Negatives/eccentrics

Discussion in 'HST FAQ' started by Blade, Jan 21, 2003.

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  1. Blade

    Blade Super Moderator Staff Member

    Note: If you are unable to do negatives on some or all exercises, you simply use your 5RM (the load you used in your 6th and last workout of the 5s block with) for another 2 weeks. I.e. the load should be kept constant for the last 2 weeks of your HST cycle. If you have gained a lot of strength, you may increment the load further for a couple of workouts - but avoid going to failure.

    Eccentric lifts, or sometimes called "negatives", are when you use more weight than you can lift. Eccentric reps/negatives should be done in a controlled fashion. Aim for a lowering cadence of 2-4 seconds. Negatives begin AFTER the last 5-rep week. This is where Hypertrophy Specific Training differs from traditional routines. Never fear, if volume is kept low and training frequency kept high, you will experience breakthrough growth.

    If you train alone, there are many exercises you can't do negatives on simply because you would need a partner to help you lift the weight first. If you do train alone - or if you feel any particular strains or aches - I would suggest that you just continue using your 5 rep max for each exercise for an additional 2 weeks after finishing the first 2 week block of 5s. You should see good results using your 5 rep max for an additional 2 weeks.

    Exercises suited for negatives if training alone are any unilateral exercise using dumbbells, machines, or cables - aiding the concentric by using both hands or legs. On other exercises like dips and chins you can do the concentric by pushing yourself up with your feet.

    There are two approaches to the progression.

    - Select a load which is approximately your 2-rep max and do 1-2 concentric+3-4 eccentric reps for all 6 workouts of this phase. This is the easiest way and should be followed for your first try with the program.

    - After your last workout of 5s, continue the progressive increments for each workout until you can no longer control the weight on the descent for 2-4 seconds. You may also vary the concentric:eccentric rep number ratio. E.g for the first workouts in the negatives microcycle, you may do 3-4 regular concentric/eccentric reps+1-2 eccentric-only reps. On the last workouts of negatives you may do 5 eccentric-only reps. This is for more advanced lifters, as the injury potential would be greater from the heavier loads that will be lifted.

    - Blade

    For HST, you are adding negatives at the end of the 5s. So how long does it take you to lower the weight when you are repping out the last workout of 5s? Don't forget that the point of doing "negatives" in HST is to continue to increase the load while keeping the volume the same (number of reps and sets). If you are using a reasonable weight progression I doubt that you are going to have all that much control over how fast the weight lowers. When I'm doing heavy 5s I lower the weight the best I can just in order not to hurt myself.

    I'm not counting in my head or anything. If I am, then I haven't really reached my 5RM yet. When you are at your 5RM it should be heavy... So, when I start my negatives it doesn't all of a sudden get lighter. It should be heavier than the 5s were. That being the case, let the weight "stretch" the contracted muscle. Its not about fatigue or fighting gravity. It's about stretching a muscle that is contracted. The harder you contract it the more weight it will require to stretch it. Simple as that. How fast you stretch it usually comes naturally to most lifters. Why? because it is about the same speed as they have done all their other reps. Simply lower it in a controlled fashion.

    From a physiology point of view, lower a heavy weight too fast and you get golgi-tendon organ interference. The golgi will actually block muscle contraction to prevent tearing, and you aren't really making the muscle engage properly.

    Go too slow and the muscle is just fine, but the CNS is, in a manner of speaking, burning through its fuel so fast you can see the gauge moving. It becomes a test of isometric-strength endurance. This will make you better at doing really slow negatives, but it won't necessarily make the muscle bigger at that point.

    - Bryan
     
  2. Blade

    Blade Super Moderator Staff Member

    Methods of primary interest to the serious bodybuilder are negatives, loaded stretching (contrary to popular belief, this method does not require consuming alcoholic beverages prior to stretching) and concentrated loading microcycles. Let us briefly go over these methods and the terms used to describe them.

