Eccentric Control

Ok so this is something I knew but REALLY, REALLY, REALLY learned first hand in the last few years.  An eccentric contraction is when the muscle is used to go down a hill, step, or lower something.  Eccentric contractions are harder, no matter what they’re harder.  They’re harder if you haven’t had a brain injury or a knee replacement, they’re just harder.  Every single patient that I ever saw had more trouble with eccentric contractions.  It’s significantly harder for me to go down a hill than up a hill.  And I live in Pittsburgh – there are a lot of hills here.  And I have a dog so I have to walk on those hills everyday multiple times a day.  If you really work on that motion, you’ll automatically gain more control over the concentric contraction.  A concentric contraction is the opposite – it’s when going up a hill or staircase, or lifting something.  An isometric contraction is when you contract the muscle but there is no movement.  So push against a wall really hard, nothing moves – that’s an isometric contraction.  To start out strengthening a really weak muscle, use isometric contractions.  Then move to concentric, then do eccentric contractions like crazy.

Categories: Brain stuff, Health, Recovery, Rehab, Stroke stuff

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16 replies

  1. Oh wow, thanks for sharing! Pre-stroke I was always slower going down stairs than up. Now I know why. I’m even slower now as my visual perception and balance are off, but this info helps. My PT never explained this or covered such exercises with me, which now that I’m thinking about it, seems odd considering I too had a cerebellar stroke. Maybe it was sufficient to her that I can walk down stairs (with a death grip on a hand rail). That said, I’m sure it should be explained/covered with all stroke patients, despite the type stroke.

  2. I wish my therapists had explained something like this to me. I got the, watch this and do it this way

  3. Wow that makes so much sense! I can’t for the kife of me go down stairs even with my walkaide, but I can go up a few steps.

  4. Neat! I know it is harder to walk down the hill than up the hill but nobody told me (i.e. my PT). At least now I learned the term “eccentric contraction”. Thank you!
    John A. /

  5. Thanks Amy! I had a very good PT after my back surgery left me without feeling from the knees down way back when. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

  6. My PT has used the terms open-chain and closed-chain to refer to various movements. Does this have anything to do with eccentric versus concentric muscle contraction?

    • Well, no but most closed chain exercises are eccentric and most open chain ones are concentric. A closed chain exercise is when your leg is on the floor like a squat, the whole chain is closed. An open chain exercise is the leg extension machine or hamstring curl machine.

      • Do you think the machines are good?

        • Yeah they’re ok for building some strength but as soon as possible I would want someone doing weight bearing exercises. Walking and running are closed chain exercises so it’s best to get the muscles strong that way.

          • Good to hear you say that. I’ve never been a fan of machines for exercise because the positions they put you in are both unnatural and restricted. I walk a lot and also do strength and balance exercises at my ballet barre. I was never a runner but now I have an urge to run a marathon which I can’t explain since I actually dislike running.


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