Eccentric training is one of the best ways to recover from a tricep strain or injury.
It offers a ton of control over resistance, speed, range-of-motion, and position while having a massive variety of eccentric tricep exercises to play with!
In this article, we’ll go over why eccentric tricep exercises are important to do, and give you some of my favourites that’ll boost your recovery and get you back to pain-free activity in no time!
Why Do Eccentric Tricep Exercises?
As a physiotherapist and athlete, I’ve not only seen tons of tricep injuries, but also had to recover from my fair share myself.
Eccentric exercises are perfect for optimizing recovery because we’re able to take advantage of the strongest muscle position.
You see, your muscles are able to handle way more weight when they have to lower it than when having to raise it…
Try doing a bicep curl with a weight that you can’t lift.
Now, take that same weight but curl it up with help from your other arm.
Slowly lower the weight with just one arm – you’ll find that you won’t necessarily be able to curl it back up, but you’re able to control it on the way down without letting it drop and snap your elbow!
This eccentric, or lengthening, part of muscle movement allows you to build strength into your strained tricep with more control and less irritation than a concentric, or shortening, movement would.
Check out how the tricep moves eccentrically and concentrically:
PLUS, your tendons and muscles will be better prepped to prevent any injuries in the future – your body does this cool thing where it adapts to “loaded stretch” movements, essentially putting a bullet-proof vest over the muscle.
So, obviously there’s a ton to love about eccentric tricep movements – let’s check out some of the best ones you can do (in no particular order)!
1. Single Arm Banded Eccentric Tricep Pushdown
This is a super easy one that hits the tricep perfectly.
Take a band (resistance level will depend on how sore or injured your tricep is) and attach it to something above you like a cupboard or over the doorframe.
Grab the band with your target arm, and use your other arm to straighten it out (you don’t want to do any work with your target arm here).
Now, just using your target arm, slowly let your elbow bend, controlling the pull of the band.
Try to keep your elbow pinned to your side, and take about 4 seconds to go from straight to bent.
Do about 3 sets, with the amount of reps depending on how much pain you’re getting – don’t go past a 3-4/10 pain with any of these!
I generally shoot for up to 12-15 reps here, slowly progressing the resistance of the band rather than increasing reps.
2. Eccentric Pushups
I love this one because there’s a million ways to do it – there’s a variation for everyone!
The first way is to get into a pushup position, slowly lower yourself all the way down to the ground (about 3-4 seconds), then push yourself back up but with your knees on the ground to take weight away.
You can make this one easier by putting a block or pillow underneath, decreasing how low you can go.
You could also do this inclined to make it easier!
For an extra challenge, use one arm on the way down and two hands to push yourself back up (the closer you get to ground-level the harder it gets) while keeping the 3-4 second pace.
Arm position is a bit dependent on personal comfort with these, but I generally recommend trying to keep your arms close to your side without flaring them out to hit the tricep a bit more directly.
3. Eccentric Overhead Band Tricep Extension
The name is a mouthful, but it’s actually pretty straightforward to do.
You can either step on one end of the band or attach it to something below you near your hips, like a doorknob (using a dumbbell instead can work too).
Have your arm up straight above you, holding the band or dumbbell.
Slowly bend your elbow behind your back, controlling the movement for 3-4 seconds on the way down.
Use your other arm to help straighten the target arm back to the starting position.
Start with a light resistance band or light dumbbell – it’s better to move up if it’s too light than hurt yourself if you start with something too heavy – plus, these are tougher than they look!
Try 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.
4. Eccentric Bench Dips
Eccentric bench dips are a little tougher than the other ones on the list, but are often a great exercise in the later stages of your rehab!
It’s nice because you can choose how low to go – only go to a depth that’s comfortable.
Keep your elbows close to your body and don’t let them flare out because that can cause some unwanted strain on your shoulders.
You can either stand up at the bottom of each rep or shuffle back to sit on the bench – remember, you don’t want to do the concentric part and push your bodyweight up with your arms!
You’ll probably get a nice pump with these too – try 2-3 sets of 5-12 reps as tolerated!
5. Eccentric Skull Crushers
Scary name, sweet exercise.
I usually like to do these with a dumbbell one arm at a time in rehab settings because you can use your non-working arm to support the weight and reset the working arm after every rep.
Bring your arm further back to put more of a stretch on you tricep, or point it more upright to the ceiling to take some stretch away.
The goal is to lower the weight behind your head – don’t actually crush your skull – slow and controlled before using your other hand to lift it back up or simply bringing your arms to your side before resetting:
You want to feel a good stretch in your tricep, but only go to a point where it’s not causing you pain!
You can also do these bodyweight using a table or bar – the higher the surface, the easier it is.
2-4 sets of 5-12 reps is good here.
Key Points To Remember
The biggest point to remember is that each movement should be done slow and controlled.
Moving too fast will likely irritate the tricep, and also not challenge it in the way we need…
You want your tricep to be working through a range slowly in order to challenge every point of the muscle’s length and avoid any compensation – this is key for reducing pain and improving recovery.
Here are a couple more key points to remember:
- Different Positions – Try choosing exercises that get your tricep moving in different positions (e.g. one exercise with your elbow by your side and one with it travelling over your head). This is an important concept in recovery!
- Progressive Overload – Slowly increase reps, sets, or resistance. You need to gradually challenge the tricep in new ways for it to continue adapting!
- Patience – Trust me, I know how frustrating recovery can be. But do yourself a favour and don’t push past your limits – stay patient and let your body recover slowly and safely!
You don’t want to injure yourself further and make recovery take longer, so keep calm, stay in control, and focus on performing each rep with the highest quality!
Recovering from a tricep strain or injury is never fun, but it doesn’t have to be hard!
Eccentric exercises are a great way to build back strength and optimize recovery, and they’re easy on the body too – try out these 5 exercises to find the one that feels the most comfortable for you.
Stay patient and gradually progress resistance, reps, sets, and range of motion over time until you’re back to doing the activities you love… without your tricep slowing you down!