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Eccentric Strengthening: an important and often overlooked component of strength training

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

By Dr. Ashley O'Rourke PT, DPT, ATC, LAT

Eccentric strengthening is just as important as traditional concentric strengthening. Unsure what that is? Read below to find out.

What is Eccentric Strengthening?

Eccentric strength refers to tension being applied to a muscle as it lengthens. This is also

when the muscle's force-producing capacity is most optimal. Studies show that eccentric exercise results in less oxygen consumption, greater force production, and less energy

expenditure than concentric strengthening- or the active shortening of the muscle. The

force produced by a concentric contraction is always less than the muscles maximum force.

During a voluntary muscle contraction, the speed of the contraction and the ability to exert

tension are inversely related. Therefore, the faster a muscle contracts concentrically, the

lower the tension it is able to generate. An example of concentric strengthening would be a

classic bicep curl, whereas the eccentric component would occur as a person lowers the arm

into a straightened position (as the bicep muscle lengthens).

Eccentric Strengthening is Post-Op Rehab:

Eccentric quadricep and gastrocnemius (calf) strength in particular are important following

knee surgeries such as ACL reconstruction because of their importance in absorbing the

weight of your body as they lengthen in order to control your descent- this includes going

down stairs, sitting down in a chair or decelerating from a sprint. Without sufficient

eccentric control it would be difficult and, in some cases, unsafe to perform these activities.

In regards to running, the primary muscles involved in acceleration and deceleration are

quadriceps and gastrocnemius. However, acceleration involves the concentric contraction of

these muscles, while deceleration involves the eccentric use of these muscles. Therefore,

eccentric strength is important to safely slow down following a sprint or before initiating a

rapid change of direction. Research suggests that eccentric strengthening on the non-

involved lower extremity is also beneficial for improving both the quadriceps muscle