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Eccentric and Concentric Phase

For many years I have been a personal trainer and have noticed that far too often people come into the gym, throw weights around and feel they have done their work. What they don’t understand is that they are actually missing half of the movement -the eccentric phase. Many people completely neglect the importance of the eccentric phase and are in a rush to perform the concentric, or positive phase of the movement. The importance of both parts of the movement cannot be overstated; in fact, when it comes to weight training, the eccentric is more important than the concentric.

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Let’s look at the bicep curl as an example. When you lift the weight up towards your shoulder, the muscle fibers are put under a tension, which is beneficial for hypertrophy and strength. But it’s when you control the weight on the way down -during the eccentric phase -that is really where the muscle fiber gets the best stimulus for growth. When people rush through the eccentric phase or even worse, let the weight drop and enter into a free fall because of gravity, they completely miss the entire benefit of the lift. The faster you go, the more the risk of injury increases because the muscles are not given enough time to get ready to decelerate the motion. This makes controlling the motion on the way down even more important as it ensures safety and proper activation of the targeted muscle fibers.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in the gym is when people only work on the concentric, or positive phase of the movement and neglect the eccentric, or negative part of the movement. I always recommend to my clients to control the eccentric phase in any lift for several reasons. Not only does this reduce the risk of injury, it also improves overall performance, encourages proper technique and makes sure all the muscle fibers get activated, leading to increased strength and muscular hypertrophy.

In conclusion, the eccentric phase of any weight training exercise is an essential part of any fitness regimen. By properly controlling the motion of the weights during this phase, not only will your safety increase, your strength, muscular hypertrophy and overall performance will increase as well. Don’t forget -this phase is even more important than the concentric phase!

When it comes to weight training, the eccentric phase of the movement is just as important as the concentric. I’ve seen time and time again, in my over 21 years of experience as a personal trainer, people missing half of the movement by focusing only on the concentric, or “positive”, portion. What’s most noteworthy, is that our bodies are stronger in the eccentric, or “negative”, portion than in the concentric. That said, if we cannot control the weight in the negative part of the movement, then we should not be attempting to lift the weight in the positive part. Too often, people are allowing gravity to take over and start “swinging” the weight, or worse yet, dropping it with force.

A prime example is with bicep curls; all too often people work the weight up to the shoulder without focusing on controlling the downward motion. Our minds are programmed to find the path of least resistance and without consciously controlling the eccentric phase, our body defaults to “winging” the negative.

But what does controlling the eccentric really look like? Well, it looks different from person to person and from exercise to exercise. With bicep curls, the eccentric phase should consist of you resisting gravity and slowly controlling the weight back to the starting position. With leg exercises such as squats, it may mean you keeping your muscles contracted while slowly lowering the body and sitting into a squat position before rising back up to a standing position.

In conclusion, we need to train our minds to become mindful of the eccentric part of the movement just as much as we do with the concentric part. Don’t be so quick to let gravity do all the work; resist the movement and focus on keeping your muscles engaged throughout the whole exercise. By actively engaging in the eccentric portion of the exercise, we are taking our weight training up a notch and ensuring the movement works our body to its fullest potential.

Selina Sabha - Owner and trainer of Fusion Fitness Pacific Grove
Selina Sahba

Fusion Fitness Owner, Fitness Writer, Trainer and Massage Therapist

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