Heavy Negatives are a Good Idea
By Mike Westerdal
This article will assume that you are trying to increase your strength. If you
go to the gym to stay in shape, maintain your strength, or even worse, to avoid
getting fat, than don't waste your time reading this. However, if you set your
goals for yourself, have an open mind and want to get bigger and stronger than
Negatives can be applied to any exercise to help shock your muscles. First lets
review what exactly a negative is making sure everybody is on the same page.
Using the bench press as an example let's review a negative set. You will load
the bar with a weight that is about 40 lbs heavier than your one rep max. Three
spotters will be needed. The most important spotter is the one that stands
behind you because he will keep his hands on the bar throughout the entire lift.
The two remaining spotters will stand on opposite ends of the bar. Of course you
will need a lift off unless you plan on turning negatives into a positively bad
idea. You will now begin to lower the weight as slowly as positive. At first
you'll do fine, but about half way down you'll feel like you are trying to stop
the weight from falling. Once the bar touches your chest all three spotters lift
the weight to the lockout position where you start again. When you are lifting
poundage this heavy only a few reps will be possible so don't feel discouraged.
Okay so why in the world would you want to do this? Won't you look like an idiot
in the gym when three people have to pull the weight off your chest? People have
even said that the exercise is just an ego booster and doesn't do much for you.
Some clowns might even say that you are cheating! Well don't believe any of it.
Luckily, I'm here to tell you why negatives are so important.
1. Heavy Negatives Overload the Muscles
Most of us will agree that singles help improve strength because you overload
your muscles will heavy poundage that your body is not used to. Based on the
same principle, if you do negative sets with even more than your max weight you
will overload your muscles even further.
2. Conditioning Your Body
Let me give you a few examples of this. A basketball player who is shooting jump
shots while he is wearing ankle weights. A swimmer who does laps wearing pants
and a t-shirt. A football player preparing for camp by running in the middle of
the afternoon during a 90-degree summer day. A sprinter that runs with a
parachute tied to his back. How about a powerlifter that does negatives with a
weight that is much heavier than his one rep max. Are you beginning to see the
correlation? When you run in 90-degree weather, practice in 80-degree heat
doesn't seem so bad. When you shot jump shots with ankle weights, you feel
pretty light and explosive when you take them off. When it is time to unload in
each situation the body can perform better because it has been strengthened by
the overload. You get the point. Let's say your goal is to bench 400 lbs. If
you've never tried it, the initial shock might surprise you. If you've felt the
weight of 450 lbs and done negative sets with it, your mind and your muscles
will be preconditioned to handle the 400 you were aiming for. You've felt
heavier weight, making this weight seem lighter. Your muscles need to feel the
shock of heavy weight to prepare for a max. So why not take it to the extreme?
3. The Challenge
If your training lacks intensity I'd like to see you have the courage to take
this exercise lightly. Actually I wouldn't, but don't worry about it because
it's not possible anyhow. Your heart will begin racing, and you will be pumped
with adrenaline. Not to mention the fact that you have three people watching
you. You'll be ready to perform, because there is no other choice. This is more
weight than you've ever lifted in your life, so you will get psyched up for the
big challenge. As mentioned earlier, some people call negatives ego boosters.
They are partially correct. It does feel good to load the bar with the heavy
poundage. Whipping out a few reps will definitely give you confidence when it's
time to max out for real. The only difference will be you've felt heavier.
4. Letting It Down Slow
Still not convinced? Let me pull out the textbook for you. The eccentric phase
is the opposite of the contraction. For the bench press it is the lowering of
the weight. Many bodybuilders treat this phase as an after thought, which they
shouldn't because it is very important. Research confirms that the eccentric
component of a lift may be more important than the concentric phase for
promoting muscle growth. One study showed that, when compared to normal weight
training, concentric-only training required twice as many repetitions to produce
similar results. With normal weight training, during an eccentric contraction
(negative) you lower the same weight with fewer muscle fibers, and that means
that each fiber involved has to sustain greater force.
5. Get The Last Laugh
We all know variety is important as well. If you haven't done heavy negatives
before than give them a try. It may be just what your muscles are screaming for.
If you get funny looks at the gym, don't worry about it. You're not there to
impress anybody; you're there to get stronger. The only person you have to look
at in the mirror is yourself. The weights will always weigh the same so you
can't compete with them. You may want to practice negatives with lighter weight
before you jump right into this. Round up a couple buddies and show them why
heavy negatives are positively a good idea.
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