It’s the holy grail of calisthenics training.
Highly needed, but rarely used.
I’m talking about eccentric loading.
Imagine yourself driving a Formula 1 race car.
Your are speeding over the road, passing your competitors as if they are standing still.
The crowd is going wild at every corner, because you make the unimaginable look easy. Like the next Verstappen.
And then in the final turn, right before you finish in world record time, get 100k in prize money and go into the books of history, you decide to release the gas.
You stop holding the steering wheel and decide that you are finished with the race.
That’s what you are doing with your pull ups, chin ups, push ups and all your exercises.
You take your foot off the gas, right before the finish.
It’s a shame, because you are skipping the rewarding part of the race.
Let me tell you how you can cross that finish line full throttle and get most out of your exercises.
What Is Eccentric Training?
You have been doing ‘eccentric training’ ever since you’ve started your calisthenics training.
The thing you don’t know?
You haven’t been doing it the right way.
Be honest, how often has this happened?
You are in your final 2-3 repetitions.
You want to get that last repetition no matter what, so you jump into you chin up.
Touch the bar while screaming and dripping spit out of your mouth and you drop down.
You feel victorious.
I know it seems cool, but you actually wasted that repetition.
You actually lost more than you won.
You could have gained much more, but you choose quantity over quality.
You took your foot off instead of keeping it on the gas.
But to answer your question.
A muscle can both shorten and lengthen or stay the same length while still producing force.
The concentric phase is the part where the muscle shortens.
The eccentric phase is the part where the muscle lengthens.
The isometric phase is the part where the muscle length is maintained.
Usually when people do an exercise they spend most of their time on the concentric or shortening part.
With chin ups it’s lifting your chest to the bar.
With push ups it’s lifting your chest by pushing from the ground.
It’s basically the part in which you push or pull against gravity.
The eccentric or lowering part on the contrary is the part where you go with gravity.
With chin ups it’s lowering into the hanging position, which for example lengthens the bicep.
With push ups it’s lowering your chest to the ground, which lengthens the tricep.
Because you go with gravity it’s easy to just let yourself drop into the eccentric part when you are fatigued or want to act as if you are doing repetitions.
But it’s also going to increase the time you need to get the actual skill by 10 times.
You might not know this, but the golden nugget of most drills isn’t in the concentric phase, but in the eccentric phase.
That’s the part that will give you the biggest gains in terms of strength.
So just dropping after a chin up or push ups, means that you are skipping the good part.
The part that’s going to make you much stronger and the part in which you are much stronger.
It’s well known that eccentrically you can carry a much bigger load.
Even up to 175% of what you can carry concentrically.
Why aren’t you making use of it?
You are carrying all that potential, but it’s being wasted.
Especially because eccentric loading increases both the concentric, isometric and eccentric part.
So you hit 3 birds with 1 stone.
Why wouldn’t you do that?
What Research Says About Eccentric Training
Perhaps not for you, but did you know that for most people reading scientific articles is as smelly as a fart in an elevator?
Still, I think it’s important to back up the statements I make with some literature.
I have saved you the stinky ‘science talk’ part.
And broken it down into what you need to know.
It’s well documented and generally accepted that the lengthening part of an exercise will provide you with more strength gains than the shortening part.
This has shown to lead to a strength difference of up to 10% over the same 6 week period of training.
The results also indicate a significant positive difference when both the eccentric and concentric part are included in an exercise in which the eccentric part is emphasised.
A more recent study indicates that accentuated eccentric training led to greater increases in maximum force production, work capacity and muscle activation, but not significant for hypertrophy (study).
Another study does show significant muscle increases in emphasized eccentric training, leading up to 19% more muscle growth (study).
While the ‘hypertrophy’ part is up for debate we can clearly state that either accentuating the eccentric part or training eccentrically will ‘give you much better results’ in terms of strength than skipping it.
Well, that wasn’t so bad was it?
Now let’s continue with the fun stuff.
And get the $@#!% out of this elevator.
How Can You Use Eccentric Training As A Beginner?
You might be thinking by now: “Oops.”
Perhaps you realise that you’ve been skipping the eccentric part for the majority of your training career.
At least now you know what has been slowing down your progress.
Especially for beginners the ‘eccentric part’ will give a huge bang for your buck.
For chin ups this means going all the way from your chest to the bar to a passive hang, for push ups this means bringing the chest down to the ground.
By increasing the time over which you lower yourself in the exercise you still go through the entire range of motion, build strength through the entire move and also train the concentric part of the range.
When it comes to doing the eccentric part the important criteria is to focus on your time under tension.
Meaning that you want to go through the motion very slowly and with control.
10-12 seconds will usually give you plenty of time under tension and strength.
Beyond 10-12 seconds it will be more of a endurance matter.
You can do this with exercises which you want to improve in.
But you can also do this with exercises which you want to make more difficult.
Imagine doing a chin up, pulling yourself up in 1 second, touching the bar and lowering yourself over a 10 second count.
Accentuating the eccentric part makes the exercise feel completely different.
You don’t need to do this with every single exercise, but make sure you also spend time in the eccentric phase -at least 3 seconds per rep- and control the entire exercise.
Stop skipping the best part.
It would be a waste of time.
A waste of energy.
And we all know what happens when you take your gas off the pedal before the finish line…
Keep Your Foot On The Gas In The Eccentric Phase
Despite what you think, you don’t just need to do more bad repetitions to progress.
It’s all about the quality of the lowering part, just as much as it is about getting your chest to the bar in that final chin up.
You need to put your foot on the gas and keep it there in the concentric AND eccentric phase.
Understanding this can completely change your results.
There is much more fuel in those muscles of yours and it’s a shame if you don’t use it.
Are you going to lose the ‘entire’ race in those final meters?
Or are you going to win?
Beast Mode ON!