Increase Strength with Low-Energy (Eccentric) Exercise

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:

  1. concentric contraction: muscle contracts (shortens) as the weight is being lifted.
  2. isometric contraction: stopping movement (at 45 or 90 degrees).
  3. 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:


EccenBlog6Sit to Stand (Knee Extension)

  1. Stand close to a chair.
  2. Slowly lower yourself into the seat of the chair (seated position).
  3. To increase difficulty, stop midway before completely lowering into the seated position.

When strong enough, progress to barely touching the chair.


EccenBlog4  Heel Lift (Ankle-Plantarflexion)

  1. Holding onto a support (such as a chair), raise up onto your toes.
  2. Now slowly lower your heels to the floor, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.

EccenBlog3a Straight Leg Raise (Hip Flexion / Knee Extension)

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Keeping your knee/leg straight, lift your right leg.
  3. Slowly lower your leg, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
  4. 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).


EccenBlog2    Leg Lowering (Trunk / Abs)

  1. 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.
  2. Slowly lower your legs, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.

To decrease difficulty or reduce back strain, bend your knees while lowering legs.


EccenBlog3  Elbow – Tricep Extension Drop

  1. Begin in position with elbow bent.
  2. Extend right arm straight out behind, quickly.
  3. Slowly bend your elbow back to starting position, taking 3-5 seconds to do so.
  4. Repeat with other arm.

To increase difficulty add weight using a dumbbell or other household item in your hand(s).


EccenBlog1  Abduction Lift (Shoulder)

  1. Standing with elbows bent, lift both arms to shoulder height.  Do not hunch or hike shoulders during the exercise.
  2. 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.


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