The Doctor Said: Slow Down Your Strength Training
Rushing through the eccentric phase of an exercise defeats the purpose.
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Control freaks get better results in the gym. Simply put, it's equally important to be able to control movement, whether it’s your body or a weight, as it is to produce movement. Gravity is constantly pulling on us, and those who can’t safely decelerate against gravity put themselves at risk for injuries. What's more, the benefits of eccentric training—or the controlled lowering portion of a movement—can facilitate significant improvements in strength and lean muscle mass.
While certain trends in fitness emphasize knocking out as many reps as quickly as possible, a little deliberation in this lowering portion of a movement, in particular, can go a long way. Here's why:
You'll play to your (existing) strength.
We are capable of resisting significantly more force eccentrically then during the concentric, or pushing/pulling, portion of an exercise. You are stronger during the eccentric portion of movement—take advantage of it. But form is still critical. Be sure to push through your arch and heel during squats, lunges, and presses. If, by contrast, you feel the bulk of your bodyweight through your forefoot or on the outer part of your foot, you’re not properly controlling your body in space.
You'll expend less energy.
Eccentric training also uses significantly less energy compared to the concentric portion. So, by slowing down the lowering portion of an exercise, more force can be generated with lower energy expenditure. In other words, you’ll be able to get through your workout without burning out.
You'll see results sooner.
“Incorporating slow, controlled eccentric repetitions is an easy way to add difficulty to exercises without completely overhauling your program. It offers a fresh take on your most frequently-used exercises and can help you push past plateaus,” says Colin Doll, CSCS, a strength and conditioning coach at Launch Sport Performance. Translated: You’ll see strength gains sooner. Don’t neglect three dimensional movements, especially exercises that strengthen rotation and side-to-side movements. Moves done unilaterally (presses, carries, and row variations) also force you to resist gravitational forces on the opposite side due to the uneven load. And don’t forget to stand: The most serious injuries in sport are frequently non-contact where athletes aren’t able to decelerate their bodies (think of a knee buckling after a poor landing). While seated and supine exercises have their place, be sure to incorporate standing or bent-over versions.