Guys love going into the gym and throwing up heavy weight at a rapid pace in an attempt to be “explosive” and exhaust the muscle—"no pain, no gain," they are probably screaming to themselves. But while the lifting, or concentric, part of resistance exercise is obviously important, the lowering, or eccentric, phase of the lift has often been posited as just as essential for getting gains. A new set of studies from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, however, has found that the lowering part of weight lifting can actually be more important for gaining strength and for bolstering levels of testosterone and growth hormone.
For the first study, researchers put 33 healthy young guys on a training plan that either featured “accentuated eccentric loading,” or resistance exercises where the weight on the lowering part of the lift was increased by 40%, or a traditional lifting scheme for 10 weeks. Both lifted twice a week with at least 48 hours of rest between sessions, and performed leg presses and knee extensions for three sets of six reps for the first workout and 10 reps for the second workout.
The accentuated eccentric loading group ended up gaining significantly more strength and endurance than the traditional lifters, ranging from about 5% to 9% depending on the torque being tested, and showed continuous gains throughout the 10 weeks, compared to the other group, which hit a plateau around week five.
“Humans have a greater ability to produce force when lowering…a load compared to lifting...so it seems logical to train with greater eccentric loads than those used during the concentric phase of the lift. Unfortunately, this does not happen in traditional resistance training,” said study lead Simon Walker, Ph.D.
The second study simply monitored the blood of the subjects after they performed either the eccentric loaded exercise or followed the traditional weight-lifting protocol. They found that the eccentric lifters maintained levels of testosterone and growth hormone after the workout, compared to the traditional group, whose levels dropped.
“The hormone results suggest that the strenuousness imposed by the training stimulus continued for a longer period of time,” said Walker. “This likely explains why gains in strength stopped at five weeks in those using traditional resistance-training methods, while the accentuated eccentric group continued to improve over 10 weeks.”
If you’ve hit a plateau in your training, or just want to mix up your routine and try out eccentric lifting, take a look at our special eccentric workout. It’ll get you back on track to build loads of new, dense muscle, plus give you a new modality to concentrate on and conquer.