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The Power of Eccentric Exercises

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

For runners, the quest to improve performance, prevent injuries, and enhance overall running efficiency is a never-ending journey. While many runners focus on traditional exercises like running drills, strength training, and stretching, incorporating eccentric exercises into your training regimen can unlock a new level of benefits.

Understanding Eccentric Exercises:

Eccentric exercises involve lengthening or elongating a muscle while under tension. Unlike concentric exercises that involve muscle shortening, eccentric movements occur when the muscle resists the force applied to it, controlling the lengthening phase of the movement. Eccentric exercises are vital for runners because they target specific muscle groups and provide unique benefits that can positively impact running performance.

The Importance of Eccentric Exercises for Runners:

  • Strengthening the Muscles: Eccentric exercises place a greater load on the muscles compared to concentric exercises. This increased load stimulates muscle growth and strengthens the muscle fibers, leading to improved endurance and power during running. Strong muscles can generate more force, leading to enhanced speed and performance.

  • Injury Prevention: Running is a high-impact activity that puts stress on the muscles, tendons, and joints. Eccentric exercises, such as eccentric calf raises or single-leg squats, can help strengthen the tendons and muscles, providing better support and stability for the joints. This reduces the risk of common running injuries, such as Achilles tendinopathy, patellar tendonitis, or shin splints.

  • Improved Running Economy: Running economy refers to the amount of oxygen consumed at a given pace. Eccentric exercises improve running economy by increasing muscle efficiency. Strengthening the muscles involved in running, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, allows them to generate and absorb force more effectively. This results in a smoother, more energy-efficient running stride, ultimately improving endurance and performance.

  • Enhanced Deceleration Control: Eccentric exercises train the body to effectively control deceleration, which is crucial for runners, especially during downhill running or sudden changes in pace. Eccentric movements strengthen the muscles responsible for controlling eccentric contractions, enabling better control of movement and reducing the risk of muscle strains or injuries.

  • Rehabilitation and Recovery: Eccentric exercises are often used in rehabilitation programs for runners recovering from certain injuries, such as Achilles tendonitis or hamstring strains. These exercises can help rebuild strength, improve muscle-tendon function, and promote healing. Incorporating eccentric exercises into your routine can aid in recovery and prevent future re-injury.

Examples of Eccentric Exercises for Runners:

  • Eccentric Calf Raises: Stand on the edge of a step or a curb with your heels hanging off. Rise up onto your toes, then slowly lower your heels below the step, feeling a stretch in your calves. Repeat for several reps, focusing on the controlled descent.

  • Bulgarian Split Squats: Stand with one foot forward and the other elevated behind you on a step or bench. Lower your body into a lunge position, focusing on controlling the descent as your back knee bends. Push back up using the front leg. Repeat on both sides.

  • Nordic Hamstring Curls: Kneel on a soft surface with your feet secured under a stable object or have a partner hold them. Slowly lower your upper body forward, keeping your core engaged, until you can no longer control the movement. Use your hands to catch yourself and push back up. Repeat for several reps.

  • Downhill Running: Incorporate downhill running into your training program. Running downhill places a greater eccentric load on the quadriceps and lower leg muscles, strengthening them and improving your ability to control the descent.

Eccentric exercises offer runners a valuable addition to their training routine. By incorporating these exercises, runners can strengthen their muscles, prevent injuries, improve running economy, enhance deceleration control, and support rehabilitation and recovery. Remember to start gradually, focusing on proper form and control. Consult with a professional, such as a running coach or physical therapist, to ensure that you are using appropriate exercises and techniques tailored to your individual needs. Embrace the power of eccentric exercises and unlock your running potential!

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