What On Earth Are Negatives?

In Bodybuilding, Fitness by Rachel Smith

You may or may not have heard people referring to “negatives” in training.  Let me help explain what they are and what they do!

Imagine you are doing a bicep curl.  You start with a straight arm and bend your arm, lifting the weight as you do it.  You would consider that to be a “positive” in this example.  Now, as you straighten your arm again letting the weight down, that’s the “negative” part of the lift.  For those with the medical/sports science lingo, it’s “eccentric” strengthening, as opposed to “concentric”.  So, as you let the weight down, there is still enormous opportunity to get strength out of the movement, it’s not just about picking it up.

StandingCurl03The benefits of training “negatives” extend not only to strength and bulk gains but also to strengthening the tendons.  As physios, we recommend eccentric strengthening exercises (negatives) for longstanding tendon-type problems such as achilles tendinosis and tennis elbow due to the tendon-strengthening benefits of the exercise.

When performed slowly and in a controlled manner, there is potentially even more strength/bulk benefits to be gained training negatives than the positives.  It seems to tell your body that the current strength you have for lifting that weight is not enough, and your body responds by putting more effort into growing that muscle.  People often find that they get more sore than usual after training negatives.

“there is potentially even more strength/bulk benefits to be gained training negatives than the positives”

Depending on the focus you put into it, you can theoretically double the value you’re getting out of each set.  That might not equate to double the size and strength gains, but that’s also because the gains you get from working out are not on a perfectly linear scale, but the value could still be double, considering the nerve, ligament, tendon and supporting tissue that benefits from your workouts.  We’re not just all about getting big muscles, they can grow quickly and easily.  It’s the rest of our systems and structure that takes more time to catch up and helps prevent injury and imbalances.

The same principle applies to any exercise.  You can apply negatives with leg extension, tricep extension, calf extension, core – literally any exercise can be done this way!

If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth a go – let us know if you find yourself more sore than usual and you get better gains!

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About the Author

Rachel Smith


Rachel completed her Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of South Australia in 2006 and left private practise to open BodySmith Fitness with her husband, Matt Smith, in 2014. Rachel was awarded her Black Belt and Diploma from the Japan Karate Association in 2012. Rachel spent 6 years in competitive Olympic Weightlifting and in 2006 was ranked 7th in Australia in her class. Rachel spent 10 years in Gymnastics growing up, which set her up to springboard into her other pursuits. 😉 Rachel has extensively researched Health and Nutrition and this is her passion; to help people in their Fitness journey.