    "Negatives" is a bodybuilding term used to describe the eccentric portion of a movement or exercise. In research you will sometimes see it referred to as "active lengthening". This means stretching a muscle to increase its length while under voluntary contraction to resist the stretch. The result of this eccentric action is an increase in tissue micro damage and an increase in eccentric strength.

    Negatives are known to be responsible for the infamous delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that so many of us sadistically strive to achieve. The increase in eccentric strength is a result of neurological adaptations facilitating motor unit coordination during eccentric contractions. As bodybuilders, all we are interested in is the microtrauma.

    As mentioned on numerous occasions, we must have micro trauma in order to allow growth factors to "leak out" into the interstitial space, and thus to activate satellite cells. These satellite cells then donate myo-nuclei which help to produce additional contractile and structural proteins.

    Certainly I would not recommend negatives unless there were some evidence indicating there usefulness. Type II fibers are favorably activated by the muscle during eccentric contractions as compared to type I fibers. Type II fibers are those that contribute the majority of growth produced by bodybuilding type training. The stimuli from eccentric loading and concentric loading are similar except that the proportions of the stimuli from eccentric loading are different in some very important ways.

    First, the load that is placed on the muscle during an eccentric movement is not distributed over as many fibers as during a concentric movement (Ebbeling,1989). When measuring EMG activity, or the electrical activity in the muscle, Ebbeling found that it is lower during negative work at both maximal and submaximal intensities. This suggests that relatively few fibers are recruited to produce large forces. Therefore, under comparable workloads, eccentric actions produce greater tension per cross-sectional area of active muscle than concentric contractions. In other words, lowering the weight produces more load per fiber than lifting it!

    Does increasing the load per fiber as seen in eccentric contractions lead to increases in fiber diameter or simply put, GROWTH?

    Hortobagyi (Hortobagyi, 1996) found dramatic differences between subjects performing isokinetic concentric contractions as compared to isokinetic eccentric contractions. Muscle strength, fiber size, and surface EMG activity of the quadriceps were compared after 36 sessions (12 weeks) of maximal isokinetic concentric or eccentric leg extensions.

    Eccentric training increased eccentric strength 3.5 times more (pre/post 46%) than concentric training increased concentric strength (pre/post 13%). Eccentric training increased concentric strength and concentric training increased eccentric strength by about the same magnitude (5 and 10%, respectively). Eccentric training increased EMG activity seven times more during eccentric testing (pre/post 86%) than concentric training increased EMG activity during concentric testing (pre/post 12%). Eccentric training increased the EMG activity measured during concentric tests and concentric training increased the EMG activity measured during eccentric tests by about the same magnitude (8 and 11%, respectively).

    Type I muscle fiber percentages did not change significantly, but type IIa fibers increased and type IIb fibers decreased significantly in both training groups. Type I fiber areas did not change significantly, but type II fiber area increased approximately 10 times more in the eccentric than in the concentric group.

    It was concluded by these authors that adaptations to training with maximal eccentric contractions are specific to eccentric muscle actions that are associated with greater neural adaptation and muscle hypertrophy than concentric exercise. It is the specificity of this type of exercise that gives it questionable value to performance athletes.

    There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the optimal amount to weight that should be used during eccentric work. Rather than argue who is right and who is wrong, just remember that if a movement is too fast, say 1 second or less, not enough fibers will be participating to get good growth. If the movement is too slow, you begin to do quasi-isometric movements that fail to induce sufficient micro trauma. You may be asking, "how much weight should I use?". That question is answered by the amount of time it should take you to perform the eccentric rep. If it is too heavy you wont be able to slow the weight down sufficiently, if the weight is too light you will find yourself "lowering" the weight even though you could stop the weight from falling.

    Eccentric movements should be performed with the help of a spotter whenever possible. I make no claim that eccentric reps should only be performed sparingly. There is no evidence that I have seen that would contraindicate the frequent use of negatives in a "bodybuilding" routine. If you are a performance athlete you should focus on muscle movements that most closely represent those used in your sport. There are not many sports that require heavy eccentric contractions more than skilled concentric contractions so excessive eccentric work would thus be contraindicated.
     
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