Why Eccentric Strength Is Important For Athletes (its critical!)

Eccentric strength is critical for athletes because they encounter a lot of eccentric actions. These movements are both impactful to performance and often linked to non-contact injuries.

One of Six Types Of Athletic Strength

Athletes need strength to absorb eccentric overload in motions like landing, stopping, follow-through, and change of direction. Think of this type of strength as your shock absorbers and brakes.

These activities come with high levels of force, and often high levels of speed. Think about an athlete who just went up for a rebound in basketball or spike in volleyball.

After that jump, they have to absorb the forces of landing. That means controlling them so they don’t get injured, and so they are ready to go into the next action they need to make.

LEARN MORE: Athletic Strength Is More Than Weight On A Barbell

What does eccentric mean?

When we say eccentric, we are talking about motions where muscles are lengthening while still contracting. As a simple example, think of a bicep curl. When you are curling the barbell up, that’s a concentric contraction. The muscles are contracting, and your bicep is getting shorter. On the other hand, if you lower it back down slowly and don’t just let it fall, you are fighting against gravity. This is an eccentric contraction. The muscles are contracting to resist gravity but are lengthening

Eccentric strength is important for athletes when they have to absorb forces
Eccentric strength is important for athletes when they have to absorb forces. You can see the athlete above is absorbing forces on her lead leg as she slows for sprinting and lowers to get the ball.

Any athlete that needs speed on the court or field also needs brakes. Most sports involve changes of direction.

Going fast is great, but if you don’t have the brakes to stop or change direction, you’ll have a hard time using your speed.

Think of eccentric strength as brakes for an athlete. Since they often need to stop, change direction, and land, eccentric strength is important for athletes.

Eccentric Forces

High forces can be developed during these eccentric actions.

In fact, your body can produce higher forces eccentrically than concentrically. Plus, the brain uses a different motor control strategy than for the concentric motion.

So, if you aren’t training these motions, you won’t have the coordination and motor control optimized.

Strength Signature

When we perform a Strength Diagnosis for an athlete we identify the six strength types for athletes. The relative levels of these different types of strength create a profile of the athlete.

When it comes to eccentric strength, we call this quality Absorb.

Since we know eccentric strength is important for athletes, we measure it. To derive this value, an athlete is actually tested on how efficiently they can handle eccentric forces and then reuse that force to produce a subsequent explosive movement.

Training Eccentric Strength For Athletes

Absorb is trained in several ways. One is in the weight room because eccentric strength needs high levels of force to be stimulated.

Sometimes this is heavy lifts, or extending the time in the eccentric (lowering) phase of a lift. It can also be done with special equipment that focuses on the lowering phase.

Plyometrics that focus on overloading and controlling the landings is another good way to build your ability to Absorb.

Eccentric Strength Is Important For Athletes

Just like a fast car needs reliable brakes to corner well and stop, an athlete needs eccentric strength to perform well and stay safe. Developing this type of strength requires specific training with the right methods to improve it safely.