More than half of Americans resolve every year to exercise more but a disappointing 43% fail to stick with it. Don’t lose hope. A new study shows you can cut your exercise routine in half and still see the same results if you use one specific type of muscle contraction. It’s all about something called eccentric lifting, which allows you to spend less time exercising, with more benefits. Eccentric lifting happens when you lower a weight rather than lift it.
While most tend to think weight training is about how much weight can be lifted successfully, research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) shows that it’s all about the lowered lift. The study asked people to lift weights, lower weights, and raise and lower, each in 3 sets of 10 contractions. Surprisingly, those who only lowered a weight saw the same improvements as those who raised and lowered weights, and they performed half the number of repetitions.
An eccentric lift activates lengthened muscles, which is more critical when increasing the strength and size of muscles. “We already know only one eccentric muscle contraction a day can increase muscle strength if it is performed five days a week—even if it’s only three seconds a day—but concentric (lifting a weight) or isometric muscle contraction (holding a weight) does not provide such an effect,” said Professor Ken Nosaka. “In the case of a dumbbell curl, many people may believe the lifting action provides the most benefit or at least some benefit, but we found concentric muscle contractions contributed little to the training effects.”
The benefits of exercise are immeasurable. Finding the time can be difficult. This new study gives people an option that could make exercising more manageable and more successful in less time.
Learn more about the benefits of exercise.
Easy Eccentric Lifting Exercises at Home
Professor Nosaka says you don’t need gym weights to apply the same principles to a workout. He has come up with several simple exercises to do at home. From the start to the end of the range of motion, you will notice that the contracting muscles are gradually stretched.
REMEMBER: After each eccentric muscle contraction, minimize the effort to return to the starting position (i.e., concentric muscle contraction). Complete one set of ten reps for each exercise.
Chair sit: From a half-squatting position, sit down slowly on a chair in three seconds (narrower and wider stances will create different effects). If this is easy, try to sit down with one leg.
Chair recline: Sit on the front of a chair to make a space between your back and the backrest, and recline back slowly in three seconds (arms can be crossed at the chest or held at the back of the head).
Uneven squat: Stand behind a chair, lean to one side to put more weight on one leg, then squat down in three seconds.
Heel down: Still behind a chair, lean forward, and raise your heels. Then, lift one leg off the ground and lower the heel of the other leg in three seconds.
Wall kiss: Lean against a wall with both arms fully extended. Bend the elbow joint slowly over three seconds until your face gets close to the wall.
Front lunge: Place one leg in front of the other and bend the knees deeper over three seconds.
Tiana Samuel, a personal trainer from Strength-N-U Fitness, explains the benefits of eccentric training.
Source: Sato S, Yoshida R, Murakoshi F, et al. Comparison between concentric-only, eccentric-only, and concentric-eccentric resistance training of the elbow flexors for their effects on muscle strength and hypertrophy. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2022;122(12):2607-2614. doi:10.1007/s00421-022-05035-w