At first, the phrase “eccentric training” might bring to mind, like, dressing up in a clown costume and running on a treadmill while you loudly sing Blondie -- or, you know, something like that.
But in fact, it's a method of muscle training that focuses on the “lowering” aspect of a lifting or weight exercise, rather than the actual lifting or holding part.
So, for example, the focus is more on the down motion of a squat or curl or bench press.
Allow me to explain.
While concentric actions start a movement (like your regular push-off with a free weight), eccentric movements slow them down.
Resistance training often focuses on loading on weight during concentric movements, during the “push” moment, so to speak.
Your muscles shorten and tense up during concentric/push actions, but they contract and lengthen during eccentric actions.
So, eccentric exercises capitalize on the fact that you can lower more weight (and for longer) than you can lift.
An examples of this would be lowering a dumbbell or a calf raise off of a stair.
With an eccentric exercise, you spend more counts going down than you do lifting back up, or holding weight or upward resistance.
While thinking about all of this seems a little heady for me (especially when all I usually want to do when I exercise is release some stress), making mental space to consider muscle health is definitely important.
Focusing on eccentric strength benefits your balance, mobility, and simple everyday movements, like going down the stairs.
These types of exercises also increase muscle power, and can speed up the process of building your muscle mass, if you're into that kind of thing.
Some dudes say it really, really packs on the rip.
But for the real win, eccentric training helps prevent injuries.
That applies to both while you're actually working out, and even while you're just during that whole living-life thing you're expected to do every day.
This is particularly something to consider as you age -- which, you know, everyone does, and would like to do as gracefully and painlessly as possible, no?
As for the how-to, there are machines specifically designed for some of these exercises, if you happen to have access to a fancy gym.
But if you don't, you can grab some free weights, or just use your own bodily resistance to follow some basic beginners' moves.
And it is really important to remember, when starting out with eccentric exercises, be super clear on your form, and start slow so you don't hurt yourself.
While it might feel like it's not so difficult and you can do a lot at once, these workouts might leave you with a really gnarly burn (not the good kind) if you go too hard, too fast.