New research shows overloading the eccentric phase means more speed, power, and leaping ability.
- New research reviews eccentric overload and its benefits for power and explosiveness
- Eccentric overload maximizes the elastic properties of the muscle
- Increased power and speed can make daily life easier, improving quality of life and longevity
If you want to crush the jump squats in your power HIIT sessions, dunk a basketball or just bound your way up the stairs, consider eccentric training. New research says that “overloading” on the way down, or the eccentric portion of your lifts, is one of the fastest routes to speed, power, and explosiveness.
In the new review, published in the International Journal of Strength and Conditioning, a team of experts explored the current evidence on accentuated eccentric overload training and found that adding even a little extra weight in this phrase sparked vast improvements.
One of the study’s researchers and Assistant Professor at Sacred Heart University, Christopher Taber, PhD, cites meaningful changes in force development and velocity, which means bigger power for your squat or bench press. “And it’s well-documented now that athletes can use these to improve jumping ability,” Taber says.
It’s not as simple as including tempo squats–slowing down on the lengthening or downward portion, which is great for muscle-building–the key is removing the load on the way up. This could look like weighted dumbbell or goblet squats where you ditch the weight at the bottom. On Tonal, if you’re using dynamic weight mode, the digital weight automatically adjusts to this recommendation.
“If your concentric lift is anywhere between 60 to 80 percent of your one-rep max, your eccentric load would be higher than the concentric intensity, and could be less than your max to see results,” Taber says.
Tabler’s review also unpacks where the crossover into power and speed performance comes from–the stretch-shortening cycle. Think of your muscles and tendons as human rubber bands. As you lengthen the muscle during the eccentric phase, you store that elastic energy. That pulling the rubber band back like a slingshot. “When you transition from an overloaded eccentric to a normal concentric, you carry that momentum and energy on the concentric.”
The transition is like letting the slingshot go. You’ll see more power on the output. If you added weight to the descent on your squat and removed it on the way up, you’ll see a faster, stronger ascent to the standing position.
“So when we think about the elastic properties inside the muscle, it works the same way,” says Glenn Harrison Smith, PhD Candidate and an Adjunct Professor at Mt. San Antonio College (Ca.). “It gives us extra energy or power, without spending too much energy to get there.”
Adding eccentric overload to your routine increases your muscle’s ability to sense the stretch and react faster with a more powerful contraction.
Eccentric training is not just for athletes. Research shows maintaining the speed of muscle contractions improves everyday function by strengthening balance and agility. “As we age, we tend to lose power,” Smith says. “Eccentric overload can help to keep it so everyday tasks such as going up and down stairs, and lifting and lowering boxes become easier. This can help to improve quality of life and longevity.”