Descending Builds More Muscle? The Unnoticed Secret Fitness Weapon—Eccentric Exercise


The action is also known as Eccentric Exercise.

Every day, we unknowingly engage in eccentric exercises; they are the hidden workouts within our daily lives.

Focusing on elongating and stretching muscles is one of the best ways to build strength and enhance muscle flexibility. Even after the workout ends, it can continue burning more calories.

Dr. Michael Mosley, a BBC science presenter, extensively discusses what eccentric exercise entails on his podcast "Just One Thing."

He mentions that simple changes in daily routines, irrespective of age or fitness level, can benefit from eccentric exercises.

Hidden Exercise?

When strength training is mentioned, people often think of weightlifting.

Interestingly, most exercises include eccentric movements—they just aren't the parts you typically pay attention to.

For instance, in a bicep curl, the action of contracting the muscle is a concentric exercise. When you lower the dumbbell, that's the eccentric part—when your active muscles stretch.

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Stretching Exercise

Yoga and Pilates involve many eccentric components.

Eccentric exercises can be done in various ways, from yoga to weightlifting. For example, in yoga, when you (slowly) lower your body into a specific pose or movement, it's a slow eccentric exercise. Similarly, walking downstairs is also an eccentric exercise .

Putting down a weight or running downhill might seem easier, but in reality, the muscles work harder than you think. Focusing on these seemingly easier parts can bring significant benefits: increased muscle mass, flexibility, bone density, and even burning more calories during rest .

Up or Down the Stairs?

Stair climbing is exercise, but descending might be more beneficial than ascending.

In a study, volunteers were asked to either walk down ten flights of stairs and take the elevator up or climb ten flights but descend using the elevator. They had to do this exercise twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks.

Surprisingly, after 12 weeks, the group walking downstairs was healthier. They showed significant improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood lipid levels, muscle function, bone density, and resting heart rate—all contrary to expectations.

Tony Kay, a biomechanics professor at the University of Northampton, stated, "There is less stress on the heart during eccentric exercise, so it feels much easier. But the actual outcomes are much better."

The group walking downstairs increased muscle strength by 34%, more than twice as much as the group walking upstairs. This harvest was far more than what you'd expect from regular exercise.

The study also indicates that eccentric exercises surprisingly rapidly enhance flexibility, more effectively than just doing stretches or stretching exercises.

How It Works

Running downhill involves more eccentric exercise than uphill.

Researchers believe several factors might be at play. Professor Kay explains that concentric exercises, like lifting weights, require the use of many muscle fibers. In contrast, eccentric exercises involve far fewer muscle fibers, but the weight being moved remains the same.

Professor Kay elaborates that these fewer muscle fibers undergo more load. "That causes greater muscle damage or microscopic damage," he says. However, microscopic muscle damage isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, it eventually allows our muscles to heal and adapt. This not only makes muscles stronger but also helps prevent further muscle strains and injuries.

Boosting Metabolism

Studies show that enhancing eccentric exercise can increase the resting metabolic rate: the number of calories burned while at rest.

Professor Kay says, "Eccentric exercise causes more extremely tiny tears in muscles; the body then has to increase the metabolism rate during self-repair and maintains it at a higher level for a long time."

Even after just 30 minutes of eccentric exercise, this increased metabolic rate can last up to 72 hours.

Eccentric Exercise for Everyone

Another benefit of eccentric exercise is its applicability to individuals of any age or fitness level. Since eccentric exercise doesn't tire people out as much as concentric exercise does, you can perform repeated motions easily.

With minor adjustments, significant differences in strength training can be felt quickly.

Moreover, the good news is you might already be doing this naturally, especially in activities like Pilates and yoga, which involve numerous


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