This will be the ONLY time I encourage you to focus on the negative. Bing Crosby sings about accentuating the positive, which is superior advice for your mental outlook, but not necessarily when it comes to training your muscles.
If you want to get the most out of your toning and strength workouts you will need to focus on “the negative.” The negative, when training, is the part where you resist the weight back to starting position; hence why we call it “resistance training.” The positive is the first part of each movement; so, the negative is the second part. Like Newton’s 3rd law of motion, for each action there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction.
By definition, there are two types of moving contractions: Concentric (the positive) and Eccentric (the negative). In a concentric contraction, the muscle tension increases to meet the resistance as the muscle shortens. During the eccentric contraction, the muscle lengthens while it’s still contracted and resisting the workload. It is the breaking force that directly opposes the shortening of a muscle. The easiest understood example is a biceps curl. As you lower your arm in a biceps curl, that lengthening movement would be considered eccentric or negative. The lifting of the weight is concentric/positive. Other examples are: the downward motion of a squat, lowering the body in a pull-up, downward motion of a push-up, lowering the weight during a shoulder press, lowering your body during a crunch, unfolding your leg during a hamstring curl.
Negative training is safer on the joints, because the muscle is contracted and protective. If you want substantial gains in muscle strength and size, then you can have a partner or trainer help you with the lifting phase; then you control the negative yourself resisting a weight you couldn’t lift alone—but that is on the extreme side.
A safer way to use negative focused training is to slow way down on your negative contraction. For example, in the biceps curl, curl the weight up one second, then take three to five+ seconds to lower it. Controlling the weight back to starting position is the key. Negative/eccentric workouts are used a lot in rehabilitation and safer for the older population as well. ACL injuries, patellar tendonitis, muscle-tendon injuries, Osteopenia, Sarcopenia, Tendinosis and other repetitive stress injuries are some common medical ailments that benefit from negative focused training. Another benefit is weight-loss by raising your metabolism. According to research from Wayne State University, a full-body eccentric workout increased the resting metabolism in athletes by nine percent and for no less than three hours following the exercise. So Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Negative, instead of the Positive—but only in this case!
A TRIBUTE TO MY DAD: I believe that if it weren’t for my sister, Lori, and my dad, I might have done something different for a living. My dad passed last year from complications from a simple colon surgery, but at the age of 84, still worked out in his basement workout area. I feel he was an encouraging factor for keeping at it at any age and any limitations. Thank you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there that exercise with your kids! Make it a point for them to see you in your healthy lifestyle routine. You make a bigger impression than you probably realize.
Lisa Turpin is a degreed and certified health and fitness lifestyle coach who has devoted her life to motivating and strengthening the bodies and minds of others. With more than 20 years’ experience as a group exercise leader and an independent personal trainer in the Destin area, she is diverse and extensively trained in classical and modern Pilates, lifestyle management, personal training, group exercise and post-rehabilitation.