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Eccentric Mode Will Take Your Performance to the Next Level

Reap the strength, power, and hypertrophy benefits of eccentric training from home with Eccentric mode on Tonal. 

Man using Eccentric mode on Tonal.

Eccentric training works. Research shows that loading the eccentric (or lowering) phase of an exercise can boost your power, strength, and muscle size. The tricky part: It’s nearly impossible to do safely on your own in the weight room or at home. You’d need a few spotters or extra equipment and even then, it’s a challenge for most exercises.  

That’s why Eccentric mode on Tonal is a revolutionary feature for strength training. It harnesses the benefits of eccentric overload by adding digital weight to the eccentric phase of any exercise, like when you lower down in a squat, and seamlessly removes it as you return to standing in the concentric phase. 

“Nowhere else can you intentionally or specifically adapt the way that you load a movement while you’re doing the movement and have it be so responsive to your range of motion,” explains John Christie, Director of Curriculum at Tonal. Here’s everything you need to know about Eccentric mode and how you can harness the benefits of eccentric training. 

What Makes Eccentric Mode Different from Eccentric Training With Free Weights?

In a traditional gym setting, you need specialized equipment, spotters, or selectorized machines to accomplish eccentric overload. It’s fairly difficult to add physical weight to the lowering phase of a movement and then remove it for the upward phase. But Eccentric mode changes the game, making eccentric training as easy as clicking a button. By manipulating the intensity automatically, you can train eccentrically without ever having to ask a pal to step in. “It provides a safe and effective means to accomplish eccentric loading without a spotter,” adds Christie. 

Definition of Eccentric mode: Automatically loads the eccentric phase of any exercise and seamlessly removes it during the concentric phase during every rep.

Plus, anyone—not just advanced lifters—can leverage Eccentric mode on any exercise, says Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, hypertrophy expert and Tonal Advisory Board member. “It provides a really efficient means to incorporate advanced training techniques that either aren’t available to or are impractical for most people.”

In addition to accessibility, Eccentric mode also adds efficiency to your training sessions.

“By loading the eccentric [phase], and then easily removing that added resistance on the concentric portion, you can actually

get more work done in the same amount of time,” adds Christopher Taber, PhD, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science and strength and conditioning researcher. That can lead to big gains in less time.

Why Should I Use Eccentric Mode? 

Eccentric training “is important because we’re using both concentric and eccentric contractions for everything that we do in our lives,” explains Stacy Sims, PhD, physiology expert and Tonal Advisory Board member. Think about how many times you sit down in a chair or walk down the stairs on any given day. 

“There are so many benefits to using it for improving overall strength development and injury prevention,” Sims adds. Here’s how swiping Eccentric mode on can make you a more versatile athlete:

  1. Improve your strength by increasing the amount of resistance on the muscle when it is stretched. That way, when you need to move a lot of weight in the concentric phase, you will recruit more muscle fibers.
  2. Increase the micro-damage to the muscle fibers, which encourages new muscle growth during repair.  
  3. Boost your power by improving the reactivity of your muscles and tendons so that you can move faster and with more agility.  
  4. Reduce injury risk as you become more efficient at braking. If you can decelerate your motion like you do during eccentric training, you’re better prepared to change directions or catch yourself before a fall.  
  5. Develop more flexibility and range of motion, because when you load a stretched muscle, it becomes more pliable over time. 
Selecting Eccentric mode on the Tonal trainer.

How is Eccentric Mode Programmed for Me? 

Tonal’s expert programming team integrates Eccentric mode when you need it most to build strength over time. “Incorporating Eccentric mode is always based on the outcome the user is trying to achieve and whether it is the best solution available,” says Josh Clay, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and Fitness Programming Specialist at Tonal. “Eccentric mode will lend itself best to strength, power, and muscle-building goals.” 

The concentric portion is usually the harder part of the lift because you have to overcome the forces of the weight and gravity working against you. Think about how difficult it is to stand up from the bottom of a heavy squat when you’re fatigued. So by adding load to the eccentric phase of the exercise, you set yourself up to better power through the transition from eccentric to concentric (where you can easily get stuck) with more confidence, explains Clay.

There are certain moves that benefit from eccentric training in particular. “For example, a negative or eccentric Romanian deadlift, because you can get almost full lengthening of the hamstrings under load,” explains Jenna Moore, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and Fitness Programming Specialist at Tonal. Alternatively, you may not encounter eccentric loading on single-leg exercises because it can throw you off balance. Maintaining safety is a number one priority for the programming team, adds Moore. 

You may even see Eccentric mode pop up in a recovery class. Moore and Clay both include Eccentric mode if the goal is to improve mobility or flexibility as eccentric overload assists in building more flexible muscles.

Quote on Eccentric mode: “Nowhere else can you intentionally or specifically adapt the way that you load a movement while you're doing the movement and have it be so responsive to your range of motion."

How Can I Activate Eccentric Mode on Tonal? 

You can add Eccentric mode to any exercise on Tonal by swiping left on your digital weight dial. Select the option from the list of dynamic weight modes, and it will kick in on the second or third rep of your set. 

“We use those first couple of reps as a way of sensing your range of motion on that particular day,” says Christie. “That way, we know exactly where within your range of motion to be shifting that eccentric load intensity. It’s revolutionary to be able to identify what your range of motion is for this set, on this day, at this point in your session. And to adapt the weight within two reps is incredibly fast.”

Current research indicates the best way to accomplish eccentric overload is to use a heavier load than your concentric phase but lower than your one-rep max. That’s why Eccentric mode is set at 25-percent heavier than your current concentric load without hitting your max weight, which is consistent with research-backed recommendations

While you can toggle Eccentric mode on at any time on your own, it is already built into many of the programs and workouts on Tonal so the work is intuitively done for you. All you have to do is show up. 

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