Here’s what you need to know…
- Overloading the eccentric or negative phase of your lifts can ramp up protein synthesis and trigger muscle growth.
- When you accentuate the eccentric phases with extra weight, you’ll recruit more motor units, cause a greater release of IGF-1, and even increase strength in the concentric phase.
- The 2/1 method is pulling or pressing the weight with two arms and lowering with one. Thus one arm lowers all the weight during the eccentric.
- The two-moves technique involves combining two exercises into one rep, one for the concentric, and one for the eccentric.
Eccentric Loading: The Basics
“Accentuated-eccentric training” sounds tricky but it’s simple. You overload the eccentric portion of a lift by some means: through an implement like chains, a partner applying force, or through any other strategy.
In other words, you accentuate the eccentric phase by overloading it. I’ll tell you how, but first, let’s talk basics. There are two main phases in a rep – the concentric and the eccentric.
The concentric is the shortening phase of the exercise when you’re actually pushing or pulling the external load away from the force of gravity. Think curling a dumbbell towards your shoulder, standing up during a squat, or pressing a barbell overhead.
The eccentric is the lengthening phase where the muscle lengthens as it fights against the opposing force of gravity and the weight you’re using, as in lowering the dumbbell after you’ve curled it to your shoulder. The old-school term for this was the “negative.”
Accentuate the Eccentric
Eccentric overload is the technique of using extra resistance during the lengthening phase of the lift, but by how much?
To make the most of eccentric overload work, aim for around 150% of what you can normally handle concentrically. If you don’t use more weight than you could push or press in the concentric phase, you’re wasting the potential of the eccentric overloading.
Why Do It?
There are two reasons to overload the eccentric portion of a lift:
- Studies have shown that protein synthesis (and thus muscle growth) is much greater after accentuated-eccentric lifting.
- Accentuated-eccentric work recruits more motor units, causes a greater release of IGF-1, and leads to greater increases in concentric strength.
Here are some ways to do it.
The 2/1 Method
The 2/1 method requires no partner and can be applied to a variety of muscles. You simply use both arms or legs during the concentric and turn it into a unilateral variation during the eccentric. Two arm concentric; one arm eccentric. Or, two leg concentric; one leg eccentric.
Here are two awesome examples to illustrate the 2/1 in action. Keep in mind, this technique is best done with machines – otherwise you’ll drop a barbell on your head.
2/1 Triceps Extension
Attach a two-handled rope to the top of a pulley stack. Grab the rope and explode through the concentric and extend the elbows. Before descending into the eccentric, transfer all of the weight to one arm. Use that arm to complete the eccentric.
In this case, you don’t necessarily have to do the eccentric all that slowly. The triceps are getting plenty of work by doing what would normally be the work of two arms.
Once at the top, extend down forcefully with both arms again and repeat until failure or you reach your targeted number of reps. Switch arms and repeat.
2/1 Hamstring Curl
The lying hamstring curl is great with two legs but even better with an eccentric overload. Lie on your stomach and raise both heels to your glutes.
Using one leg, lower slowly through the eccentric. Repeat with that same leg for your entire set, then switch legs.
When you truly target the hamstrings with this method, you can guarantee a very uncomfortable feeling in your hamstrings, much like a Charlie horse. That means it’s working.
The Two-Moves Technique
Some exercises just don’t lend themselves very well to the 2/1 technique. That’s where the “two moves” technique comes in handy. You just combine two exercises into one rep.
To accentuate the eccentric, do the easier movement during the concentric lifting phase and the harder variation for the eccentric lowering phase.
1 – The Dumbbell Bench Press/Chest Flye
To set up, grab two dumbbells, lie on a bench, and press the dumbbells straight up like you’re performing a regular bench press.
But instead of lowering the dumbbells like normal, lower them as if you’re doing a chest flye, slowly of course. At the bottom, bring the dumbbells back to the starting position of a dumbbell bench press and repeat.
This method is infinitely superior to conventional flyes because you’re forcing the pecs to do so much more work! You’ll definitely feel the muscles working overtime.
2 – The Deadlift/RDL Combo
Set up as if you were performing a deadlift. Instead of lowering the bar like normal, or dropping it, lower it slowly, but in the way you’d do the eccentric portion of a Romanian deadlift (RDL).
Keep in mind that you can use a ton more weight than you could for a regular RDL. To get an idea where to start, add about 50% to your normal RDL weight.
Accentuated Eccentric Squats
When talking about accentuated eccentrics, it’s almost unfair not to talk about the classics, which include just loading up a bar in a cage and lowering as slowly as possible.
Let’s say your normal heavy squat weight is 315. Try loading it up to 350 or 365 and lowering it as slowly as you can, stopping when the bar hits the pins.
Of course, if you want to do more reps, you’ll have to take some weight off and then squat it back up to the starting position from the pins.
Accentuated Eccentric Curls
Cheating your reps isn’t usually a good thing. Unless it serves a purpose. The purpose for it in this case would be to overload the eccentric phase, thus making it impossible to do the concentric without the cheat.
Just use the whole body to get it up. On the way down, control it with everything you have.