Try These 5 Eccentric Leg Exercises for Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations

Eccentric exercises for the legs are very effective at inducing both strength and hypertrophy adaptations. In this article I will walk you through some of the most effective eccentric lower body exercises that you can add into your training programme.

7 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
04/03/24
Last updated
04/03/24

Get weekly roundups of the best training tools in your inbox, every Monday.

No spam – just thoughtful training advice

In This Resource
  • Benefits of Eccentrically Loading The Lower Body
  • Hypertrophy
  • Strength
  • Skill Acquisition
  • Eccentric Training is Not The Silver Bullet
  • Beware Of Muscular Soreness
  • What Is Tempo and Why We Use It?
  • Tempo Goblet Squats
  • Tempo Back Squats
  • Tempo Squat in Lunge
  • Tempo Deadlifts
  • Tempo Good Morning

Benefits of Eccentrically Loading The Lower Body

Hypertrophy

We see eccentric training of all kinds, including the eccentric exercises for the legs and the lower body being used very successfully for hypertrophy (muscle gain). Hypertrophy is all about spending time under tension, therefore adding eccentric exercises into your training plan can help spend a great deal more time under tension and therefore help increase muscle mass. Although this is a beneficial way to work on hypertrophy, it doesn’t mean all hypertrophy training should be done using eccentric exercises.

Strength

Eccentric training is an effective way to help induce strength training adaptations. This is especially true of beginners who will create strength training adaptations when presented with almost any stimulus. Advanced individuals would not be seeking strength adaptations when using eccentric training although I am sure if done correctly this could be achieved.

Skill Acquisition

Adding long eccentric phases to exercises can be an excellent way to improve technique as it allows individuals to spend a lot of time figuring out how to perform the movement with control. It is a great way to ensure that good technique is instilled from the beginning, if eccentric squats and deadlifts are used in the first few month of training with high levels of movement virtuosity it will put an individual in good positions moving forward. It is very important to remember that if the emphasis is skill acquisition then not overloading the individual too aggressively with weight is crucial, otherwise the result will be a loss of technique, ingraining poor positions and most likely causing a great deal of soreness.

Eccentric Training is Not The Silver Bullet

Eccentric training doesn’t have any negative properties, but concentric training is important for both strength and hypertrophy also. Eccentric training is a beneficial tool, but it is not the be all and end all of resistance training. Some more naive trainers might see it as some form of magic bullet or training secret and use it way too much in their training. It is a tool that should be used from time to time in a well rounded logical training programme.

Beware Of Muscular Soreness

Eccentric loading can cause a great deal of muscular soreness. This should not be forgotten when writing your programming. When adding eccentric loading, the weight used needs to be adjusted appropriately, remember, you cannot take the same amount of load when performing the exercises with long eccentric tempos. It will be too challenging and it will generate too much fatigue.

What Is Tempo and Why We Use It?

Tempo is where we use different paces on parts of an exercises in order to make them more challenging. To understand how tempo is used, you will need to understand the four different parts of a movement.

Eccentric, Bottom/Top, Concentric, Bottom/Top.

Each movement contains these four parts and tempo’s are always written like this, with 4 numbers representing the number of seconds spent on each part of the movement. Let’s take squats as an example, we have an eccentric phase to begin with then a bottom of the movement, a concentric phase and finally the portion at the top of the exercise. If we wanted to put an eccentric emphasis on the squat we could add 5 seconds on the eccentric phase. This would be written as such, 5111. The lower body doesn’t contain many eccentric only (where there is no concentric contraction) exercises. Therefore I have provided some of my favourite eccentric leg exercises that are eccentric through adding tempos to the eccentric portion of the exercise.

Tempo Goblet Squats

Tempo goblet squats are one of my go to exercises for beginners who are looking to learn the squat movement pattern. As beginners adapt to almost any stimulus, these will also create beneficial strength and hypertrophy adaptations in beginners. I also use these during deload blocks or weeks to take a step away from the back squat in both myself and my clients training.

Tempo Back Squats

Tempo Back Squats are a brilliant way to add muscle mass to the legs and positional strength in the squat. These can be used very effectively by both intermediate individuals and advanced individuals who are looking to improve their strength or increase their muscle mass.

Tempo Squat in Lunge

The tempo squat in lunge can be done with a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell. It is a brilliant way to build muscle mass in the legs, as well as stability and balance. This can be a very mentally challenging exercise, so be ready for some tough sets here. It is crucial that the tempo is held to the final moment, often individuals will control the exercise well for the first part of the eccentric exercise, and then crash towards the floor. The tempo needs to be held fluidly throughout the entire eccentric phase of the movement.

Tempo Deadlifts

Tempo deadlifts are seriously tough exercises. They require you to have a good level of both skill and conditioning to perform them as they require so much energy. I do not recommend using these for skill acquisition at any stage of learning the hinge as they are simply too taxing for a beginner of intermediate. These should be done to induce gains in muscle mass and strength in advanced individuals. Do not be too tempted to start with a long tempo like 5 seconds, maybe start with 3 seconds and make it longer as you get confortable with the eccentric phase.

Tempo Good Morning

Another very challenging lower back and hamstring exercises is the tempo good morning. This too will require good hinge skills to perform with precision. Remember to maintain an arch in your lower back throughout this exercise in order to successfully target your hamstrings. Do not aim to move the chest too far towards the floor and you will end up rounding your lower back.

If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.

This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein

Signature

Programme is a workout app that plans every workout for you

Programme learns from your past workouts, training experience and available equipment to create your optimal workout plan that adapts to your progress.