Eccentric exercise/training is a form of exercise that works well for the elderly, and also for people with cardiopulmonary or neurological issues. It challenges the muscles; increases muscle strength; protects the joints; and uses a lesser amount of energy.
Eccentric training targets the muscle lengthening (elongation) phase of a muscle contraction by purposely slowing this portion of the contraction, resisting the force of gravity.
There are 3 facets to a muscle contraction. During a bicep curl (with a dumbbell), for example:
- concentric contraction: muscle contracts (shortens) as the weight is being lifted.
- isometric contraction: stopping movement (at 45 or 90 degrees).
- eccentric contraction: occurs while lowering the weight; the muscle lengthens. When controlling the rate of the downward motion of the dumbbell (resisting the force of gravity), the muscle is in a state of eccentric contraction.
It can be difficult for some senior citizens and those with certain afflictions to participate in a much needed rigorous exercise program, mostly due to loss of muscle mass.
Low intensity, eccentric exercise is ideal in these circumstances because:
- may start out using lighter weights,
- oxygen requirements are less for this type of exercise,
- muscle damage and tendon strain is minimized (as compared to concentric exercise),
- less weariness from eccentric training than from concentric training,
- can raise resting metabolic rate.
An eccentric exercise program will train muscle groups and increase strength and flexibility with low-energy exercise. Some eccentric exercises are illustrated below to get you started:
- Stand close to a chair.
- Slowly lower yourself into the seat of the chair (seated position).
- To increase difficulty, stop midway before completely lowering into the seated position.
When strong enough, progress to barely touching the chair.
Heel Lift (Ankle-Plantarflexion)
- Holding onto a support (such as a chair), raise up onto your toes.
- Now slowly lower your heels to the floor, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
Straight Leg Raise (Hip Flexion / Knee Extension)
- Lie on your back.
- Keeping your knee/leg straight, lift your right leg.
- Slowly lower your leg, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
- Repeat with the other leg.
To decrease difficulty or to reduce back strain, sit up to perform the exercise (as shown in the small boxes).
- Lie on your back and lift legs straight up. Be sure to pull your belly button in toward your spine for stabilization and do not arch your back.
- Slowly lower your legs, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
To decrease difficulty or reduce back strain, bend your knees while lowering legs.
- Begin in position with elbow bent.
- Extend right arm straight out behind, quickly.
- Slowly bend your elbow back to starting position, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
- Repeat with other arm.
To increase difficulty add weight using a dumbbell or other household item in your hand(s).
- Standing with elbows bent, lift both arms to shoulder height. Do not hunch or hike shoulders during the exercise.
- Slowly lower arms/elbows, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
To increase difficulty add weight holding a dumbbell or other household item in your hands.