Physical Culture

Negative Only Beatdown

 The thing I like the most about High Intensity Training (HIT) is that its sustainable.  My usual MO was to choose a new high volume program, progress each week for a total of four weeks, and then almost like clockwork my progress would stop and I’d start to feel symptoms of overtraining.  I’d feel a lack of motivation/excitement and I’d start to dread workout sessions.  I’d switch up the program entirely and the process would start all over again. 

I’ve been on the same basic HIT protocol for roughly four months now with only a few tweeks here and there.  I believe the difference is that HIT is the only approach that allows me to fully recuperate from the workout stressor.  High volume, as I was practicing it at least, was acceptable in the short-term, but cumulative fatigue would slowly catch up to me until the four week mark.  Experimentation may have lead me to a level of high volume that would be sustainable for my individual recovery ability, but if less overall work elicits the desired response, what point is there to doing more just because you can?

I do think occasionally introducing a novel stimulus to the body is valuable, but I think constantly changing your program every month makes it tough to accurately gauge progress.  How much of the increase in poundage or reps is a legit increase in capacity and how much of it is simply becoming more efficient at the movement?  In other words, I’ve been doing weighted dips since December, so I know when I get stronger its because I’m stronger.  If I switch to flat bench and I get “stronger” the next week, is it because my arms and chest have gotten stronger or is it because I’ve just gotten more neurologically efficient at a new movement? 

My workouts are always intense, but what about an occasional “non-sustainable” SUPER dose of high intensity?  Sticking with the High Intensity precepts but kicking it up to a notch that would beat me into the ground if I tried to do it every workout.  Enter the Negative Only workout.  As you know, we are weakest in the positive, or lifting, portion of a movement, stronger in the static position, and strongest in the negative.  In other words, you can hold a heavier weight in a static position than you can lift, and you can slowly lower a much much heavier weight than you could hope to lift.  Generally, we work out to positive failure, but we haven’t come close to negative failure.  In this workout I’ll be reaching a much deeper inroad than normal by skipping the positive altogether and working with heavy enough weights that I fail within 8-10 reps of negative only.  I’ve decided I’ll do this intensive workout once per month and then switch back to my regular workout for the rest of the month.  These were my exercise choices and my comments:

  • Barbell Push Press w/ Slow Negative – Bad choice.  Push pressing a weight heavy enough to be a challenge for the Negative was far too demanding.  I couldn’t concentrate on the negative, I was too involved concentrating on the explosive positive.  I’ll have to figure out another option for next time.
  • Leg Press – I used my arms to help shove my legs up to the top position of the Leg Press and then lowered slowly.  This was extremely effective and I felt my quadriceps received an immense workout.
  • Bodyweight Glute-Ham-Raise – I hooked my feet under some railing and attempted to slowly lower my upper body to the floor using only the strength of my hamstrings.  I liked this movement.
  • Weighted Dip – This was meant for triceps and chest, but I honestly think the extreme overload wiped my triceps out too soon for my chest to experience a good enough inroad.  My triceps were completely wrecked though.
  • Nautilus Pullover – The foot pedal I thought would allow me to do a full negative actually only brings the bar down low enough for you to get your arms in it.  I ended up having to do a quick positive and a slow negative.  My back was extremely sore the next day, but next time I’ll ask someone to help pull the bar down so I can use a heavier weight and a true negative-only.
  • Power Shrug w/ Slow NegativeAnother one I won’t repeat.  This was tough on the traps but I was essentially doing the whole exercise.
  • Hammer Curl on the Preacher Bench – This was an EXTREMELY effective movement.  I was able to use both arms to bring the dumbbell to its top position and then executed an extremely satisfying negative.  Loved this.

The next day I was sore from head to toe, with the exception of chest and shoulders.  All in all this experiment was a success.  I got an amazingly intense workout and I know I couldn’t sustain that intensity day after day regularly.  Obviously it wasn’t all good though and I’ll be refining the approach in the future.

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