Hey guys! Alex here, coming at you for Wellness Wednesday to talk about eccentric exercises. We’ve been hitting a lot of fun things throughout the month of May, and our big focus is eccentrics.
So what are eccentrics?
We have 2 separate movements when performing an exercise; concentric and eccentric motions. The concentric motion is the tightening or shortening of the muscle, while the eccentric motion is the lengthening or stretching of the muscle. In a squat motion, the eccentric portion is the downward movement, while the concentric portion is the upward movement!
Today we’re going to cover the 6 BEST benefits we receive when performing eccentrics:
- Ability to carry heavier load - The eccentric portion of the exercise produces a greater force than its concentric counterpart. In fact, we can move 20-60% more than our normal workload during eccentric movement. This heavier load creates advanced neuromuscular connections, making the movement easier and easier each time we perform a rep. When we slow down the eccentric movement, these new connections also help with the next benefit.
- Improvements in balance and neuromuscular control - With our enhanced mind-to-body connection, we’re able to feel out the body and assure a more stable foundation when lifting. For example in a barbell row, focusing on applying equal pressure on both sides of the bar on the decline, as well as the pull up. We can sometimes be tempted to compensate for a weaker side and throw off the balance of the weight. This is going to give us a huge boost in our balance and overall symmetry.
- Time Under Tension - With the slowed down rep, we’re creating a greater time under tension. During a normal tempo rep, the amount of time the muscle is under tension is short. While performing a 5-second eccentric rep, we increase the time under tension, a lot! This creates more tiny tears in the muscle than normal reps (necessary for muscle toning and growth). So, when we go into recovery, whether it be nutritional or manual recovery, we’ll be able to “fill in the spaces” of the muscle, giving us huge gains in muscle mass, muscle toning, and overall strength.
- Strengthening Our Connective Tissue - Not only are we going to strengthen our muscle, but also our tendons and ligaments that support our muscles and joints! During this extended time under tension, we’re allowing our tendons and ligaments to move from end to end of our range of motion. This will allow for better support in deeper ranges of motion, meaning strong connective tissue & healthier joints!
- Increased Flexibility - As mentioned before, slowing down the movements allow us to hit the full spectrum of our range of motion. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of the exercise. This stretches the eccentric moving muscle at the end of the range. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger. A 2006 study saw two groups of high school and collegiate athletes to improve their overall flexibility. One group performed static stretch warm-ups prior to exercises, while the other had an eccentric warm up. The study found the eccentric group not only had better overall strength gains, but had almost doubled the % of improved flexibility!
- WE BURN MORE CALORIES - I’m sure as y’all can tell, a 5-sec rep feels like a lot more than one normal rep. During this extended time under tension, we’ll be burning more energy. This increase in intensity temporarily increases our resting metabolic rate... I know you’re thinking I’m just throwing around words, but our RMR is easy to understand -> If you were to sit down in a chair for a 24hr period, your body would burn a specific amount of calories. This is essentially the rate of our metabolism at rest, or our resting metabolic rate (RMR). Eccentrics will help boost this number by 200-300 cal for around 72 hrs. But if we’re doing eccentrics everyday or every other day, we’ll be able to maintain that boost for longer periods of time. So I hope you’re eating well and taking care of your body this month!
Those are the 6 best benefits of eccentric exercises. Let us know what your favorite benefit is in the comments below!