If you’ve stopped seeing progress in your weight training program and want to challenge your muscles in a new way, try emphasizing the negative. Negative weight training that is.
What is Negative Weight Training?
Strength training exercises consist of two movements. The portion where you’re contracting the muscle and generating force is called the concentric movement. When you do biceps curls, the concentric part is when you lift the barbell or dumb bell up.
The portion of the exercise where you lower the weight back down is called the eccentric movement of the exercise. During the eccentric movement the muscle is lengthening, yet it’s still contacting to some degree to help lower the weight in a controlled manner. This eccentric movement is referred to as the “negative.”
Negative weight training is training that emphasizes the negative portion of a strength training exercise. Instead of lowering the weight in only a few seconds, you would consciously slow down and lower the weight over a period of between 5 to 10 seconds.
Negative weight training doesn’t sound that hard, at least until you try it. When you’re lowering a weight slowly, and your muscles are already fatigued, even 5 seconds seems like an eternity. With negative weight training, you can’t use momentum, and you have to maintain muscle tension throughout the entire exercise. It’s challenging, but there are benefits. Emphasizing the eccentric portion of the exercise can stimulate greater muscle growth.
Muscles grow when they’re challenged to the point that muscle fibers develop microscopic tears. It’s the repair of these tears that cause the muscle to become larger and stronger. Emphasizing the negative portion of an exercise causes greater muscle damage, which stimulates more growth. The downside is the additional damage causes more inflammation and soreness after a workout when you first start doing it, but over time your muscles become more resistant to injury.
Emphasizing the eccentric movement and really slowing it down causes more muscle damage, which means you’ll be pretty sore a few days afterwards. Because of the additional stress negative training places on muscles, limit negative weight training to once every 7 days for each muscle group. It’s not a technique for beginners. You should have at least 6 months of weight training experience behind you before adding eccentric training to your workout.
Eccentric training can help you break through a plateau and build greater muscle strength. One study showed that 30 minutes of negative weight training weekly boosted muscle strength, increased insulin sensitivity and improved lipid profiles more than concentric training did. It’s a more challenging workout, but isn’t that what weight training is all about?
Limit your eccentric workouts to once a week for each muscle group to give your muscles time to recover, and lift a lighter weight than you’re accustomed too. Even at lighter weights, you’ll be surprised at just how challenging a negative weight workout can be, but you’ll enjoy seeing the benefits.