Wait. What?! Yes, it’s true. A simple way to increase your muscular strength and athletic performance is to engage in a little negativity. But before you go beating yourself up and wallowing in your weaknesses, that’s not quite what negativity means when it comes to training. Employing negativity while lifting weights means slowing down and emphasizing the eccentric phase, or down phase, of your lifts to engage maximum muscle fibers.
The eccentric phase of a weight lifting move is the lengthening part of a muscular contraction. Eccentric muscle actions decelerate and slow things down, whereas concentric contractions accelerate or initiate a joint movement. In order for muscles to execute peak performance, protect joints and be fully functional both aspects of the muscular movement should be developed. For example, the upward phase of a bicep curl involves the shortening of the muscle into a concentric contraction when you bring your hand toward your shoulder. When you release that contraction, the muscle fibers are still engaged if you control the downward motion and don’t let momentum and gravity do all the work for you.
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Playing with the tempo of a lift will target muscle fibers that might not be as engaged if you consistently speed through the cycle. This eccentric focused technique, when coupled with adequate concentric contractions, renders increased strength and functionality.
Negative training is simple. After you complete your regular sets of any given exercise, try doing a set of the very same maneuver while lifting for a count of one and releasing for three counts. Or, slow down both phases of the exercise. Count slowly to four on the way up and count down from four when releasing.
Playing with the tempo of a lift will target muscle fibers that might not be as engaged if you consistently speed through the cycle.
In addition to modifying the way you lift traditional weights, kettle bell swings and medicine ball moves also tend to emphasize the eccentric phase of muscle movement. In addition, you might consider adding some resistance band exercises into your fitness plan. Rubber tubing provides resistance for the lengthening (negative) phase of most basic exercises like bicep curls, triceps press, squats and more if you pull the band steadily and don’t let it control you. Band work might look easy compared to hefting iron plates, but it’s not if you choose the appropriate resistance. Choose a thick band to ramp up resistance.
You’ll feel more positive about all the negativity if you give yourself 3-5 days of rest between negative focused workouts. Eccentric training involves more muscular force than traditional concentric training. More muscle fibers are recruited with this method, so you’ll need more time for repair.
So, how about it? Next time you step into the gym, slap a smile on your face and get negative!