and reduces injury risk by improving strength and control.
  • Safe for people with arthritis, inflammatory muscle disease, and Parkinson’s disease, according to 2021 research.
  • Helps older adults increase mobility safely.

An exercise’s concentric (muscle-shortening phase) is essentially the opposite of the eccentric (muscle-lengthening phase).

  • bicep curls (during the lift)
  • push-ups (during the push)
  • squats (during the push)
  • leg raises (during the lift)
  • crunches (during the “crunch”)

Essentially any exercise where you overcome resistance to contract the muscles is a concentric contraction.

Isometric or static exercises include:

Essentially any exercise where you maintain consistent muscle contraction without visibly moving the joint is an isometric contraction.

How is eccentric training used in rehabilitation and PT?

Physical therapists often use Eccentric training to help rehabilitate patients recovering from various injuries and conditions.

Because exercises that emphasize the eccentric phase can improve joint stability and mobility, strengthening this aspect of exercise, which is often overlooked, may reduce the risk of injury in the future.

How often should you do eccentric training?

Eccentric training can safely be done 2–4 times a week, but it ultimately depends on your level of expertise and goals. In rehab settings, your PT may recommend doing these exercises more frequently but at a lower intensity.

Like most exercises, it’s best to play it safe by starting slowly and working your way up.

How to avoid injuries

Here are some tips to help you avoid injuries:

  • Start light and gradually increase weight to avoid injury and poor form.
  • Maintain a controlled pace to ensure effectiveness and safety.
  • Allow adequate recovery time between workouts to prevent soreness and injury.
  • Avoid pushing beyond your limits — no pain doesn’t always mean no gain.

Eccentric training is a super effective but often neglected phase of exercise that can be useful in maximizing strength, growing muscle, and improving joint health. Just be sure to maintain proper form and don’t push past your limits. You got this!