I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following question:
- How effective are negatives?
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].
3:07 – What are negatives?
6:04 – Should I only be doing eccentric training?
9:19 – How do I incorporate negatives in my training?
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey, Mike Matthews here and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today. Now, as you can imagine, I have fielded a lot of communication and a lot of questions over the years. I’ve easily gone through over 200,000 emails, social media comments and messages and blog comments since I got into the fitness racket back in 2012 and.
Some questions pop up more often than others, and some are very topical. Sometimes they are related to things that a lot of people are talking about, and so I thought it would be helpful to take some time on the podcast now and then and answer questions that people are asking me, ones that I think all of you out there may benefit from or may enjoy as well.
And so in this podcast, I’m going to answer one of those questions, which is, how effective are negatives are heavy eccentric reps. Now, if you have questions for me, shoot me an email, mike Muscle for life.com. Please try to keep it as brief as possible because I get a lot of communication every day. And you will hear back from me.
It may take me a week or two or maybe three if I am particularly behind, but you will get an answer. And if your question stands out as something that I think I should also answer publicly, then I may feature it on an upcoming q and a. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world, and we’re on top.
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Okay, so let’s get to today’s question, which is how effective our negatives are heavy eccentric reps. Well, to answer that, we have to first define negatives. What am I talking about? For those who don’t know, and during most resistance training exercises, you have two types of muscle action. You have concentric and ecentric, and the concentric actions involve shortening a muscle.
Like when you are lifting the weight upward in a biceps curl, for example, and the eccentric actions involve lengthening the muscle, like when you’re lowering the weight in a biceps curl. Now research shows that only doing the eccentric portion of an exercise, so only lowering the weight on the dumbbell curl, for example, is slightly superior for muscle building than only doing the concentric.
Portion the contraction, which is surprising to many people who are into weightlifting and who didn’t know that. It’s a bit counterintuitive because many of us weightlifters have always been very focused on contracting muscles as hard as we can. We think that that’s the real anabolic stimulus of training and many people neglect the eccentric, the lowering of the weight in the biceps curl, for example, they just kind of let the weight fall down so they can get ready to contract again, and that’s a mistake because the eccentric.
Portion is an important part of the exercise. It is part of the training stimulus, and so much so that if you had to choose between just doing concentric contractions in your workouts and eccentric lengthenings, you would want to go with the ladder, you would get better results from. The ladder, and there are various theories as to why that is.
For example, some research suggests that the eccentric contractions cause a more rapid protein synthetic response to training and a greater increase in anabolic hormones. But we also have to consider the load That may explain why eccentric lengthenings appear to be more effective than concentric contractions because anybody who has.
Done negatives knows that you can use more weight when you are only doing the eccentric portions of exercises. 20 to 50% more depending on the exercise and as heavier loads are generally better for gaining strength, and that’s generally better for gaining muscle, particularly in intermediate and advanced weightlifters than it’s not surprising.
That research has shown that when you do heavy negatives, heavy eccentric contractions, that is a stronger muscle building stimulus than lighter concentric contractions. And another piece of evidence in support of that is studies that show that when total work is matched in the concentric and eccentric groups, the advantage of eccentric training more or less disappears.
The difference in muscle growth becomes much smaller. And so then if the main benefit of eccentric training is that you can use heavier weights and that forces your muscles to work harder, you may be wondering if you should be doing a lot of it. Then should you be doing only eccentric training? Should you do nothing but eccentric training maybe on certain exercises?
For short periods of time, maybe two weeks or four weeks. Well, no. You should not just be doing eccentric training in your workouts or even doing primarily eccentric training. Most of your training should be traditional, conventional concentric, followed by eccentric research shows that that produces the best overall results.
But two things. One, you should pay attention to the eccentric phases of any exercises that you’re doing. You should make sure that you are controlling the weight as your muscles lengthen. For example, when you’re squatting and you’re sitting down, that is the eccentric phase of the exercise for your quadriceps.
Your quadriceps are getting longer, they’re lengthening, and then when you stand up, they shorten. And what you don’t want to do is basically let your butt fall to the floor as fast as you can get it down there. You don’t want to just free fall down and then try to catch yourself as you get close to depth, and then stand back up Instead.
Your dissent should be quick. It should only take a second or so, but it should also be controlled. You should feel tension in your lower body. Well, really, because it’s a squat, you’re gonna feel tension everywhere, but you can focus on the tension in your legs and your. Glutes, for example, to make sure that you are using your lower body to control that dissent.
I mentioned the biceps curl earlier as well. Same thing goes for there. You don’t want to curl the weight up and really squeeze your biceps hard and then just drop it. The same thing goes for pressing. When you’re benching, for example, and you’re lowering the weight, you are stretching, lengthening your peck muscles and you wanna make sure that that is a controlled lowering of the bar.
It. It shouldn’t take several seconds. You don’t want to do super slow training that is less effective than traditional 1 0 1 or one 11 training. One second down, slight or no pause, and then one second up. But again, what you don’t want to do is just drop the bar and let it free fall to your chest. And then even worse, you can compound that.
Error by letting it bounce off your chest and then finally pressing it back up. It should touch your chest, but just barely. A little cue you can think with is, imagine there’s an egg on your chest and you gotta touch it but not break it. I understand that’s probably impossible when you are benching a lot of weight, but it’s just a useful cue.
To prevent you from bouncing the bar off your chest and to remind you to control the bar as it goes down. So just to reiterate, most of your training should be traditional weightlifting, but you can supplement it with negatives if you want. You don’t have to. It is almost certainly not going to make much of a difference in the big picture one way or another.
