5 Reasons to Add Negatives to Your Training

Negative, or eccentric, training is a technique in which you simply extend your time under tension in the eccentric portion of a repetition.

By Lara McGlashan MFA CPT | March 9, 2017

In bodybuilding, the athletes are always looking for the best way to get better, faster, stronger, leaner. They try all manner of training techniques, practice crazy splits or do insane exercises. Truthfully, the technique you’re seeking is one you probably already know, one that can get you the results and the physique you want with a shallow learning curve: negatives.

Negative, or eccentric, training is a technique in which you simply extend your time under tension in the eccentric portion of a repetition — the lowering or extending phase of a muscle contraction, as opposed to the concentric (positive) lifting and contracting phase. Before you pass over negatives as yesterday’s news, have a gander at these five, research-backed reasons to add negatives to your training:

1. You’ll get stronger. 

You are about 1.75 times stronger in the eccentric portion of a rep than you are in the concentric. This imbalance is theorized to be a kind of defense adaptation — your body does not want you to lift something you can’t handle and possibly hurt yourself. But research shows that by increasing your eccentric capacity you will increase your concentric potential by proxy, a transfer of gains that can help you push past failure in future workouts and break through stubborn plateaus.

2. You’ll save energy. 

Fewer motor units are recruited during an eccentric contraction, which means there is more load per unit in an eccentric versus a concentric action, according to research. Therefore, you need fewer reps to elicit big results, saving time and energy. Furthermore, over time your central nervous system is better able to recruit more motor units faster, a neural adaptation that translates into bigger growth potential.

3. You’ll get bigger. 

If you want to grow a muscle you’ve got to overload it, and adding intensity and time under tension with negative training can ignite the protein-synthesis process in the body. Negatives also recruit more fast-twitch fibers (which have greater growth potential) and several studies that compared concentric and eccentric contractions in terms of hypertrophic gain declared eccentric training the champion. In one study, fast-twitch fibers increased 10 times more with eccentric training than with concentric training.

4. You’ll be bulletproof. 

Well, at least better able to prevent injury. A study of competitive soccer players found that preseason eccentric strength training lowered the risk of tears in the anterior cruciate ligaments (ligaments in the knees) and hamstring strains, and other studies showed that eccentric training improved the strength of the connective tissues in the body, also helping prevent injury.

5. You’ll be more anabolic. 

Training at a higher intensity means a greater stress placed on the body; greater stress means greater adaptation, more motor units recruited, a higher release of growth hormone and an increase in the synthesis of protein in the body. Eccentric training also was shown to amp up metabolism for up to 72 hours after workouts, meaning increased fat burning and a leaner you.

Convinced to try negatives? Choose one of these techniques to try today:

Finishers

At the end of a set, make the last few reps negatives. You don’t have to increase the weight, just the time under tension: Take at least six to 10 seconds to lower. Eccentric overload Find a partner and load a weight that is above your one-rep max for a lift, up to 150 percent higher. Have your partner assist with the positive contraction, then let go as you perform the negative solo. 

For example, here’s how you’d do a bench press: Unrack the weight, do a slow negative (three to five seconds) using full range of motion, then have your partner essentially lift the weight back to the start. This kind of training is super taxing, so limit your work to three sets of three to five reps once a week per bodypart.

Two up, one down

No partner? No problem. Hit the machines and perform the positive phase of an exercise with both limbs, then the negative phase with one. To do a hamstring curl, for example, lift the roller with both legs, then lower it with one leg, taking up to five seconds for the negative.



About the Author

Lara McGlashan MFA CPT

Oxygen Fitness Editor Lara McGlashan has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor, who specializes in health, fitness, and nutrition. 

Lara is an ACE-certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. Her sports background includes skiing, snowboarding, flying trapeze, yoga, competitive beach volleyball, dance, mountain biking, hiking and running, to name a few endeavors. She is currently exploring the world of CrossFit in her home base of Connecticut, where she lives with her 2-year-old son, Alex.

You can follow her on Facebook at LaraFitnessEditor.