There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the potential benefits of ‘Eccentric Exercise’ when it comes to Tennis Elbow rehab.
But is it really possible that one type of muscle contraction could be THAT much more effective compared to another in tendon healing and strengthening?…
Or is the eccentric approach (and the rubber bar) just another rehab exercise gimmick?
An ‘Eccentric’ contraction is the controlled lengthening of a muscle against resistance.
(It’s still considered a contraction even though the muscle is lengthening, because the muscle is actively doing so.)
A ‘Concentric’ contraction is when the muscle shortens against resistance.
(Typically, in a single, normal repetition of an exercise, first the muscle shortens Concentrically and then it lengthens, Eccentrically.)
According to a number of studies over many years there is certainly evidence to support the idea Eccentric-only rehab approach.
This is the theory that Eccentric-only muscle contractions may be superior (safer and more effective) to Concentric ones when it comes to tendon rehabilitation.
A lot of the recent excitement seems to revolve around one particular study.
A small (but apparently successful) study of Tennis Elbow sufferers who used the FlexBar rubber exercise bar:
However, other studies call into question the efficacy of this form of exercise in tendon rehab, and suggest that it may be more effective with some types of tendon injuries than others…
“Chronic Tendinopathy: Effectiveness of Eccentric Exercise.”
“Eccentric Exercises; why do they work, what are the problems and how can we improve them?”
It’s not a cut-and-dry / conclusive issue by any means.