This is a common strength training technique that involves manipulating the muscle lengthening portion of an exercise, usually by slowing down the movement.

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Walk into any public gym and there is a good chance you will hear people talking about performing “negative” reps.

Most often what they are referring to is performing an exaggerated lowering phase during a given exercise as a means to boost intensity.

This is formally known as eccentric training — an exercise method used by athletes, bodybuilders, and physical therapists to yield a number of unique benefits.

In this article we’ll detail eccentric training, including its benefits, how it differs from other types of training, some common mistakes, and a few exercises to get you started.

When it comes to strength training exercises, most of them include three phases: a concentric phase, an isometric phase, and an eccentric phase.

The concentric phase is the portion of the movement where the target muscle is shortening, reaching its peak contraction to overcome either gravity or some sort of resistance load.

The isometric phase describes the transition point of an exercise in which the muscle is stationary following the concentric phase.

Finally, the eccentric phase is the portion following the isometric phase, in which the muscle is lengthened under load to return to its starting position.

Eccentric training focuses on this last portion of the movement, making it more challenging by slowing down the cadence, or speed, of the eccentric phase. During the eccentric phase of the repetition, the external force of the weight, or gravity, is greater than the force you generate to move it.

This is why eccentric training is also known as completing “negative” reps.

Eccentric training IRL

Eccentric muscle strength and control is very important for everyday movement in the real world. When you walk or run downhill, for example, your quadriceps must work eccentrically to control the speed of your descent.

The same can be said for lowering your child from your arms to the floor, or sitting down into a chair without collapsing. Eccentric contractions — lengthening your muscles under tension — are a key component of muscular control.

Some sports, such as skiing, rely on eccentric muscle contraction throughout the duration of movement. But most importantly, everyone relies on eccentric muscle strength for stability, mobility, and injury prevention.

Because we live on earth, where gravity exerts a constant downward force on our bodies, even standing tall with good posture requires some degree of eccentric contraction.

Eccentric training is an effective way to enhance your strength, stability, and control around joints such as the knees, hips, and spine, helping to prevent injury and chronic pain.

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Eccentric strength training targets the eccentric, or lengthening, portion of an exercise, usually by slowing it down as a means to increase the intensity and illicit certain benefits.

Eccentric training is powerhouse training tool utilized by athletes, bodybuilders, and physical therapists for its broad range of muscle-enhancing benefits.

Here are the most sought-after benefits of eccentric training.

Allows for supramaximal training

Supramaximal training refers to performing an exercise with a resistance that is slightly higher than a given muscle can handle under normal conditions.

In the case of eccentric training, data shows that our muscles are quite a bit stronger when performing an eccentric contraction as opposed to a concentric contraction (1).

Therefore when implementing eccentric training, you are able to overload the muscle with more weight than you would be able to handle with normal training.

A 2018 study in 15 young men found that supramaximal eccentric loading on the leg press resulted in greater force output and movement acceleration (2).

These effects could potentially pair well with sports that require an explosive element such as soccer, basketball, sprinting, and volleyball, among others.

It’s important to note that, in order to avoid injury, this training strategy is best for those with at least a few months of training experience under their belt.

Greater movement efficiency

Eccentric movements are unique in that they require less muscle activity and energy to perform than concentric movements with the same level of force (3).

What’s more, metabolically, eccentric contractions require about a quarter of the energy that concentric muscle contractions do, though they have the potential to yield as much or more muscle force (1, 4).

This is thought to be due to an elastic molecule found in muscles called titin that resists the lengthening of muscles — similar to an uncoiling spring (4, 5, 6). It is this quality that gives your muscles the ability to “put on the brakes,” so to speak.

Because it yields great results without the energy expenditure of concentric contractions, eccentric training may provide more bang for your buck when it comes to strength training. This is what makes it a popular choice in rehabilitation and athletic training settings.

Eccentric training is also particularly useful for those who are strapped for time, because when it’s used properly, it provides a greater stimulus in less time.

Greater muscle hypertrophy

Considering that eccentric actions have been shown to create greater force on the muscle than concentric actions, it has been theorized that including eccentric-focused exercises in your training program can lead to greater muscle hypertrophy (growth) (7).

A 2017 review study of randomized control trials compared the hypertrophic effects of eccentric vs. concentric training in healthy adults after following a resistance training program (8).

The review concluded that eccentric-focused training resulted in slightly more muscle growth across the studies (10%) when compared with concentric-focused training (6.8%).

It’s thought that this is due to slightly more muscle damage caused during eccentric training, in turn resulting in a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis, an important aspect of muscle growth (9).

While eccentric-focused training may be slightly more efficient for producing muscle hypertrophy it’s important to include both eccentric and concentric muscle actions in your training for best results.


Performing eccentric training comes with several potential benefits which include allowing for supramaximal training, providing greater movement efficiency, and promoting greater muscle hypertrophy.

Concentric training and eccentric training focus on two opposing types of muscle contractions.

During concentric contractions, the tension of the muscle rises to meet the resistance and remains stable as the muscle shortens (10).