For example, you can gain more or less all of the strength and muscle that is available to you genetically without. Ever doing a set of negatives, but you may like them. You may just find them fun. Some people do, and that’s a reason to include them in your training. And if you respond well to them, and some people seem to respond better than others, you may gain muscle and strength a little bit faster if you include some negatives in your programming.
Now, as far as incorporating negatives into your training, I haven’t done this in a while, but if I were going to do it, Here is how I would do it. I wouldn’t do more than one round of negatives per training session, and I would do them after my normal sets for an exercise. So let’s say I wanted to do negatives on the bench.
I would first do, for example, right now, I would do four hard sets on my bench press, and then I would follow. That up with one or two of my negative sets, and that would be it for that workout. I wouldn’t do more negatives on the next exercise. The next, let’s say in this case, uh, right now it would be an incline dumbbell press.
I wouldn’t then go do my four hard sets on the incline dumbbell press plus negatives there. Just one round of negatives per session, one or two sets per round, depending on how I am feeling. And I also wouldn’t do that more than once per week for an individual muscle group because research shows that negatives may cause more muscle damage, which then means that more recovery is needed, and my programming is already.
Fairly difficult as it is. I’m doing 15 or so hard sets per major muscle group per week, and I’m working with heavy weights and taking all sets close to muscle failure and so forth. Now, I suppose one exception to that would be if I wanted to do a round of negatives for my biceps and triceps, let’s say two smaller muscle groups, that would be okay.
But if I’m training a bigger muscle group like the chest or my back or my legs, or. Or if I’m doing bigger exercises like the overhead press, the shoulders aren’t a big muscle group, but the overhead press is a big exercise. It involves more than just the shoulders. I would only do, again, one round of negatives, and that may just be one set after my normal hard sets that I’m doing as a part of my regular.
Programming and I may do two depending on how I feel. And also, again, I would not do that more than once per week if you’re doing what I just said and you are feeling fully recovered and you’re feeling up to another round of negatives for the same muscle group. Then I would say that’s probably okay.
You could probably do two a week. In that case, maybe you’re lean bulking and maybe you’re young and invincible and sleeping great, and so on and so forth, and you want to try two uh, negative sessions per week for an individual muscle group, I would say. Then you can probably do that. You just have to keep an eye on how it affects your recovery.
Now as far as how to actually do those negatives, how to do those one or two heavy eccentric sets once or twice per week per major muscle rope that you want to load this way. The technique that most people are familiar with is the supermax technique, the technique where you put more weight on the bar than you can even do one regular.
Rep with, and for most people, that is 110 to 130% of one rep max. And then you get a spotter, which is the key to this entire technique. You cannot forget that because what you’re gonna do is you are going to lower the weight. I’m thinking of the bench press here, right? So you’re gonna lower the weight slowly.
If you are using 110 to maybe 115, maybe 120%, you should be able to make that eccentric phase last eight, nine, even 10 seconds. And if you are loading it heavier, if it is closer to 130, we’re at 130 or maybe even a little bit more. Then you can probably make it about four or five seconds, and that’s what you’re going for.
You want to lengthen that phase. You don’t wanna load it up so heavy that you can only control it for one second before it is on your chest. In the case of the bench press, And so when you’re doing this technique, you’re doing just one rep per set. So you do that one rep and then you have to rest a couple of minutes, and then you can do another set if you’re doing two sets.
And I know some people will recommend even more than that. They’ll say, Hey, do three, four, or. Five eccentric sets in your workouts and you can do more, but you’re probably going to have to cut back then on the rest of the stuff that you would normally be doing in that workout. You would not want to, for example, take a beyond bigger lean or stronger pull workout that has you doing 12 hard sets for your pull muscles, and then add three or four heavy eccentric sets on top of that.
That is too much for one session. You would have to cut back on your normal sets. And I personally wouldn’t want to do that because I know that it is the conventional training that drives progress. And if I am including some negatives, um, doing it partially just for fun and partially because it may goose my gains just a little bit, but hey, that’s me.
Your mileage may vary, right? You may find that certain muscle groups of yours respond really well to negatives, and so you may want to put more emphasis on them than I would, uh, not. More than just conventional training. Of course, that would just be silly, but you may want to do three, four, even five sets of negatives in a workout.
Just know that you may have to dial other things back if you are going to do that, especially if you’re going to do that for several weeks or even a couple of months of training. Now, one other method of negatives that I wanna share with you is particularly useful because you don’t need a spotter and it’s also a bit different.
And if you are going to include eccentric training in your programming, you should probably try both of the methods, the supermax, and this one I’m just gonna share with you and see what you like more. I always preferred the supermax, the overload method, but this other method is the slow rep. Method, which really is what it sounds like.
You are taking normal training weights in the range of 60 to maybe 85% of your one rep max, and you are performing the concentric phases explosively. So you’re contracting your muscles explosively, and then you are slowing down the eccentric. Phases and how slow depends on how much weight you have on the bar.
If you’re using 60, 65, maybe 70% of your one rep max, you should be able to drag out those lengthening phases to eight or maybe 10 seconds. But if you’re going with a heavier weight, if it’s like closer to 80, 85% of your one rep max, then you’re probably only gonna be able to do for five seconds. But that’s fine.
You just wanna make sure that you are slowing down the eccentric phases when you’re doing. Negatives, three to 12 seconds or so for those lengthening phases is the rule of thumb. And as far as reps, if you are using lighter weights, you’re gonna be able to do more reps, six, seven, maybe even eight reps.
And if you’re using heavier weights, it’s probably gonna be four or five. All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in.
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That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at multiple life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.