Eccentric Training in the Gym

Many people think the more reps the better when it comes to eccentric training however this current research states otherwise…

Study conclusion

- This study shows that you don’t need to perform lots of repetitions of eccentric muscle contractions for the body to react and repair the damage to come back stronger.

- Eccentric muscle training can cause very quick adaptations but it does have its down sides: after every set of leg extensions performed, no matter whether it was first or second bout, each subject had a drop on how much force they could produce and how much of the muscle they could use when compared to prior to the bouts of exercise. This shows that you have to be careful to not perform too many sets and reps so that you are able to function for the days after training.

- Delayed onset of muscular soreness or ‘muscle ache’ was present for 3 days in all bouts of exercise performed regardless of the duration. In the initial bout of exercise, the longer duration bouts experienced soreness up to 6 days after exercise! However, after the second bout of exercise 3 weeks later the days of soreness experienced after exercise was reduced in all groups which shows the muscles adapted and grew stronger.


An eccentric muscle contraction is the lengthening of the muscle, This type of contraction is where muscle is at its strongest. This is also where the most breakdown of the muscle happens. After performing eccentric contractions, the body can encounter a lot of muscular soreness and a loss in the ability to contract. Creatine kinase is a muscle protein which is leaked into the bloodstream when the muscle is damaged during training, a higher percentage of CK (muscle protein) is released during eccentric contractions which shows that eccentric movement are more damaging to muscles than concentric (shortening of the muscle). There has been previously researched to show that when similar eccentric training is done and repeated 2/3 weeks after the damage that the muscle encounters is less than the first bout which shows that the initial bout damages the body enough so that it can repair quickly to perform again. The present research is diving into this slightly more and seeing if there is a difference to how the muscle repairs after the second bout of exercise following a short, mid or long duration of eccentric training. (essentially comparing the different initial rep ranges) the results were interesting. The usual misconception is that the more sets and reps you perform the more muscle damage you will do to the muscle. This is true however, even though muscle damage allows the body to repair the muscle to be bigger and stronger, it also makes you ache for a long period of time which is not always practical. This is why it is good to study and find the best rep ranges to train in, this is what this study does.


24 untrained people, male and female aged 19-25 volunteered for this project. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The fact that the participants are untrained could have a factor on the results.

The two bouts of exercise were performed on a leg extension piece of equipment (see figure 1). Each contraction lasted around 1.6 seconds (slow) and each individual had approximately 10 seconds rest between each rep.


The participants were tested for eccentric strength (force production), maximal voluntary contraction (how hard they can contract their muscles), muscle soreness and a CK (muscle damage marker). Results from every group were looked at and compared with each other to see if there was any clear links that show that the muscles have adapted. The results that are stated in the table below shows and compares eccentric contractions on a leg extension, how it has an effect on the muscle soreness, adaptation and if it varies between rep ranges.

Practical application

Eccentric training is often overdone in the gym, this study suggests clearly that 10 reps of properly performed eccentric contractions will cause the muscle to adapt to grow stronger. A lower amount of reps is also the smarter option, due to the potential of over damaging the muscles and experiencing DOMS for a long period of time, which could be debilitating. Don’t go to the gym and destroy your body so that you can’t walk for 6 days; keep the amount of sets and reps low, then when you feel like you are no longer feeling DOMS increase weight, sets and reps.

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