Turning Negatives Into Positives with Eccentric Training

Learn what eccentric training or "negatives" is and how it can help you gain more muscle. 

Ben Greenfield

“Eccentric training” or “negatives,” which I first introduced in the episode "How to Get Better Results from Weight Lifting," may be risky, but it can pay off big time for muscle gain.

Basically, eccentric training involves lowering a weight very slowly during the part of an exercise when your muscle is lengthening. For example, a negative squat consists of putting a barbell on your back, sitting down very slowly (your hip extensors and butt lengthen as you sit), then standing up at a normal pace. To perform a negative bench press, you would lower the bar very slowly to your chest, then push it out quickly. One slightly more extreme form of negatives called “eccentric overload training” involves piling on a ton of weight--so much so that while you can (just barely!) lower it by yourself, you need a partner’s help to actually lift it back up. 

Although eccentric training can be risky, as it can lead to muscle injury, it can also help you see significant gains in muscle. A recent study  investigated the muscle gain effects of eccentric overload when exercisers did a leg press and a calf raise with a very heavy weight that they lowered slowly. The study used a variety of different weights, and found that once you get to about 138% of the amount of weight you’d be able to lift back up, you experience a really significant improvement in strength and muscle gain.

Be careful with this style of training, though, and only do it with a weight training partner you trust. It can certainly be a very effective way to gain muscle and strength, especially since, as the researchers note, “Eccentric overload provides a robust musculoskeletal stimulus that may benefit bedridden patients, individuals recovering from injury or illness, and astronauts during spaceflight.”

If you have more questions about eccentric overload exercising, join the conversation over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

Bench press image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Ben Greenfield
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