When it comes to building strength and muscle mass the negative portion of the exercise is often overlooked. Max Bench Press contestants, bodybuilders and pro athletes all use negatives to improve strength and to build muscle and to get an edge in their sport. So how can you use negatives? Let me explain.
3 phases of exercise movement:
Positive: Contracting the muscle, as in curling a weight up or bench pressing it up.
Static: Not moving, bracing yourself against the weight.
Negative: Extending the muscle, as in lowering the weight. Ex bench press lowering the weight to your chest
These phases are found in all exercise movements. In this blog post I’m focusing on the negative portion of the exercise movement, that is, the extension of the muscle. The amount of resistance or weight your muscles can take varies greatly over the 3 phases.
Let’s use the bench press for an example. Let’s say your 1 REP MAX bench press if 275lbs. This is the absolute maximum weight you can move during the positive phase. No if you were to hold that weight half way down you will find your stronger, you can hold a heavier weight. On average guys are about 20% stronger on the static phase.
Now this is where it really get’s interesting, the amount of weight you can lower to your chest (the negative phase) is even higher than that!! In most cases you can lower between 40% and 50% more weight that you can push up. This means in the negative phase you’re about 50% stronger!!
The reason why your negative and static phases are stronger that your positive phase is because your body doesn’t want you to pick up anything you can’t handle. For example, if it were the other way around let’s say you picked up a heavy weight 300 lbs and held it over your head, but you would not be able to lower it without dropping it. You would be in a lot of trouble!!
How negative training works
Negative training is just one part of a multi-faceted approach to building muscle. Like many other muscle building techniques, negatives work by overloading your muscles, shocking your muscles and tricking your muscles body into thinking you are moving a heavier weight on the positive phase.
Negative training allows you to push past you body’s safety limit and move weight you would normally not be able to. This type of training is particularly effective if you’re plateauing and you are currently having problems with increasing the weights you currently work out with.
There are 3 basic styles of negative training. Both are very effective, and can be used in combination with your current workout. Let’s take a look at these 3 styles:
Only negative sets
As the name suggests, only negative training is when your sets only consist of negatives.
Finishing negative sets
Finishing negatives are when negatives are used to finish off a set. Usually the last 2-3 reps of a set.
like a regular superset, but using a set of negatives.
How to do negatives
There are key points that you need to understand to get the benefits of training with negatives. First, you need to go very slow
You should take at least 5 seconds to lower the weight.
Second, you must use the longest range of motion that is possible.
This means all the way down for the bench, and arms fully extended for the bicep curl.
Negatives are most effective for low reps this means no more than 8 reps per set. Additionally, negatives will lose their value if you do them every single workout. You should use negatives to add variety to your workouts; you must use an all-around approach to building muscle. Negatives are just one way to train to build muscle and strength.
You can use almost any exercise for negative training. But the best exercises for negatives are:
- Bench press
- Wide grip pull up
- Bicep curl
- Bicep preacher curl
- Close grip bench press
- Shoulder press
Negatives can be dangerous!
Overloading your muscles can be dangerous and is not for everyone. If you’re doing negatives for the first time you need to try lighter weights and work up to something you’re comfortable with.
When training with bench press negatives you need at least two spotters. Training up to 50% more than your 1 REP MAX requires at least two people to lift the weight up off your chest. As mentioned earlier finishing negatives are when negatives are used to finish off a set usually the last 2-3 reps of a set. This is much safer than doing regular negatives where you are using 50% more than your 1 Rep Max.
Always remember, safety first you don’t want to injury yourself seriously or permanently.
In closing, negatives should be included into your all around approach to muscle building. You should not replace your workout with negatives, but integrate them into your current routine to add intensity and to add variety.