Being negative isn’t always a bad thing.
Of course, I’m not talking here about a negative attitude–you already know how I feel about the damaging effects of that from my previous post on “Negativity“.
Negative, or Negative-only, training, means performing only the lowering of the weight. You avoid the lifting of the weight under your own power altogether, by either having someone else lift it for you, or getting yourself into position to do the lowering only.
To perform a strength training exercise in negative-only fashion, you start out in the contracted, or finish, position of the exercise, then slowly lower yourself under control to the extended, or start, position. We shoot for 8 seconds per repetition, 6-10 reps, and terminate the exercise when the rep speed can no longer be controlled.
For example, to do negative-only chinups, you could either have your training partner push you up until your chin is over the bar, or you could climb up there yourself by stepping on a small step ladder or chair. Once in that position, you carefully get yourself into a hanging position, then slowly lower yourself to the bottom (in about 8 seconds). Once at the bottom, you once again use your method of assistance to get to the top again and repeat the lowering. You only count and record the reps where you can lower yourself under full control; once you can’t control the speed of your descent any more, you terminate the exercise.
Why do negative only training?
During the negative, or lowering, phase of a repetition, the muscle fibers involved are lengthening under tension. Your muscles are much stronger during this phase than during the positive, or lifting phase. Even when you reach positive failure during an exercise, and can no longer lift a certain weight with good form, the truth is there is still a lot of strength left in that muscle. Negative training allows you to tap into that unused strength, overloading the muscle at a much deeper level, and stimulating it to respond by growing bigger and stronger.
This type of overload has tremendous strength and muscle building properties. It is possible to get VERY big and strong VERY quickly with negative only training.
In the early days of Nautilus and High Intensity Training, Arthur Jones himself reported outstanding results from negative-only training in an article in Ironman Magazine entitled “The Best Kind of Exercise”:
“For the last several months, we have had all of our trainees on a program of exercises strictly limited to NEGATIVE ONLY resistance – and the results have been by far the best that we have ever produced. Casey Viator is now bigger than he has ever been before at the same bodyweight – his muscular measurements and strength are at a level equal to the best in his life, but at a 15 pound lower bodyweight. When we get him back to his highest previous bodyweight, I almost shudder to think what his measurements will then be – but it is already obvious that they will be far larger than ever before.
During a phone conversation with Boyer Coe last night, he told me that he has gained 5 pounds of muscular bodyweight from two weeks of negative only training, using a very brief program that I suggested to him. He also said that his training partner has gained 12 pounds of muscular weight from the same negative only workouts – in two weeks.
Our office manager, Tim Cook, has gained more than two inches on his arms from less than two months of negative only workouts – workouts so brief that they are almost ridiculous.”
How do you utilize negative-only training in a workout?
One way is to perform the whole set in negative-only fashion, where you avoid lifting the weight yourself all together. The 2 exercises that lend themselves well to this method are chinups and dips.
For other exercises, you will most likely need a spotter or two to help you get the weight into the finish position for you, so that you can then lower it yourself back to the start position.
For arm exercises, you can use your free arm to lift the weight for you, then lower the weight with the arm that is holding the weight.
You can also add a negative-only rep or two at the end of a normal set to totally wipe out that muscle group. Usually you will need a spotter to help you get the weight into the finish position of the exercise so you can lower it. (This is demonstrated in the FREE advanced training video offered on this blog, on the preacher curl exercise-if you didn’t see it grab your copy now.)
For negative-only training to be most effective, you need to realize that your muscles are at least 40 to 50% stronger on the lowering of a weight than they are on the lifting. So, if you can do 10 or more regular chinups with your bodyweight, you will need to add extra weight to yourself (there are harnesses available for this purpose, pictured below).
Negative only training can be a great high intensity training technique you can use in your strength training program to build muscle fast.
This video features Java Jon performing negative-only chinups as part of his High Intensity Muscle Building workout.
Negatives are really positive,
Author of High Intensity Muscle Building
Let me know what you think about negative-only training by leaving a comment.