Negatives in Weight Lifting

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If you haven’t tried a complete workout that encompasses nothing but doing negatives, this post is to urge you to consider it.

“Negatives” or “negative reps” is the eccentric motion in weight-lifting. Every lift consists of three parts:

  1. Concentric – the muscle contracts (lifting the curl bar to your chin).
  2. Isometric – the muscle has force applied to it, but there is no movement (you squeeze your biceps while the bar is up near your chin).
  3. Eccentric – the muscle lengthens as you return to your original position.

All three movements have great value but it seems that the eccentric (aka: negative) gets the least amount of attention in the gym.

Why?  My opinion is that guys get too caught up in numbers.  Too many people gauge their strength by the amount of reps they can knock out.  Adding slow negatives to each rep will always decrease the overall number of reps, as your strength is used up quicker.. and doing less reps makes guys feel like their losing strength.

Luckily, you and I know better and we worry about the pump and not the number of reps, right?

For the best pump around, I encourage an entire workout of negatives.  I remember hitting a plateau several times while trying to bench 365 for the first time.  I was stuck at 345 for months.  It was only when I did negatives for a couple weeks straight that my bench finally jumped and I was able to attain my goal.

They work!

Chest day is the perfect day to try it out if you never have.  Ten to twelve sets of negatives and you’ll feel like you just rediscovered creatine for the first time.

Why Do Negatives Work?

The lengthening movement is actually when the micro-trauma of the muscle occurs.  Micro-trauma is the small tears to your muscle tissue during a hard workout.  It sounds bad, but it’s good.

We tear the muscle down, feed it lots of protein and amino acids and build it back up stronger.  Nothing stimulates micro-trauma as much as the negative motion of your lift.

Did you know that your muscles are approximately 35% stronger on the eccentric part of any lift?  This single statistic should be enough to make you want to engage in more negative reps.  If your muscles are engaged in such a way that they’re exerting maximum strength, you’re getting maximum results.

Negatives also help to build your tendons and ligaments in a faster manner than the conventional lift.

Studies have shown over and over that slow negatives create significant positive change in the body.  If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing a superb option for muscle growth.

How Do You Perform Negatives?

Rule #1:  Get a partner for “negative day”.  It’s a must.

You also typically want to go heavy when doing negatives.  If you have a 315 max on bench press, slap 280 on there.

Using the bench press as an example, push the weight to the top as quickly as you can (which is the typical way most people perform lifting).  Start lowering the weight very slowly.  Some people like to do a 5 count and some people like to take every rep to failure.

Going to failure can be tough on your partner if the load is too heavy.

Your partner’s job is to get the bar back to the top for you to lower it slowly again.  Make sure your partner understands to help lift the bar back to the top position as quickly as possible.  There’s no need to make you work extra in the concentric part of the exercise.

That’s it!  You’ll typically knock out 4 or 5 reps p/ set.  Shoot for 10 to 12 sets and feel the burn.  It’s isometric exercising at it’s best… except that it’s even better, because it’s eccentric.

It’s a muscle building secret almost, in that you rarely seen guys doing negatives in the gym, but don’t let that sway your decision.  One entire workout of negative repetitions and you’ll be hooked for life!  Do them once a week and you will improve your muscle size as well as your strength.

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