See 10 Do 10 Push Up Challenge

Take it Slow: Extending your eccentric movements can lead to muscle gains

By Jesse Kepka
NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist


Be like the tortoise.

A few Saturdays ago, we chatted about adding speed to your workouts when you hit a plateau or just get bored. Speed as in doing one rep with explosion, not doing 12 reps as fast as you can. Hello, fast-twitch fibers on those beautiful muscles! This week, we’re playing with the eccentric part of the muscle-action spectrum.

We place importance on the lifting up of the dumbbell, but what’s happening as it’s lowered? The lowering is the eccentric part of the spectrum, where the muscle is under tension as it lengthens. If we slow it down to a 4-10 count, we can really do some damage (the good kind) as far as gains across the board.

How it works

Need some examples? In a bicep curl, we lift the weight as our elbows flex and the bicep shortens. The eccentric part that we want to slow way down, is the lowering of the dumbbell. You will be able to see the bicep lengthen here. It shortens on the up, and lengthens on the down. Instead of taking 2-3 seconds to lower it, try pushing it to between 4-10 seconds. It gets stupid intense and hurts so good. Same with a pushup. These can get super spicy. As you lower yourself down to the ground from the high plank, take your sweet time and really let those muscles hang out under tension. When you get down to the bottom of it, hold for 2 and explode back up. Eccentric pushups will be your absolute favorite.

Squats are a little different but just as much fun. The eccentric part of that movement comes first, the lowering down of your body. As you take it down, your quad is under tension as it’s lengthening. Once you get to the bottom, explode back up.

Overhead presses will be another sweaty favorite. As you raise the weight or bar above your head, your shoulders and triceps are shortening to contract. Lower those babies back down nice and slow, as those same muscles lengthen with lots of time under tension. SO. GOOD.

Build mass, build muscle, speed up Metabolism

Why should you endure such fun? Time under tension matters. We can create lots of micro tears with this type of training, forcing our muscles to work harder to build back up and recover. And that means we can speed up our metabolism. More energy will be expended in recovery. More calories burned for a longer period of time, post-workout. There seems to be more and more evidence that this type of training is more efficient as far as hypertrophy (building mass, building muscle), over trying to lift a max amount of weight. And we know that the leaner we are, the higher our metabolism, the more energy our body needs to simply exist.

So, speed it up. Slow it down. Force all kinds of adaptations as your body gets conditioned or you just get bored and need a change. Boredom and adaptation will most likely happen in congruency.


Tip shared by Jesse Kepka, NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist and owner of Elevate Fitness. Jesse is a co-organizer for Priority Fit Camp. Each week, we publish a health and wellness tip that is shared at the Priority Fit Camp community workout. The free group class happens every Saturday at 7:50 a.m.  

Click for more info on the free Saturday group workout.