You may have heard before, you have to “control the eccentric” or “lift explosively/quickly on the concentric”. I know for myself, I didn’t know what those terms meant and it often time lead to me not being able to fully understand information that was being given. I also remember when I figured out what these terms meant and the difference between them, that it was much easier to understand and apply the information that utilized these terms. That is why in this article I will explain this and answer the question, what is eccentric and concentric?
Understanding These Two Terms:
Once we understand one of these terms, the other will be quite easy, as they are opposite. The good news is none of this is complicated. Eccentric, or the eccentric portion of an exercise refers to the lowering phase, this is also when the muscle is lengthening or under a stretch. Concentric or the concentric portion of an exercise is when you are actually lifting the weight or raising it. This is when your muscle is shortening or contracting. I am going to put this into context, so you can better understand what I am talking about. If you were doing a bench press, the eccentric portion of the lift would be when you lower it from the top position to your chest. The concentric portion would be when you drive it off your chest and back to the top. Be careful not to get the terms mixed up with exercises that use them in what seems to be a reverse manner. For example, in a lat pulldown, the eccentric phase would be when you are controlling the weight back to the top, and the concentric phase would be when you are pulling it to the bottom. This is when you may want to think of it as which portion is the stretch and which is the contraction.
It’s Relation to Your Training:
As always, anything I talk about in this section of my website will always have an explanation of how it relates back to your training. Let’s see how these two terms relate to your training, there is one main relation to your training for each. With eccentric lifting, it is the one that is mainly responsible for muscle damage or micro-tears in your muscles. This is one driver of hypertrophy, therefore eccentric lifting or “controlling the eccentric” plays a role in hypertrophy.
With concentric lifting, we know this is the part of the lift where you are driving the weight. Therefore, this is where you are producing force and power. Being able to complete this portion of the lift quickly, will result in mainly training for power, which also has carry over to strength. Because of this, moving the concentric portion of the lift with speed is great when it comes to training for power, while having benefits for strength training.
Controlling the eccentric can be beneficial for power and strength training as well, just the same as moving with speed through the concentric can be good for hypertrophy. However, one may be more beneficial than the other or be more relative to a specific goal.
Benefits & Using it in Your Training:
As we know the eccentric phase of a lift largely contributes to muscle damage and therefore hypertrophy. Moving the concentric phase with speed is great for power training and has a role in strength training. Some other benefits include being able to maximize your training time. If you are pressed for time, then you could get a solid training session in using eccentric control. This because you are ultimately getting more bang for your buck. These are also great variables that you can manipulate for variation in your training and to help tailor towards different goals.
These are just two portions of an exercise, however, we can manipulate them so they can have a greater carry over to our goal(s) in training. I tend to sprinkle these in throughout my training as part of my program, however, I don’t use them as the base of my program. I use some form of progressive overload for this and build out from there. I may put more of an emphasis on one or the other depending on my training goal. For example, I would implement more controlling the eccentric for hypertrophy and use speed through the concentric for power training and as part of my strength training.
Eccentric and Concentric in a Nutshell:
In short, think of eccentric as the lowering or stretch part of an exercise and concentric as the lifting or contraction portion. Eccentric and concentric portions of a lift both have there duties and benefits. You can tailor and manipulate them to more closely fit your training.
I thank you for taking the time to read this article and am happy to have answered the question, what is eccentric and concentric? As always, if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to leave them below and I will be sure to reply!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.