On the other hand, during eccentric contractions, the muscle lengthens as the resistance gradually becomes greater than the force that the muscle is capable of producing (10).

Strength training movements generally include both a concentric and eccentric contraction of any given muscle. Additionally, while one muscle is concentrically contracting as the agonist, there is an opposing muscle eccentrically contracting on the other side of the joint, working as the antagonist.

For example, during a typical bicep curl, the biceps concentrically contracts during the upward curling motion, and eccentrically contracts as you release of the weight back down towards your side. In the concentric portion of the movement when the biceps are shortening, the triceps lengthen, contracting eccentrically.

Therefore, in every strength training program, you will utilize both concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. It’s impossible to perform one without the other.

Still, traditional strength training exercises usually accentuate the concentric portion of the movement. A training program that focuses on eccentric strength will emphasize the eccentric portion of an exercise, usually by slowing down the tempo of that phase of the exercise.


Traditional strength training exercises include both concentric and eccentric muscular contractions, but often focus is given to the shortening, or concentric, phase of movement. Eccentric training specifically focuses on the portion of the exercise in which the muscle is lengthened under a load.

Eccentric training remains a favored tool in the toolboxes of physical therapists and other rehabilitation professionals.

This is with good reason as eccentric training has been shown to aid in recovery from various musculoskeletal ailments.

May help promote knee recovery

A common area in which physical therapists often utilize eccentric training is in the rehabilitation of knee injuries or following surgery.

Research suggests that performing eccentric exercises may aid in muscle and connective tissue strengthening as well as improve knee stability following knee surgery, with no significant adverse effects noted (11, 12).

May help improve neuromuscular control

In addition, eccentric training has been shown to help improve neuromuscular control following injury, meaning a better connection between your brain and the injured muscle (13). This may be of particular importance in recovery since other research has shown brain alterations following injury (14).

Can help preserve muscle mass

Particularly in the elderly population, including eccentric training as a part of a well-designed rehabilitation program has been shown to help preserve, and even enhance, muscle mass (15, 16).

This is said to be due to eccentric training’s ability to create high force production with a low energy cost (17).

That said, this population is particularly sensitive to the inflammation caused by muscle damage during exercise.

Therefore, rehab experts usually keep loads and intensity relatively low to maximize results without negative side effects.


Eccentric training is widely used in rehabilitation settings due to its ability to help promote recovery from knee injuries and help preserve muscle mass.

Most often, eccentric-focused exercises are incorporated in to a well-balanced strength training program that includes other training modalities as well.

Typically, eccentric training will be performed anywhere from 2–4 times per week depending on your level of experience.

In rehabilitation settings, eccentric training sessions may be a bit more frequent in order to stimulate muscle and connective tissue regeneration, as well as improve mobility.

That said, the intensity is usually lower to avoid further injury.

For those starting out its best to try a few eccentric-focused exercises at the end of your regular training program to get a feel for them.

From there, you can ramp up the frequency and perform them several times per week within your regular training sessions.


Eccentric training is usually incorporated into traditional strength training programs anywhere from 2–4 times per week, potentially more often in rehabilitation settings.

Eccentric exercise programming will vary a great deal depending on your sport, level of experience, and goals.

For more individualized guidance, you may want to seek the guidance of a certified trainer or physical therapist.

Here are several common eccentric exercises to get you started. Try to slow down the eccentric phase of each of these exercises with a slow count of 5, and then adjust your count to make it harder or easier.

Eccentric physioball hamstring rollouts

For this exercise you’ll use a physio or swiss ball to isolate the hamstring during the eccentric portion of the movement.

  1. Lay on an exercise mat on your back with a physioball at your feet.
  2. With your legs extended, place both feet on top of the physioball and lift your butt off the ground slightly.
  3. Draw the ball back with both legs by bending your knees.
  4. Return the ball to the starting position by slowly extending your legs, making sure to focus on eccentrically contracting the hamstrings.
  5. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps and sets. Switch sides and repeat.

To make this exercise more challenging, perform the eccentric extension of the legs with one leg lifted in the air and one leg on the ball.

Eccentric hamstring curl

This exercise is unique in that you’ll curl the weight with both legs then slowly release it back to the starting position with one leg to increase eccentric force.

You can use either a seated or lying hamstring curl variation to complete this movement.

  1. Position yourself on either a seated or lying hamstring curl machine with the back of your calves contacting the pad.
  2. Select a slightly lighter weight than you would normally use for traditional leg curls.
  3. Curl the weight with both legs by contracting the hamstrings until the pad contacts the back of your upper thighs.
  4. Take one leg off the pad. Slowly and steadily lower the weight with the other leg to take advantage of the eccentric portion of the rep.
  5. On the next rep, lower the weight with the other leg, repeating for the desired number of reps and sets.

Eccentric barbell squats

This exercise takes the traditional barbell squat and slows down the descending (eccentric) portion to add a slight degree of added difficulty.

This movement can also be performed without weight for beginners who are new to eccentric training.

