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Eccentric Strength Training

by Sean Casey


Ever hear the expression “slow down to go fast”? Well it’s one of those oxymorons that seems to hold truth. The same can be said about most things with our sport: mistiming a section, missing a gear, etc. Slow down and just go with the flow! And the same applies to our training. The older I get, the more I see a need to be more conservative with athletic development. Progression is slow and patience is required.

What is Tempo Work?

I have really taken heed to this over the past 2 years and centered a majority of my training around tempo work, especially eccentrics. In every muscular contraction, there are 3 movements: eccentric (lengthening of the muscle fiber), isometric (the pause between the eccentric and concentric), and concentric (contraction or shortening of the muscle fiber).

Because you are constantly moving, you are always in these stages. Take a Bicep curl for example. You start at the top and go down (eccentric), pause a split second at the bottom before you go up (isometric), and finally curl back up to the top (concentric). Between all three actions, you have a total time under tension, which can be manipulated for different goals throughout your program

Therefore, eccentrics are meant for off season or a time when big races aren't coming up.

When I have specific goals for strength, I generally begin with eccentric work. You might see the following:

  • Back Squat -5x5 (3.2.1.)

This means every rep should be three seconds down, pause two seconds at the bottom, and come back up in 1 second.

The Benefits

This slow movement down is doing a few things. We are not only building muscular strength, but also strength in the connective tissues as well. During the concentric and isometric action, only the contractile fibers like actin and myosin (aka sliding filament theory) are producing force. However, the eccentric loading causes the viscoelastic (tendons and ligaments) to be involved in the force production as well! By stretching out the muscle fibers under load, we are teaching our bodies to store energy more efficiently and produce that additional power safely.

I highly recommend adding tempo or eccentric type strength training to your training plan however I will caution you that randomly throwing these guys into your program will leave you very sore! Typically, there is more muscular damage done with this type of training. Therefore, eccentrics are meant for off season or a time when big races aren't coming up. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) will be in full effect. Studies have shown that both strength and proprioception DECREASES for 1-4 days for that muscle group worked. So gradual introduction to tempos with lower weights is a good idea.

Sample Workout

Intro week of eccentric loading covering all of your main lifts:

Day 1 Strength:
* Back Squat - 5x5 (3.1.0.) @ 65% of 1RM (RM = rep max)
* Single Arm Dumbbell Row - 5x5 (3.1.0.)
Conditioning: (sets of 21-15-9 reps)
* Wall Balls
* Pull Ups
Day 2 Strength:
* Power Clean - 5x3 @ 75% of 1RM
* Roman Deadlift - 5x5 (3.1.0.) @ 65% of 1R
* 3 rounds of Single Arm KB Complex:
* 1 Turkish Get up
* Windmills
* 10 Swings
* Rest 1-minute
Day 3 Strength:
* Dumbbell Bench Press - 5x5 (3.1.0.)
* Front Squat - 3x5 - (3.1.0.) @ 65% of 1 RM
* 5k Row for Time
Be sure to use a timer because five seconds to you is not the same in reality!

So, this is an extremely simple, 3 day per week intro. The weight is light but the amount of volume gives you plenty of practice and time under the iron. You can use this for barbells and dumbbells. I believe the single leg/arm work with this routine is very effective for not only strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth), but for preventing injuries and achieving balance throughout the body. Something every motocross athlete needs!

About the Author: Sean Casey, owner of Kinetic Performance and Fitness LLC, is a strength and conditioning coach in Orlando, Fl. Having earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and working with college athletes, his company now focuses mainly on motocross riders. Just like the name implies, Kinetic aims to optimize natural body movement for maximum performance and longevity. Head over to to subscribe to the newsletter for more workouts, tips, and articles. You can also find Sean on Instagram at @kinetic_pf.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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