Workout Tips

One-Sided Negative Gains

Use this eccentric strategy to spice up your strength-and-size gains.

by CSCS
machine shoulder press

Smart lifters know to take advantage of every inch of every rep. This means moving the weight aggressively through the concentric (positive) portion and battling gravity on the eccentric (negative) portion. What we sometimes forget is that the eccentric portion of the lift is where the greatest gains are made because this is where the most muscle damage occurs.

Research shows that you are approximately 120-160 percent stronger eccentrically, depending on which study you look at. But that means that your body can lower much heavier weights than it can concentrically lift, which also suggests that similar the same weight load can be lowered more times than it can be lifted.

Similarly, research shows that muscles produce 20 percent more force, on average, when training unilaterally. If you can barbell curl 100 pounds for 10 reps, for instance, you should be able to bang out the same number of reps for each arm with 55-pound dumbbells when training one side at a time. Researchers believe that this increase in force production has to do with the fact that the working limb is keenly aware of the fact that no one is coming to its rescue.

Putting It Together

A technique often used by strength aficionados combines these two approaches. It’s called 2-Up-1-Down. Essentially, you’re using both limbs to press or pull through the positive portion of the rep then releasing one limb and resisting the negative with one limb. You repeat this process over and over for a set number of reps.

To do it right, you should pick a weight that you could normally handle for 10 reps and you should strive for 5-6 seconds (at least) on the negative portion of each rep. Of course, the additional fatigue induced by the negatives means that you’re not likely to complete all 10 reps, at least not beyond your first working set. If you’re completing anywhere between 5-10 reps, you’re in pretty good shape. This technique takes a greater toll on your brain and muscle bellies and should therefore be used in moderation with adequate rest. Take 2-3 minutes between sets and aim for no more than 4-5 sets for a single body part in one session.

There doesn’t exist an unlimited number of exercises for each body part but you can find solid mass builders for your chest, shoulders, back, arms and legs in most gyms. Our list below can get you started.

2-Up-1-Down Exercises

Intermediate: This helping of exercises serves as a strong starting point for those new to this technique.

Machine Overhead Press

Smith-Machine Bench Press

Seated Cable Row

Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldown

Supported T-Bar Row

Leg Press

45-Degree Calf Raise

Smith-Machine Barbell Curl

Cable Pressdown

Smith Machine Squat

Advanced: These moves take more strength and coordination and should only be attempted by more seasoned athletes and/or under the supervision of an attentive spotter.

Jump Squat

Pullup

Bodyweight Squat

Smith-Machine Squat

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