Sometimes, all it takes is one small tweak to your routine in order to make a massive difference to your progress. This is particularly true if you’re interested in building muscle in an efficient manner, seeing as many people are using sub-optimal techniques in order to try and achieve results. Even among professional bodybuilders, training methods are polarizing and it’s hard to know precisely what the best way to stimulate muscle growth and increased strength are.
Thus there are many powerful strategies that end up getting lost and which never make it to the mainstream – strategies that could prove hugely beneficial for the average Joe trying to build bigger biceps or pecs.
Here we are going to look at one that can make a huge amount of difference.
Using Negatives to Increase Metabolic Stress
The strategy is simple. At the end of each set of repetitions on each exercise, you are going to finish by completing one negative in a very slow fashion.
In practice, this would mean the following thing for barbell curls: first you would perform say 10 repetitions of barbell curls to the point where you can’t do any more (failure). Then though, rather than just dropping the bar down, you would begin lowering it as slowly as you possibly could, pausing a couple of times on the way. You would complete this through the entire range of motion, right up to the point where your arms are completely straight.
This last part is called a ‘negative’, because it trains your ‘negative’ strength. Negative strength is usually your ability to lower something in a controlled fashion. Your biceps are designed to be flexors (meaning they flex your arm up), so gradual extension is a ‘negative’. On the other hand, pecs are designed to be extensors – pushing your arms outwards – so it’s by gradually bringing the weight down that you would complete the negative portion of the movement. In short, the negative portion of the movement is the bit at the end that you use to return the weight/your body to the start position.
Use negatives in this manner at the end of every exercise, and you’ll find that every movement becomes more potent and that you stimulate more growth every time.
Why Negatives Are Important
So why does this work?
The secret is in the importance of going to failure. You see, every time that you want to train in order to increase muscle growth and strength, you need to go to failure. The reason for this, is that failure comes once you have created enough microtears in your muscles and exhausted their energy supply. This metabolic stress and minor damage is precisely what triggers the subsequent growth of muscle.
But when you go to failure on the positive portion of the movement, you probably won’t have gone to failure on the negative portion. In other words, you still have some fuel ‘left in the tank’ and that means you could still be putting your muscles under more stress. Actually our negative strength is always much greater than our positive strength, so you could likely do considerably more before you’d have gone all the way to your true maximum effort.
By adding this extra movement on the end of your repetitions then, you’ll be increasing the microtears because you’ll be going for longer and you’ll trigger more of a hormonal response because you’ll be training for longer.
Try it next time you work out and I promise you’ll feel it working…