Turning Negatives Into Positives

Build strength, improve your movement, and keep your joints healthy by doing negatives!

What is a negative?

A negative refers to the eccentric action of a movement, or the action which externally forces the muscle to lengthen. It is usually the part of the movement where you are going towards the earth with the pull of gravity.

There are two types of negatives:

True negative - A true negative is where you are being fully overcome by either your bodyweight or external weight and physically unable to hold the muscle contraction any longer, forcing the muscle to lengthen. An example would be if you were holding your chin over the bar as long as possible before hitting full fatigue and dropping to the bottom.

Simulated negative - A simulated negative is when you slowly lower yourself to the bottom under control. An example would be if you were to begin with holding your chin over the pull-up bar for a set time and then slowly lower yourself to the bottom under control.

The significance of negatives (both types) is that your body sees the stimulus as a failure in which it needs to send support (protein and other nutrients for immediate repair and growth aka "hypertrophy") to the affected area to ensure it doesn't get beaten again. The result is that you get stronger!  

What are the benefits of negatives?

Build strength - As I already mentioned, doing negatives sends a direct signal from the body to the mind that it has been overcome and needs to get stronger. Our bodies are pretty impressive, but simple at the same time. It all really boils down to survival. Your muscles and nervous system perceive you doing negatives on the bench press in the same way as if you were trying to bench press a car off your chest to save your life. Your body doesn't know the difference; it only knows survival and reacting to the inputs you give it!

Improve your movement - Negatives are not only going to build strength, but they add intensity to the movement pattern in which you are trying to learn and solidify it. By slowly lowering from the top of the rings to the bottom (in a ring dip), you are given an opportunity to feel the muscles involved and improve the strength in that action. In most movements, the negative action is the same exact movement as the positive, but in reverse. So, in your mind's eye, just learn the movement from point B to point A first, and then you'll just reverse the action to do the full movement in the correct order.

Keep joints healthy - As I am now closer to 40 than 30, I have learned to appreciate movements that are GOOD FOR ME and avoid unnecessary risk. Negatives put time under tension and get all the things I'm after (muscle building, improving movement patterns, etc.) while not having to dedicate a high amount of training volume, time at the gym or risk of injury from having to use super heavy weights. Negatives can often be done with very little to no added weight because the stimulus is already increased by moving very slowly.

In conclusion, I am a big fan of doing negatives in your training and I can already tell that I'll likely have to follow up this post with some examples of the best ways to do negatives in your training on the rings. I actually have quite a few ways negatives can be done in our free False Grips Muscle Up Program

Until next time!