Written by Bryan Miller
Eccentric contractions, also known as negatives, are a proven strength building tool you should be utilizing within your training program.
There are 3 different types of muscular contractions:
Concentric – During a concentric contraction, the muscle is shortened.
Example: When you pull your chin up and over a pull-up bar.
Isometric – During isometric contractions, the muscle length doesn’t change.
Example: When you continue to hold your chin over the bar after a pull-up (static hold).
Eccentric – During eccentric contractions, the muscle lengthens.
Example: When you lower yourself down from a pull-up bar.
Theory states that, “during the eccentric contraction phase, the muscle is being damaged, therefore causing tears and consequently DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).” The upside to muscular soreness is that when the body repairs the damaged tissue, the muscle is theoretically stronger than it was before. Negatives are simple performing the eccentric phase of an exercise as slowly as possible to increase the time under tension and therefore maximizing the potential of the eccentric phase.
An interesting fact about eccentric contractions is that your body is capable of setting down a much heavier object than you can lift. Meaning, your muscles are stronger during the eccentric phase of a movement than a concentric phase of the same movement.
How does that translate to training? When performing pull-up negatives (jumping your body over the bar and lowering yourself as SLOWLY as possible) or any other type of accentuated eccentric contraction work, we are helping the body to become stronger by moving through a range of motion that may not yet be possible concentrically.
Real Life Application of Negatives: I used this concept and a whole bunch of negatives to bust past a plateau I had on strict parallette handstand pushups. Today, I am able to perform them concentrically, even though not too long ago, I could not do a single concentric one!
By adding negatives into your training, you can safely overload your muscles and produce great gains in muscular size and strength as well as proficiency in gymnastic and weight training movements. As always, ask one of our coaches for help determining what negative exercises are best for you and think about changing things up within your own program to achieve your goals!
1. Muscle Physiology – Types of Contractions, “Muscle Physiology – Types of Contractions”, June 05, 2014, http://muscle.ucsd.edu/musintro/contractions.shtml