Negative repetitions – sounds very contradictory when it comes to improving strength gains and, well…negative, but it is far from it!
Negatives, as they are more commonly referred to, are incredibly useful in progressing through a resistance training program.
What are they?
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Negatives are the slow, controlled eccentric movement of any exercise that ultimately slows the force of gravity. During the bench press for example, a negative would refer to the movement of bringing the bar down to one’s chest from the elbow extended position.
Another example of a negative is found in lowering the dumbbell in a biceps curl.
Why are negatives important?
These type of repetitions are found in every form of workout, however how they are performed is crucial. Most soreness that occurs in a muscle group can be largely attributed to the eccentric contractions of the exercise.
This is because during eccentric contractions a greater number of microfibers are “damaged” which causes more growth in muscle fibers, muscle size, and therefore muscular strength.
That is fine, and results will be had, but you can get much more out of your workout if you incorporate more focus on the negative reps! If more disruption in muscle fibers are found during the eccentric contractions, what would happen if the length of these contractions are increased?
More myofibril disruption and therefore even more strength gains!
How to add negatives to your workout
For the purpose of this article, I will be using the bench press as a primary example. Adding more focus on negatives is very simple for any workout.
There are really two ways of doing so; increasing time of the eccentric contraction, or weight.
Increasing time of the eccentric contraction
To increase the time, the weight of your regular repetitions does not need to change.
– As you bring the bar down, (the eccentric muscle contraction during the bench press) count off three to five seconds and don’t allow the bar to touch your chest until you do. At that point lift the bar back up to the elbows extended position and repeat.
– Adjustments may have to be made because the onset of muscle fatigue will be sooner than if you just let the bar drop to your chest in one or two seconds.
For example: instead of doing three sets of eight repetitions, once you include increased time on negatives, you may have to adjust and do three sets of six repetitions if you don’t change the weight. This way isn’t a true negative however, it really is just increasing the time under tension of the muscle, which is still better than a quick rep!
Typically, when you hear the term negatives, it will mean isolating the eccentric contraction at a very high intensity, almost always above the subject’s one rep max, and completely ignoring the concentric contraction of the exercise.
Changing the weight of your normal workout exercises isolates the negative repetitions.
Ideally in doing this, the normal sets and reps you do shouldn’t be able to be reached because it is a heavier weight that you are dealing with. The concept is still the same, however in this approach, a spotter will be needed to lift the weight back up to the starting position for you to do the next negative rep.
Whichever way you want to incorporate this into your workout, you will not be disappointed! Negatives could give you the edge to see the gains that you have always wanted to see!
Connect with Expert Jon Kilian.