Improving Your Squat With The Sub-Maximal Eccentric Method

The Squat is a great indicator of overall strength. Typically, a lifter with a good Squat number will also have a strong upper body. For this reason, the Squat becomes of first interest when analyzing the training data of a new trainee.

Once a solid base of strength has been devoted to improving the Squat, more advanced training methods are warranted to further the training progress.

Eccentric training is often the missing link of most athlete's training as most do not devote any time to this muscle action. Incorporating a phase with an emphasis on eccentric work can yield dramatic results in terms of breaking a strength plateau. 

While there are many techniques used in eccentric based training, the first category to introduce to an athlete at an intermediate level of lifting is the Sub-Maximal Eccentric method. This technique calls for accentuating the eccentric portion of a lift while using loads between 80-90% of 1RM. 

The Sub-Maximal Eccentric progression used in this Lower Body session is for a lifter with prior exposures to this technique:

A Squat 5 x 2-4 80X0 240

B1 Alternated DB Lunge 4 x 6-8 2010 90

B2 Glute-Ham Raise 4 x 6-8 3010 90

C1 DB Front Step-Up 3 x 8-10 1010 60

C2 Horizontal Back Extension 3 x 8-10 3010 60

In this example, the trainee simply lowers the weight on an 8-second count before trying to accelerate the load as fast as possible for the concentric contraction. The movement is repeated for a total of 4 reps. For the first session, use a load of 80% of 1RM to gauge the athlete’s ability to withstand extended eccentric contractions.

Notice that the total time under tension for each set is 32 seconds, this is a key point when using the Sub-Maximal Eccentric method. Sets that are too short in duration will not create the muscle damage that’s required for the adaptation to occur and sets that are too long indicates that the load was insufficient to overload the eccentric contraction optimally. Keeping the sets around 30 seconds has the best potential outcome. 

There are many ways to overcome training plateaus, but the use of the Sub-Maximal Eccentric method is a very safe and simple way to increase your numbers.

Make sure to use eccentric training techniques sparringly as overdoing this method can be detrimental to the recovery process and affect your long-term strength goals.

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