Eccentric & Concentric Contractions


Yesterday I did a mini triathlon again:

  • 1 hour spin class
  • 1 mile run
  • 1 mile swim

I tried out my race outfit in the pool, and it worked great! Woot.

{And then washed it with detergent in the sink. Classy. <–we don’t own a W/D yet, so we do laundry 1x/week at my inlaws, and that’s not happening until Sunday…after the race. Doh!}

Afterwards I stuffed my face with the amazing (40 gram!) simple protein-packed pancake loaded with more protein & deliciousness in the form of Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt & almond butter.

{#fail. no new photo}

To say I was relieved to be done with my mini-triathlon Tuesday training sessions at the butt-crack of dawn would be an understatement. Really.

Adios to feeling like ‘I must get that spin class in & that swim in or else I’ll fail on race day.’

{more on that topic after the actual race, mmmmkay?}


Last night while teaching BodyPUMP I noticed some people’s barbell biceps curls were not really doing much for them & I coached them to help get more out of the movement. Let me explain.

Eccentric & Concentric Contractions

While weight training there are a series of contractions that occur. Without getting into too much detail (ahem sliding filament mechanism), let’s cover the basics, so ya’all can have a better grip (hah, pun intended) on your resistance training.

Concentric Contractions

  • the type of contraction when the muscle shortens –while producing a force or resistance (i.e. in a biceps curl, this is the part of the curl when the bar is being raised toward the front of the shoulder)<–the biceps muscles are being shortened, while resisting the weight or force placed upon it

In general, concentric contractions are the ‘easier’ part of a movement. But let’s be honest, none of it should ever be ‘easy,’ or else you’re just wasting your time.

Eccentric Contractions

  • the contraction when the muscle elongates while under tension (i.e. the part of the biceps curls where the bar goes away from the body, and back toward the thighs)<—-the biceps muscles (3 heads) are under tension by the weight/force, and is more so, during this elongation, or negatives phase/contraction

In general, eccentric contractions are the contractions you want to include in any resistance training program because these contractions can handle greater loads, will cause greater muscle tears (and thus more ability to rebuild stronger), and produce better gains than a program that just includes concentric contractions.


In a biceps curl, for example, if you concentrate on the eccentric contraction (the bar moving away from the front of your shoulder toward your leg), and do it slowly, you could technically build a greater amount of muscle than if you just let the bar kind of swing back down, or ‘fall’ down toward your leg.

So in simple terms: use both contractions in your programs (most should include ’em, by the way), and really focus on the eccentric contractions if you’re trying to get stronger whilst not adding too much weight.


The fix for my friends in class? Focusing in on that eccentric contraction, and slowly lengthening the muscles, bringing the bar in a controlled manner back to the front of the thighs.

I promise you’ll feel a greater burn, and build more muscle if you focus on those contractions. Most people are mindlessly lifting weights–and not only is that dangerous, it’s a waste of time!


Have a rockin’ day, my people!!

{p.s. 3 days of work left before the Half IronMan!! Eeeekkk!}

What moves are YOU working on in better controlling the movement–specifically the eccentric contractions?? Have YOU ever done an indoor triathlon at a gym before?? Do YOU enjoy getting up at the butt-crack of dawn??!

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  1. Ahh so close to the IM!!! I am SO excited for you!! You’ll totally rock it!!

  2. Thanks so much for the morning personal trainer tip on the bicep curls….I have been short on time lately with the new puppy in the house so I have been doing some weight work at home…I will keep all this in mind next time I am lifting.


  3. Great post! Always a good reminder!

    As much as I enjoy my early mornings, waking up at the butt crack of dawn (i.e. before 6 AM) is not what I would consider enjoyable. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

  4. so informative!! I’ve had trainers correct me on my form a bunch of times while weight lifting, its def something i need to work on.

    I love my morning workouts, worst part is waking up but when i’m done, i’m sooo happy to have my workout done and start fresh for the day. i used to be a sole nighttime exerciser but its funny how things change :)

  5. I love these informative posts you do! I appreciate you taking the time :)

  6. I definitely don’t ENJOY getting up at the butt-crack of dawn, but sometimes you’ve just got to do it. I got up at 5:30 this morning because I wanted to run without the hot sun! Wasn’t so thrilled at first, but, like always, I’m happy I got up so early.

  7. Good topic for a post. It’s interesting how much of fitness is actually more beneficial when you train opposite to what feels natural. Weight training is one of those areas. Keep up the good work :)

  8. This is why I love your blog – you know what you are talking about when it comes to exercise and how the body works.

    My fiance (an ES major) taught me to do hamstring curls sloooooooowly, focusing on the eccentric motion, and really feeling the burn on the way down. Oh, an I do one leg at a time. No letting my stronger leg make my weaker leg cheat! These help me with strength in soccer, tremendously.

    Also, good job with all of the training! I don’t think I could do it all like you… I’ve never tried an indoor tri, though! I don’t like getting up at the buttcrack of dawn (I’m a horrible sleeper so I like my extra hour in the morning….) but when I do wake up early to run, etc… I feel more accomplished and productive for the rest of the day, so it is usually worth it!

  9. You must be getting so excited for the IronMan!

    I’m obsessed with all things protein pancake. I think I’ll have to give your version a try!

  10. Danielle says:

    I love your posts, they always make me smile and help me in so many ways!

    Gooooood luck lady cakes, you will be a super ironman-ette this weekend! Whooohoo! Your mini tri sounds awesome, I did a similar thing last Sunday when our ride got cancelled due to rain :) Fun! and your protein pancake must have really hit the spot after. I had the biggest almond smoothie after and it was so delish and rewarding. I will train for smoothies, lol.

    xoxox big hugs and wishes and cheers and rah-rah’s from Texas!!!

  11. I definitely notice that I get more of a burn when I really focus on the movements, good advice!

  12. we love doing little mini tri’s by biking over to the beach each weekend. gooood luck with the HIM!!

  13. I’ll never have to worry about that because biceps always kill me! That’s the only track I’ve never increased my weights for- I just can’t do it! Ps. You are just like a jar of knowledge! P.P.S Yay for the last mini-triathlon! Not long now :)


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