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Increase Your Strength Potential With The Extended Eccentric Method

Articles Strength and performance / 11 October, 2018 /

By Stephane Cazeault

We all want to get stronger. Strength is the most natural measure of success in the weight room. We all have compared our lifts from one another to rival our weight training peers. Whenever strength becomes the focus of a training block, we are quick to associate the training sessions to bouts of heavy and low reps for multiple sets.

It is with reason that low reps are the staple of a well-structured strength program as its outcome has been time tested across the many liting legends of the last century. One very overlooked aspect of strength development is the use of eccentric methods. Eccentric training has been used for a very long time, but the brutal sessions issued from these techniques might have led the average trainee to shy away from this impressive training modality.

Even though I had read about eccentric training and understood the mechanism behind it, I didn’t try true eccentric methods until my first year of university when I started training alongside one of my classmates. This student was Denis Lalonde, he was always doing what seemed to be exotic training methods.

His programs were always built from the influence of European training methodologies. At the time, I was basically only doing bodybuilding training. I remember being really impressed by the muscle quality, but mostly the strength level of Denis. One day I noticed he was bench pressing 365 lbs for reps on a strict 5010 tempo at a bodyweight of 170 lbs. I was flabbergasted by his strength and I needed to know more.

It’s at that point that I started delving into the works of many European strength specialists like Yuri Verkhoshansky, Jurgen Hartmann and Gilles Cometti, just to name a few. At this point, I started experimenting with different eccentric methods to see what kind of results I could get. Like all good things, there came a time where I was overdoing eccentric training and the results became subpar.

I learned the hard way that eccentric training needed to be well planned in order to yield the best outcome. After university ended I lost contact with Denis, but after all these years, without him knowing, he definitely had a big influence in me implementing different methods outside of my bodybuilding tool box.

There are multiple categories of eccentric methods that can be implemented to a training plan. For the purpose of this article I want to focus on the extended eccentric method as it is one that can be performed by the widest range of trainees. The extended eccentric technique is part of the sub-maximal eccentric category in which the eccentric overload is distributed via weights below the lifters current 1RM.

Usually the load for extended eccentric will vary between 80% and 100% of 1RM. Before incorporating the more advanced supra-maximal eccentric methods (where the load will typically vary between 100% and 150% of 1RM), I would highly suggest the trainee has 18 months to 2 years of training experience before these protocols can be programmed.

As with anything in training, a systematic and progressive approach to the implementation of special techniques will always lead to a higher training potential. Here is a 4-step progression for the extended eccentric method:

Extended Eccentric Method

  1. 5 reps @ 6-0-X-0 tempo
  2. 4 reps @ 8-0-X-0 tempo
  3. 3 reps @ 10-0-X-0 tempo
  4. 2 reps @ 15-0-X-0 tempo

For any trainee being introduced to this technique, the first phase should involve the first progression. Increase the difficulty level of each subsequent exposures by following these 4 progressions.

Notice that the common denominator between each progression is the time under tension. With this method, it is preferable that the duration of the set be around the 30 second mark as shorter or longer sets will negatively impact the desired training effect. For this reason, the repetitions associated to each of these tempos should stay untouched as a change in time under tension will occur.

I am a firm believer in creating small but consistent changes to promote greater adaptations over the long-term. One way to increase the training potential of the extended eccentric progressions is by layering the techniques over the different sections of the weight lifting program.

The first exposures to the entry level trainee should be implemented to the B-series when the primary movement has been trained unbiased for proper movement rehearsal and the lesser volume demands of the B-series will become a more manageable learning and recovery experience.

Once the 4 levels have been trained on the assistance exercises, it is now advisable to incorporate the methods to your A-series primary exercises. Planning your eccentric training this way ensures that your are coaxing and not forcing adaptations.

