You may or may not have heard people referring to “negatives” in training. Let me help explain what they are and what they do!
Imagine you are doing a bicep curl. You start with a straight arm and bend your arm, lifting the weight as you do it. You would consider that to be a “positive” in this example. Now, as you straighten your arm again letting the weight down, that’s the “negative” part of the lift. For those with the medical/sports science lingo, it’s “eccentric” strengthening, as opposed to “concentric”. So, as you let the weight down, there is still enormous opportunity to get strength out of the movement, it’s not just about picking it up.
The benefits of training “negatives” extend not only to strength and bulk gains but also to strengthening the tendons. As physios, we recommend eccentric strengthening exercises (negatives) for longstanding tendon-type problems such as achilles tendinosis and tennis elbow due to the tendon-strengthening benefits of the exercise.
When performed slowly and in a controlled manner, there is potentially even more strength/bulk benefits to be gained training negatives than the positives. It seems to tell your body that the current strength you have for lifting that weight is not enough, and your body responds by putting more effort into growing that muscle. People often find that they get more sore than usual after training negatives.
“there is potentially even more strength/bulk benefits to be gained training negatives than the positives”
Depending on the focus you put into it, you can theoretically double the value you’re getting out of each set. That might not equate to double the size and strength gains, but that’s also because the gains you get from working out are not on a perfectly linear scale, but the value could still be double, considering the nerve, ligament, tendon and supporting tissue that benefits from your workouts. We’re not just all about getting big muscles, they can grow quickly and easily. It’s the rest of our systems and structure that takes more time to catch up and helps prevent injury and imbalances.
The same principle applies to any exercise. You can apply negatives with leg extension, tricep extension, calf extension, core – literally any exercise can be done this way!
If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth a go – let us know if you find yourself more sore than usual and you get better gains!
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