By Mark Barroso
Firing off each rep as powerfully as possible is important for strength and growth. But it’s only half the muscle-building, performance-boosting equation, says Joel Seedman, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist at Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, GA.
The lowering phase of your lifts, called the “eccentric” or “negative” phase, is just as important, yet most guys neglect it. And that’s too bad, because the negative provides unique muscle and strength building benefits the lifting phase doesn’t give you, according to researchers in Germany who scrutinized all of the science on the topic.
Seedman agrees: “For strength and building muscle, eccentric training is one of the most effective techniques.”
Seedman says there are a few key eccentric training methods that can help double your gains. Below, he reveals how you can apply the methods to any of your favorite exercises. Prepare to shock your muscles with a new challenge, eliciting incredible growth.
1. Submax Negatives
“This method gives you greater strength and size gains without causing the extreme soreness and muscle damage associated with using heavier loads,” says Seedman.
Directions: Use a weight equivalent to 70 to 85 percent of your one-rep max, or a load you’d use to perform 10 reps of an exercise. Lift the weight then take 3 to 5 seconds to lower it, pausing at the bottom of the rep. Repeat.
Exericises to try it with: Any barbell or dumbbell movement, such as a barbell back squat, biceps curls, or dumbbell bench press.
2. Supramax Negatives
By using a weight heavier that you’re used to, you’ll recruit far more motor units in your muscles. That spurs your muscles into developing new size and strength.
Directions: You’ll need a spotter for this method. Load a bar with a weight that’s equivalent to about 110 percent of your one-rep max. So, for example, if your max bench press is 250 pounds, the bar would weigh 275 pounds. Unrack the weight and very slowly lower it. At the bottom of the lift, have your partner help you push the weight back up. No spotter? You can also try this method using a power rack with safety pins.
Exercises to try it with: Total-body barbell movements, like the barbell bench press, barbell back squat, barbell row, or barbell push press (avoid the deadlift).
3. Double Gain Negatives
In this method, you use two hands to lift the weight, then one hand to lower it. A heavy load on the eccentric phase of the lift coupled with a lighter, standard repetition on the lifting phase allows you to express high levels of power while increasing strength and size, says Seedman.
Directions: You’ll need a lifting machine that allows you to use two hands each rep. So, for example, a row machine or preacher curl machine. Select a weight you can perform 10 regular reps with. Lift the weight with both arms. Release your right the right arm at the top, then slowly lower the weight with your left arm. Repeat, this time lowering the weight with your right arm. Go back and forth between lowering arms to failure.
Exercise to try it with: Any machine that has you use two limbs. For example, the biceps and triceps machines, back rowing machines like the seated row, or the chest press machine.