Why it Pays to be Negative in the Weight Room

Ok, so maybe that title is a little clickbaity.  The question is, how many of you would have clicked the link of a post titled “The Benefits of Emphasizing the Eccentric Contraction for Optimal Results”? I’m guessing not many.  Now you’re reading a quick post with a simple training tip that will translate into safer, more effective lifting.  Creating win-win scenarios is where it’s at.     

By negativity, I’m not advocating picturing your boss, ex, the guy who got your baby sister pregnant, or anyone else to get you fired up when you lift.  I mean, if that gets you to train hard than go for it but that’s not my bag.  That’s a topic for a different blog and a different blogger.  I like to keep it simple and focus more on lifting heavy stuff to get sexy and what not.

What I’m referring to regarding negativity for the purposes of this post is the eccentric or lowering portion of a lift.  Too often in the gym, lifters will completely ignore the negative and just drop the weight before flinging it back up with zero control or muscle activation.  This practice isn’t effective, safe, or generally worth your time. Furthermore, when you skip the negative, you are leaving serious gains on the table, check out this meta-analysis (Roig 2009) on that very topic. 

Peppered throughout this ridiculous compilation via OE Fitness are examples of no eccentric control among other things. Use control and avoid being featured in a video such as this.

In Ignition Protocol (available now on Amazon, click here), I discuss lifting tempos in detail.  Different tempos during lifting can be beneficial for a multitude of reasons.  Emphasizing specific portions of the range of motion, increasing time under tension, mastering control over a given weight, and many other benefits of strength training can be gained from manipulating the tempo with which you lift.  Varying your tempos is a semi-advanced way to train and takes time to get comfortable with.  (Unless you pick up a copy of Ignition Protocol, then it’s a breeze)

One easy-to-implement way of using tempo that benefits trainees ranging from beginner to advanced is slowing down the negative or eccentric and exploding on the positive or concentric.  Simply lower the weight slowly (3-4 seconds usually works) through the entire range of motion and then lift the weight as fast and explosively as possible.

For example:

Barbell bicep curl: Start with elbows locked holding a barbell.  Lift the weight through the entire ROM as fast as you can.  Lower the weight slowly by using a 4 second descent to the starting position.  Repeat. 

Dumbbell Pullover:  Start with the weight held over your chest with elbows extended.  Slowly lower the weight towards the floor as far as you can while keeping elbows extended and then try to move the weight back to the starting position as fast as possible.  Repeat. (I’m trying to move fast here but this got heavy)

Benefits of Lifting with a Slow Eccentric and Fast Concentric

·        Limits the amount of weight without sacrificing intensity.  Think similar muscle growth without as much joint, ligament, and tendon stress.

·        Eliminates using momentum or swinging during lifts.

·        Minimizes the stretch reflex at the bottom of a lift, forcing the targeted muscles to do most of the work.

·        Kills 2 birds with 1 stone by increasing muscle damage and resulting adaptation (hypertrophy) on the eccentric and boosting force production on the concentric. 

·        Essentially doubles the training volume compared to if you were not lowering the weight with any control or muscle activation.

Be negative. 

Use control, lift safer, and see better results by lowering slow and lifting fast!

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

Pop quiz

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