There are positives to negatives! Have you ever considered training negatively? And No… I don’t mean with little optimism. You may not have come across the term before and if you have it’s a training tactic that could be implemented into you training regime more often. Negative training, also known as eccentric training is focused on the negative part of a repartition – the phases in which the muscle lengthens under load.
The three phases of movement in the muscles are:
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Isometric is when tension is placed on a muscle but without any joint movement.
Eccentric muscle movement (negative training) is the phase is which the muscle lengthens under tension.
Out of the three phases, the eccentric phase produces the most force, followed by isometric, then concentric. How much stronger is the muscle during the eccentric phase? It’s about 40% stronger. Think of that for a moment…this means that the eccentric phase could endure higher weight loads compared to isometric and eccentric phases. By focusing training efforts specifically towards eccentric training exercises you could significantly increase the weight load lifted and significantly increase your strength development as a result.
How It Works?
Micro-trauma arises with the muscle fibers as the muscle is lengthened under considerable tension. The cellular damage releases growth factors and triggers anabolic mechanisms, which as a result of the shock to the muscles – seeks to repair the damage done to the tissue through the increase in cells which overtime equates to an increase mass of muscle tissue.
How To Negative Train
You should be focusing the weight movement on the downward/muscle-lengthening phase. Each negative rep should be fully controlled throughout the movement. The negative rep should last longer than the negative phase of a normal movement – somewhere around 3-6 seconds. You should be loading the weight slightly higher than what you usually endure for a given exercise, as this training is about forcing higher weight loads. Usually, 6 reps to failure is considered optimal for this training method if you can manage more than that you should increase the weight again to attain only 6 reps.
As this is a very strenuous exercise, 3 sets are usually enough, any more than this then you may not be utilizing this method correctly and should seek to modify your technique, rep time, or weigh lifted, to attain the desired effect. Second, due to the intensity of this exercise – incorporating more than 3 sets may have a negative effect…excuse the pun. Where it breaks down the tissue too much, making recovery difficult for the body. The eccentric phase of an exercise is where most injuries occur, so be careful to warm up the muscle utilized and to control the weight on the eccentric phase so that it doesn’t drop suddenly causing injury.
Just remember with negative training you should be actively fighting gravity!
What Exercises Can I Negatively Train?
Often a training buddy is helpful to perform many negative exercises as it involves assistance to by-pass the concentric phase of the movement as to not waste your energy and to actually get the weight into the correct positions as often the weights themselves are heavier than what you can normally endure under the regular form of each exercise. However, with a little bit of thought, there are techniques available which means you can perform a wide variety of negative training exercises by yourself without the assistance of a training partner.
Negative Bicep Curl
The downward phase of a bicep curl is perhaps the easiest to perform and without the need of a spotter/gym buddy to move the weight back to the starting position after each rep is complete. To perform a negative bicep curl you should focus on one bicep at a time. Pick up one weight with the arm you intend to work, with the free hand on the opposing arm simply use this to lift back the weight into the upper position where you started the curl from and then release the hand, and slowly and in a controlled manner lower the weight back down. Repeat this for a total of 6 reps.
Now there is one final critique on the technique when performing a negative rep. This doesn’t have to be implemented under every rep but it may help. This is to not release the tension from the muscle being targeted when the muscle is being aided back into the starting position (concentric phase) at any time. Rather than simply using the other hand or your gym buddy to move the entire load of the weight back into the starting position, apply some tension onto the target muscle when it is being moved. It doesn’t have to be a lot. This will keep a longer time-under-tension applied towards that muscle, which is a useful muscle building technique.
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