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Eccentric Loading: Definition, Examples, and Benefits

What is Eccentric Loading?

Eccentric loading means forcing the muscle to produce force as it lengthens. For example, you curl a dumbbell by bending your arm and slowly lower it as your bicep engages to control the movement. Proper eccentric control during training is crucial for optimal muscle growth and strength development. Slow eccentrics can also build enough strength for more challenging movements like the pull-up.

A Deeper Look Into Eccentric Loading

The eccentric contraction is often overlooked in training because many athletes focus on the active concentric contraction, which is when they lift an external weight to the top position. 

To use the bicep curl as an example again, a trainee might focus on lifting the weight to the top position (flexing the arm) and then allow it to drop to the bottom. This is a huge mistake because it limits the muscle stimulus and prevents trainees from enjoying some stretch-mediated hypertrophy. 

Because of that, it’s crucial to train with an even tempo most of the time and put equal effort into the eccentric and concentric portion of each rep. 

Slow eccentrics can also strategically work to burn out muscles completely (such as close to the end of a workout) and help athletes build strength on some movements. 

For example, if an athlete lacks the strength to perform full pull-ups, they can start with slow eccentrics. The goal would be to get to the top by stepping on a stool or jumping and then control themselves on the way down, loading the muscles involved in a pull-up. 

This tactic works quite well because muscles are stronger eccentrically than concentrically. As noted by Walter Herzog in one paper:

“Muscles working eccentrically can produce much greater forces than muscles working concentrically or isometrically.” 

So, even if someone lacks the strength to pull themselves up, they can almost always lower themselves for at least three to four seconds and improve that from workout to workout.

The Benefits of Eccentric Loading

Strength Gain

As mentioned, eccentric loading is highly beneficial for strength development and can be used strategically to improve performance on certain movements, such as the pull-up.

Muscle Growth

Stretch under load is highly beneficial for hypertrophy because it is highly stimulative and creates a more significant disruption than concentric-only training could. By controlling the eccentric phase of reps, athletes can get a greater stimulus from fewer reps.

Injury Prevention

Eccentric strength plays a crucial role in controlling your body during physical activity. For instance, eccentric strength allows you to slowly lower the barbell to your chest during a bench press to avoid trauma or an injury. 

Similarly, eccentric strength can help you decelerate or change position more safely, leading to better sports performance.


1. Does eccentric loading lead to muscle soreness?

Eccentric loading is highly disruptive and can lead to significant soreness, particularly for trainees not used to controlling their eccentrics during training.

2. Is eccentric loading suitable for beginners?

Eccentric loading is highly beneficial for beginners, as it helps them move in a more controlled manner and provides a better training stimulus. It can also strategically be used to build strength on some movements, like the pull-up.

3. Are there any risks of eccentric loading?

Eccentric loading is safe. However, overloading the muscles (way beyond their concentric strength) can increase the risk of losing control and getting injured (e.g., a pulled muscle).

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