Want to Build Size and Strength? Try Eccentric Overload Training.

Want to build size and strength? Try eccentric overload training

To speed up your progress in the gym, weirdly, in a science and expert-backed way, sometimes it helps to slow down

THERE’S NOT A ton of cheat codes when it comes to building muscular strength and size. There’s no magic pill you can take or one single exercise you can do to expedite the process. There are a few tricks you can use to boost your path to gains, though—and a technique called eccentric overloading is one of them.

“One of the stealthiest ways to get comfortable with bigger weights than you thought possible is something called eccentric overload,” says Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., MH fitness director.

The practice involves adding an extra challenge to the strongest portion of the rep: the eccentric contraction. That can be attributed to some major muscle building. Here’s how.

What is eccentric overload?

To understand eccentric overload, you first have to understand the difference between and eccentric and concentric contractions. Concentric contraction shorten the muscle, which is almost always used to raise weight up. Think the motion of lifting the weight up during a bicep curl or bench press. Eccentric contractions lengthen, or stretch, the muscle, typically used to lower the weight down.

The eccentric portion is almost always stronger than the concentric. You should be able to lower a heavier weight with control than you you can lift it up. An eccentric overload lift uses that concept to challenge your muscles.

“The goal of an eccentric-overload lift is to maximise your eccentric strength by lowering a heavier weight than what you might have just lifted,” Samuel says. So, you’ll lift a heavy load with a little bit of assistance, and then you’ll lower slowly, for 3 to 5 seconds on a rep.

How to do eccentric overload lifts

You’ll often see eccentric overload lifts done with speciality equipment like Tonal machines or chains. You might even see it being done with a partner, where they help you bring the weight up so you can lower it down. If you’re training alone, there are two main ways you can get an eccentric overload lift done.

The first tactic is to use both limbs to help raise the weight up, and then slowly with just a single arm. For example, if you’re working on biceps curls—you’ll use both arms to bring the weight up to your chest, and then you’ll release one hand and allow the other one to slowly lower the weight back to your waist.

The other option is to pair a more challenging lift for the eccentric with an easier one for the concentric. Think about a dumbbell skull crusher. You can train heavy weight on the eccentric as you bend the elbows down and back. Once you get to the bottom, you can shift your elbows to align with your torso and use a close-grip chest press to bring the weights back up to the top. That way, you’re using an easier lift to bring the weights up, but presenting a greater challenge to the triceps on the way down.

How does eccentric overload training make you stronger?

Eccentric overload works your muscles in a stretched position, and linger in that stretched position. This opens the door for extra time under tension—which is directly related to muscle growth.

This strategy can also help you get used to dealing with heavy weights you’re not acclimated to using. “[Eccentric overloads] are going to prime your central nervous system eventually be able to handle bigger weights,” Samuel says.

How should you Incorporate eccentric overloads Into your workouts?

This style of training is extra taxing, so it’s important to be strategic about how you use it in your workouts. Aim for no more than 3 to 4 sets of eccentric overloads per workout. You can do that in a few ways. Apply it to the last set of every exercise in your workout, or choose one exercise you want to get better at, and do them every single set. If you do full body workouts only a few times per week, you can also take one day out of the week and focus on all eccentric overloads for 3 to 4 exercises.

4 key eccentric overload exercises

There are a few options for eccentric overload exercises. You can apply any of these to one of the strategies above, or combine them into a full day of eccentric work.

Push press to eccentric lower

If you want to build strong shoulders, this is the lift for you. “It will help bulletproof your shoulders, and set you up for heavy, heavy military presses in the long run,” Samuel says.

How to do It:

  • Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand. Rack it up to your chest.
  • Dip slightly, creating a slight bend through the hips and knees. Quickly push through the feet to extend, pushing the weight up towards the ceiling quickly.
  • Slowly lower the weight back down towards your chest for a good 3 to 5 seconds.
  • That’s one rep.

Cheat curl

You can use dumbbells, straight bar, or EZ-curl bar for this bicep blast.

How to do It:

  • Using the momentum from your hips, force the weight up to your chest—almost like a power clean.
  • Once it’s at the top, tighten up the abs and the glutes.
  • Slowly lower the weight down towards your waist, counting out for 3 to 5 seconds.
  • That’s one rep.

Close grip press to eccentric skull crusher

As previously mentioned, you can pair two different exercises in one to be able to achieve an eccentric overload.

How to do It:

  • Grab two dumbbells, and lay down on a bench.
  • Press the dumbbells up towards the sky. Keeping the elbows close into the body, bend them down and back to where the dumbbells come towards your forehead. Slowly lower, counting out about 3 to 5 seconds.
  • Once you get to the bottom of the motion, shift the elbows forward so they’re inline with your torso, and the dumbbells are just over your chest. Keeping the dumbbells close together, exhale as you press them up again to return to the starting position.

Double-arm pulldown to single-arm eccentric

Here, you’ll use two arms to power through the concentric portion of the lit, and only one for the eccentric.

How to do It:

  • Latch a single arm grip to a pulldown cable machine. Grab onto the handle with both hands, and pull it down to where the grip is close into your chest.
  • Release one hand. Tighten up the abs, and slowly release the weight back upwards with a single arm. Aim for that 3 to 5 seconds.



More From