Control Freak: Accentuated Eccentrics for Gains

by Tasha Wolf Whelan

One Advanced Training Method, Four Great Benefits

Perfect your technique, reduce injury risks, build muscle, improve mobility, and get better at just about everything. Here's how.

“Accentuated eccentrics” is coachy way of saying to focus on the lowering phase of a rep to trigger certain adaptations. Including tempo work that emphasizes a slow and controlled eccentric early in a program is a great way to improve kinesthetic awareness, induce a hypertrophic response, improve mobility, and boost overall performance.

Four Ways to Do It (See Video)

  1. Try a bench press with a 4-second lowering phase, a 2-second pause on the chest, and a fast finish back to the top. In this case, the tempo varies based on the phase of the lift. A Kadillac bar is used in the video, but you can use this technique with several lifts.
  2. Sumo deadlift SECOND-rep eccentric focus. For this one, your intention for the first rep is to go as fast as possible, then you slow your second and consecutive reps down to allow for greater time under tension (TUT). In this case, the tempo varies after a specific rep.
  3. Try changing up the tempo while doing squats with the Safety Squat Bar (SSB). Slow down the movement to reinforce proper positions. For this one, you slow the tempo of every phase of the lift to optimize your technique.
  4. Bench pressing with weight releasers allows for an overloaded eccentric on the first rep while the concentric (pushing phase) is lightened and blasted off the chest as the weight-releasing hooks drop off toward the bottom. For this one, you manipulate the tempo on just the first phase of the first rep.

Accentuated Eccentrics: The Benefits

TECHNIQUE REINFORCEMENT

Slowing the movement down provides you with a little more time to focus on executing technical cues. This can also help with proprioception. You have more time to recognize the right and wrong bar path or potentially any faults in your movement patterns.

REDUCED RISK OF INJURY

Eccentric training is highly effective at improving the size and quality of soft tissue (muscles and tendons). This prepares your body for greater loads to come.

Training through a full range of motion through controlled eccentrics also helps to improve mobility as a form of loaded stretching. By improving motor control and strength through a full range of motion, the body will be more resilient towards end ranges of motion.

IMPROVED SPORTS PERFORMANCE

Accentuating the eccentric can make you more efficient when moving through a loaded full range of motion. This is important because it makes you more capable of absorbing potential energy, such as in deceleration, and become more capable of exerting force during the concentric phase of the movement. Basically, building up your brakes will help reduce inefficiencies or “energy leaks” when it comes to reactive movements.

HYPERTROPHY

Accentuating the eccentric increases time under mechanical tension and metabolic stress – great ways to stimulate muscle growth.

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4 Likes

I have tried that kind of training for an extended period of time and I actually looked and perform worse. Here is the problem especially for older people like myself 67 years old. Muscles in real life situations don’t perform that way, it’s actually the opposite where you need quick reflex to react from a fall or dropping a load. I would often hurt myself doing simple chores. Speed sets on the other hand are more suited for real life performance.

5 Likes

I tried this with conventional deadlifts from an older Thib article and absolutely loved it. After years of smashing the weight back into the floor, I finally got an appreciation for how it could be a useful for hypertrophy.

3 Likes

In the research, “accentuated eccentric load” means lowering more weight than you lifted. Not slowing down the eccentric using the same weight.

Slowing down the same weight only increases time under tension. It does not recruit more motor units. Lowering heavier weights than you lifted recruits more motor units.

“Eccentric overload” is another term for “accentuated eccentric.”

Accentuated eccentrics can be “submaximal” or “supramaximal.” It depends on whether the lowered weight is more or less than concentric one-rep max.

Assume concentric one rep max is 100 lbs. If you lift 50 and lower 75, this is submaximal accentuated eccentrics or submaximal eccentric overload.

If you lift 80 and lower 120, this supramaximal eccentric overload.

Most people can lower 25-75% more than they can lift, depending on the person and the muscle.

In the above example with a one rep max of 100 lbs, assume this person can lower a max of 150 lbs. Further assume they are working “heavy” with 80 lbs of iron (80% of one rep max). Now you can understand why slowly lowering 80 lbs when the muscles can handle 150 is not heavy enough to recruit additional motor units to the job. All you are doing is increasing TUT.

I perform supramaximal eccentric overload exercises at home, safely, with the Synapse CCR device. It uses a 4:1 leverage pulley which allows one arm to overcome the other.