Here is an example of a 3-week mesocycle using the first extended eccentric progression for the squat and bench press assistance exercises in the B-series:

This phase will assume the following training schedule:

Monday: Upper Body 1
Tuesday: Lower Body 1
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Upper Body 2
Friday: Lower Body 2
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off 

Intensification 1 
Upper Body 1 

A1 Overhead Press 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
A2 Chin-Up 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
B1 Extended EccentricFlat DB Press 4 x 5 60X0 90
B2 Seated Row 4 x 6-8 3010 90
C1 Decline DB Triceps Extension 3 x 8-10 3010 60
C2 Seated DB Hammer Curl 3 x 8-10 3010 60

Lower Body 1

Squat 6 x 3-5 40X0 240
B1 DB Alternated Lunge 4 x 6-8 2010 90
B2 Lying Leg Curl 4 x 6-8 3010 90
C1 Step-Up 3 x 8-10 1010 45
C2 Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8-10 3010 45

Upper Body 2 

A1 Bench Press 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
A2  NeutralChin-Up 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
B1 Seated DB Press 4 x 6-8 3010 75
B2 One-Arm Elbow-Out DB Row 4 x 6-8 3010 75
C1 DB External Rotation 3 x 8-10 3010 30
C2 DB Trap-3 Raise 3 x 8-10 3010 30

Lower Body 2

Squat 6 x 3-5 40X0 240
Extended EccentricSquat 5 x 5 60X0 180
C1 Standing Calf Raise 3 x 8-10 2110 60
C2 Low Pulley Ball Crunch 3 x 8-10 3010 60

Below is an example of a 3-week mesocycle using the first extended eccentric progression for the squat and bench press primary exercises in the A-series:

This phase will assume the following training schedule:

Monday: Upper Body 1
Tuesday: Lower Body 1
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Upper Body 2
Friday: Lower Body 2
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off

Intensification 1
Upper Body 1 

A1 Overhead Press 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
A2 Chin-Up 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
B1 Flat DB Press 4 x 6-8 3010 90
B2 Seated Row 4 x 6-8 3010 90
C1 Decline DB Triceps Extension 3 x 8-10 3010 60
C2 Seated DB Hammer Curl 3 x 8-10 3010 60

Lower Body 1

Extended EccentricSquat 6 x 5 60X0 240
B1 DB Alternated Lunge 4 x 6-8 2010 90
B2 Lying Leg Curl 4 x 6-8 3010 90
C1 Step-Up 3 x 8-10 1010 45
C2 Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8-10 3010 45

Upper Body 2 

A1 Extended EccentricBench Press 6 x 5 60X0 120
A2 NeutralChin-Up 6 x 3-5 40X0 120
B1 Seated DB Press 4 x 6-8 3010 75
B2 One-Arm Elbow-Out DB Row 4 x 6-8 3010 75
C1 DB External Rotation 3 x 8-10 3010 30
C2DB Trap-3 Raise 3 x 8-10 3010 30

Lower Body 2

Squat 6 x 3-5 40X0 240
Top Third Pin Touch Squat 5 x 6-8 2110 180
C1 Standing Calf Raise 3 x 8-10 2110 60
C2 Low Pulley Ball Crunch 3 x 8-10 3010 60

Notice that the use of extended eccentrics during the B-series is applied to a movement pattern or angle similar to the primary exercise of focus (i.e., flat db press instead of bench press), hence the reason why the method will not necessarily be involved on the same session as the targetted primary exercise.

Another important factor to observe is the decreased set exposure to the technique when performed in the B-series versus the A-series. This is important as eccentric loading generates more muscular trauma that can prolong the recovery window.

Furthermore, it is highly advisable to reserve extended eccentrics to only one upper and one lower body exercise within your training week as doing more can lead to a point of diminishing return where fatigue and joint discomfort could bring progress to a halt.

Using a layered approach as demonstrated in the program examples will greatly delay the acclimatization phenomenon which is often the culprit when special methods are used to great extent too early.

Strength is the mother of all qualities, for this reason every lifter should make getting stronger a priority at some point in their training career. One of the most tried and true methods to increase strength is eccentric training. The extended eccentric technique is one of the most versatile of the eccentric methods and can be easily implemented to the majority of trainees.

The key is in progressions and keeping the long-term in mind instead of going for all the bells and whistles too early. If you are interested in getting stronger and want to add some variety to your workouts, give extended eccentrics a try.

Written by Stephane Cazeault