In weight training the concentric portion of a lift is the part where the muscle contracts while a connected limb is extended. In the bench press this would be the upward motion. The eccentric portion of the bench press is the downward motion. The muscles are stronger in the eccentric, or negative, phase. Hence, we can use more resistance and break down muscle fibers more efficiently.
This benefit has long been known in the medical industry. Studies that measure protein synthesis usually have subjects perform only eccentric movements. Simply because it is effective. Eccentric movements are usually subscribed for rehab purposes as well. The intention in rehabilitation is to encourage muscle growth by breaking down muscle fiber in a joint-friendly manner.
The eccentric movement could be compared to loading a spring. By training specifically the eccentric phase, we can use greater resistance and prime the body to explode in the concentric phase. The overload is accomplished by creatively using more resistance for the eccentric phase.
An example of Eccentric Overload is demonstrated in the squats performed by Jazmine Fenlator in this video. Another typical example is eccentric heel drops that doctors recommend for lenghtening the muscles around the achilles tendon.
Most professional athletes use some form of eccentric overload training in their General Preparation Phase (GPP). But eccentric overload can be dangerous. Russian athletes were known for doing 3 meter high drop jumps. This might have been really effective, for the athlete that survived the training without an injury.
Partly due to the high risk of injury, training with Eccentric Overload has not had a lot of commercial success. But there are companies such as X-force that have created amazing gym equipment especially for negative training.
If you can't wait for part two of this article to find out what exercises you can start to do, you can join us for a training session this weekend. Yes, an Eccentric Overload training session will be held on the 5th of July in Luxembourg. You can sign up at MeetUp.com. See you there, or see you at work!