Supramaximal Eccentric Training (SET) is a simple idea with a long name. Basically, it is using more weight on the eccentric portion of a lift (the lowering of the bar in the bench press) than you could handle concentrically (pressing motion in the bench press.) Even more basically… it means doing heavy negatives.

The Science

Studies have shown that we can handle 20-60% greater loads eccentrically than we can concentrically. During traditional lifting we choose our load based on what we can complete a full lift with, because of this the eccentric portion of our lifts are repetitively underloaded.

One study revealed greater improvements in strength after a period of maximal eccentric loading (with spotters helping on the concentric portion) versus a period of traditional. The increase in strength was accredited to larger total forces experienced by the neuromuscular system.

The research shows what serious powerlifters have known for years…heavy negatives get you stronger!

Now that we have the science out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out what this means to the iron warrior.

How to Incorporate in Your Training

During SET all we care about is the eccentric portion of the lift and weights will far exceed your 1RM, so spotters will be needed to help with the concentric part of the lift.

There are a couple ways of achieving this supramaximal eccentric load.

  1. The first requires at least one spotter. Load the bar with 105-115% of your 1RM and lower it as slow as you can, once you lower it to chest, have your spotter lift the weight off your chest back up to lockout.
  2. The second viable way to achieve this load requires the use of weight hooks. Load the bar with less than your 1RM (maybe about 80%) and then load up the weighted hooks so that the resulting sum of all the weight is 105-115% of your 1RM. Set up the hooks so that they release right at the level when the bar is at your chest. Lower the bar as slow as possible, once at your chest the hooks with the added weight will release and you can press the bar up (or have your spotter help with the concentric portion.

Chest Workout - Bench Press

Both methods achieve the same goal, but if you have a pencilneck for a training partner it may be safer to use method 2 because they will not have to lift as much weight off of you.

Aside from all the physical benefits of doing heavy eccentrics, they also have a positive effect on the mental aspect of your lifting. If you have been handling 115% eccentrically, you will be more confident heading into your next max out day. You know you can lower the weight under control, so now you won’t be scared of it crashing down on you when you go to do a full lift!

Because of the extremely high loads involved in SET, it is not something that should be tried with the novice lifter. Make sure your base is strong so that your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are prepared to successfully handle extreme loads.

Also, heavy eccentric movements have been shown to increase DOMS and can take anywhere from 7-10 days to fully recover from. So, they should be used wisely and not more than once a week for 4 weeks in a row. Using SET too much can easily lead to a state of overtraining.

Do a 4 week cycle incorporating heavy eccentrics once a week (after your working sets of bench press), then stay away from them for 6-8 weeks. Start out by using 105% for 3 sets of 3-5 reps.

If you are looking for something to supersize your bench, load that bar up and incorporate supramaximal eccentric training.