So many times in the gym we see people rush through reps like it’s a race, especially the eccentric portion of the lift. The eccentric part of any exercise is the lowering portion.
Why is controlling the eccentric important?
Reduced risk of injury
First and foremost, emphasizing this part will lead to reduced risk of injury due to building up not only strength and muscle, but your body’s connective tissues. This is especially important for a gymnastics/bodyweight style of training. Building strength for certain bodyweight skills is often achieved with eccentric training. Can’t do a pull up? Try an eccentric pull up where you jump your chin over the bar and slowly lower yourself downward until your arms are fully extended. Can’t do a muscle up? Same concept – jump yourself to the top of the movement and lower yourself downward to the start position in a slow and controlled manner. Watch your strength and proficiency for these skills skyrocket after a few weeks or months of adding eccentric training into your programming!
Muscle & Strength Gains
As we’ve been alluding to, controlling the eccentric will also result in awesome muscle and strength gains overall – no matter what type or style of training in which you partake. Your muscles are strongest when worked eccentrically so you’ve got to work them this way, plain and simple. Some research shows that our muscles can tolerate almost 2x the load on the eccentric portion of the lift!
Emphasizing the eccentric portion of the lift won’t make you “slow”. Meaning controlling the lowering portion of the lift in a slower manner, isn’t going to diminish or limit your type II muscle fiber’s power capacity. It can actually enhance them in the long run. The potential for muscle growth and strength means a greater potential for power development!
Additionally, there are some studies that show eccentric training can enhance flexibility. The goal is to move through the ENTIRE range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. This makes it a great choice for rehabilitation of an injured muscle or joint as well. You’re providing more force with less energy during eccentric training so there is a minimal risk of “over-taxing” or “over-working” the injured area.
We’re not suggesting that you ONLY train eccentrics, rather – put a slight emphasis on controlling the eccentric portion of your lifts when appropriate. This can be a general concept or you can program tempo work accordingly! If you take anything away from reading this then it should be this: CONTROL YOUR REPS. IT IS NOT A RACE.