Strength training using extremely heavy weights, with which athletes can only manage the return (eccentric) part of the movement on their own, builds more strength in experienced strength athletes than regular strength training does. This is the conclusion reached by a Finnish study published Frontiers in Physiology. Eccentric strength training requires a few weeks before the effects are seen.
The researchers got two groups of male students to train their legs twice a week on a leg-extension machine and a leg-press machine for a period of 10 weeks.
One group trained in the traditional way [TRAD]. The students did alternate sessions, using weights with which they could manage 6 reps for one, and weights with which they could manage 10 reps during the other.
The other group did eccentric training [AEL]. They used weights that were 40 percent heavier than the weights that the other group used. They could only lift the weights with help. The way they managed this is shown below.
The subjects were able to perform the return (eccentric) part of the movement, so letting the weight gently return to its resting position. The subjects in this group did the same number of reps as the subjects in the other group.
A third group of students did not train, and functioned as control group [CON].
The students had already been training doing weight training for a couple of years.
The students in both training groups gained about the same amount of muscle mass. The researchers saw this on scans they made of the students’ legs.
The figures below show that the students who did eccentric training built up more strength than the students that did traditional training. Torque = what’s called ‘strength’ in everyday language.
The increase in strength in the subjects who had done eccentric training took place in the last five weeks of the experiment. Apparently eccentric training takes more time to start showing an effect than regular training does.
“Accentuated eccentric loading seems to provide an additional training stimulus to increase maximum force production, as well as increasing work capacity/reducing fatigue during lifting in previously trained subjects”, the researchers write.
“Both the traditional and accentuated eccentric loading training programs were equally effective in eliciting increases in muscle cross-sectional area in subjects accustomed to resistance training. Mechanisms other than muscular hypertrophy, including increases in muscle activation, appear to underpin the greater improvements following training with accentuated eccentric loads.”
Greater Strength Gains after Training with Accentuated Eccentric than Traditional Isoinertial Loads in Already Strength-Trained Men
As training experience increases it becomes more challenging to induce further neuromuscular adaptation. Consequently, strength trainers seek alternative training methods in order to further increase strength and muscle mass. One method is to utilize accentuated eccentric loading, which applies a greater external load during the eccentric phase of the lift as compared to the concentric phase. Based upon this practice, the purpose of this study was to determine the effects of 10 weeks of accentuated eccentric loading vs. traditional isoinertial resistance training in strength-trained men. Young (22 ± 3 years, 177 ± 6 cm, 76 ± 10 kg, n = 28) strength-trained men (2.6 ± 2.2 years experience) were allocated to concentric-eccentric resistance training in the form of accentuated eccentric load (eccentric load = concentric load + 40%) or traditional resistance training, while the control group continued their normal unsupervised training program. Both intervention groups performed three sets of 6-RM (session 1) and three sets of 10-RM (session 2) bilateral leg press and unilateral knee extension exercises per week. Maximum force production was measured by unilateral isometric (110° knee angle) and isokinetic (concentric and eccentric 30°.s?1) knee extension tests, and work capacity was measured by a knee extension repetition-to-failure test. Muscle mass was assessed using panoramic ultrasonography and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Surface electromyogram amplitude normalized to maximum M-wave and the twitch interpolation technique were used to examine maximal muscle activation. After training, maximum isometric torque increased significantly more in the accentuated eccentric load group than control (18 ± 10 vs. 1 ± 5%, p < 0.01), which was accompanied by an increase in voluntary activation (3.5 ± 5%, p < 0.05). Isokinetic eccentric torque increased significantly after accentuated eccentric load training only (10 ± 9%, p < 0.05), whereas concentric torque increased equally in both the accentuated eccentric load (10 ± 9%, p < 0.01) and traditional (9 ± 6%, p < 0.01) resistance training groups; however, the increase in the accentuated eccentric load group was significantly greater (p < 0.05) than control (1 ± 7%). Knee extension repetition-to-failure improved in the accentuated eccentric load group only (28%, p < 0.05). Similar increases in muscle mass occurred in both intervention groups. In summary, accentuated eccentric load training led to greater increases in maximum force production, work capacity and muscle activation, but not muscle hypertrophy, in strength-trained individuals.