  1. Set up a barbell on a squat rack with an appropriate amount of weight — usually quite a bit less than you would use for regular squats.
  2. Position the bar on your back, unrack the weight, and space your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, with your feet pointed a bit outward.
  3. Slowly descend by bending the knees, resisting the weight on the bar, and counting to three. This is the eccentric portion of the rep.
  4. When you reach the bottom of the rep, pause briefly before pushing through the floor to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the previous steps, ensuring to descend slowly with each rep.

Eccentric box step-downs

To execute this exercise you’ll step up onto a box with one leg, and slowly step off the box with the other leg to boost the intensity of the eccentric portion.

You can perform these without weights or use a shorter box to decrease the level of difficulty.

  1. Stand in front of a step-up box holding an appropriately sized dumbbell in each hand. Beginners will want to use a shorter box and lighter dumbbells to start.
  2. Step up onto the box with the right leg with the left leg tracking up the side of the box.
  3. After stabilizing at the top, slowly step down from the box with the left leg, feeling the eccentric contraction in your quad.
  4. After completing the desired eccentric reps for one leg, switch sides to target the other leg for the same number of reps.

Eccentric band-assisted pullups

To perform this movement you’ll slow down the descending portion on a traditional pullup to increase muscle recruitment and intensity.

  1. Position yourself in front of a pullup bar with a long resistance band securely knotted around the middle of the bar.
  2. In a controlled manor, step up or jump up to grasp the bar with a wider than shoulder width grip. Step one or both feet into the band.
  3. Pull yourself up with the assistance of the band. After stabilizing at the top with your head just above the bar, slowly lower back down to the starting position, feeling the muscles of your back contract. This is the eccentric portion of the rep.
  4. Repeat for the desired amount of reps and sets.

Eccentric seated cable row

With this seated cable row variation you’ll slow down the eccentric portion to ramp up the force on the muscles of the back.

  1. Load a seated cable row machine with slightly less weight than you would normally use.
  2. Sit on the bench grasping the bar or handles.
  3. Keeping and erect torso, row the weight back until the handles or bar almost touch your lower sternum.
  4. Reverse the movement slowly releasing the weight back to the starting position feeling the eccentric contraction in your lats.
  5. Repeat the movement for the designated reps and sets.

Eccentric dumbbell curl

This spin on a classic dumbbell curl slows down the eccentric portion of the rep to boost the intensity.

  1. Select an a dumbbell slightly lighter than you would traditionally use for a dumbbell curl.
  2. Holding the dumbbells at your side, curl both dumbbells up simultaneously pausing briefly at the top. As a variation, this movement can also be performed by curling one arm up at a time in an alternating fashion.
  3. Slowly release the dumbbells back to the starting position feeling the eccentric contraction of the biceps.
  4. Repeat this movement for the desired reps and sets.

Eccentric training programs often use familiar exercises, but focus on the eccentric portion of those exercises.

While eccentric training may seem quite simple to perform, there is some room for error, especially when just getting started.

Here are the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Using weight that’s too heavy

While it’s true that muscles are stronger during the eccentric portion of an exercise, it’s important that you use an appropriate weight.

Attempting to perform eccentric training with too much resistance can put you at serious risk of injuring a muscle or connective tissue.

In addition, using excessive weight can result in a breakdown in proper form, taking away from the effectiveness of the exercise.

Going too fast or slow

The key to performing proper eccentric training is accurately timing the eccentric portion of the movement.

In most cases, eccentric training programs will specify how many seconds the eccentric portion of the rep should take.

By going too fast, you may not achieve enough muscle stimulation to yield the desired benefits of performing eccentric training.

On the other hand, by going too slow, you may exhaust the muscle and experience excessive soreness.

Therefore, its best to stick to timing guidelines laid out by your training program.

Beware of DOMS

DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is an aching pain in the muscle that commonly occurs 1–3 days following a strenuous workout (18).

It’s usually caused by microtears created in the muscle during exercise.

Depending on its severity, it can last anywhere from 24-72 hours in most cases, though potentially longer in severe cases.

Eccentric exercise in particular is known to result in muscle soreness due to its ability to cause microtrauma to the muscle (1).

To avoid experiencing DOMS during eccentric exercise, its best to start out with light weights at a low intensity to get a feel for the movements before increasing the resistance.


When performing eccentric training, some common mistakes include using a weight that is too heavy, as well as going too fast or slow during the repetitions. Eccentric training is known to cause muscle soreness or DOMS, thus it’s best to ease into it by starting with light weights at a low intensity.

Eccentric, or negative, training is a common strength training technique that involves manipulating the muscle lengthening portion of an exercise, usually by slowing down the movement.

Some of the potential benefits that come with regularly performing eccentric training include a supramaximal training effect, providing greater movement efficiency, and promoting greater muscle hypertrophy.

In addition, this method of training is often used in the rehabilitation setting to help promote muscle strength and preserve muscle mass.

A few common mistakes when performing eccentric exercise include using too much resistance as well as going too fast or too slow during the negative portion of the repetition.

It’s important to note that eccentric training can cause substantial muscle soreness. Thus it’s best to start out light and gradually increase the weight.

If you are looking for a research-backed method to bump up your training intensity, or even if you are coming back from an injury, eccentric training is a versatile tool that can be easily implemented into your training program.