This article will assume that you are trying to increase your strength. If you go to the gym to stay in shape, maintain your strength, or even worse, to avoid getting fat, than don't waste your time reading this. However, if you set your goals for yourself, have an open mind and want to get bigger and stronger than read on.
Negatives can be applied to any exercise to help shock your muscles. They are specifically included in the Critical Bench Program to help you increase your bench press. First lets review what exactly a negative is making sure everybody is on the same page. Using the bench press as an example let's review a negative set. You will load the bar with a weight that is about 40 lbs heavier than your one rep max. (If you don't know your one rep max you can look it up on this chart: http://www.criticalbench.com/chart.htm) Three spotters will be needed. The most important spotter is the one that stands behind you because he will keep his hands on the bar throughout the entire lift. The two remaining spotters will stand on opposite ends of the bar. Of course you will need a lift off unless you plan on turning negatives into a positively bad idea. You will now begin to lower the weight as slowly as positive. At first you'll do fine, but about half way down you'll feel like you are trying to stop the weight from falling. Once the bar touches your chest all three spotters lift the weight to the lockout position where you start again. When you are lifting poundage this heavy only a few reps will be possible so don't feel discouraged.
Okay so why in the world would you want to do this? Won't you look like an idiot in the gym when three people have to pull the weight off your chest? People have even said that the exercise is just an ego booster and doesn't do much for you. Some clowns might even say that you are cheating! Well don't believe any of it. Luckily, I'm here to tell you why negatives are so important.
1. Heavy Negatives Overload the Muscles
Most of us will agree that singles help improve strength because you overload your muscles will heavy poundage that your body is not used to. Based on the same principle, if you do negative sets with even more than your max weight you will overload your muscles even further.
2. Conditioning Your Body
Let me give you a few examples of this. A basketball player who is shooting jump shots while he is wearing ankle weights. A swimmer who does laps wearing pants and a t-shirt. A football player preparing for camp by running in the middle of the afternoon during a 90-degree summer day. A sprinter that runs with a parachute tied to his back. How about a powerlifter that does negatives with a weight that is much heavier than his one rep max. Are you beginning to see the correlation? When you run in 90-degree weather, practice in 80-degree heat doesn't seem so bad. When you shot jump shots with ankle weights, you feel pretty light and explosive when you take them off. When it is time to unload in each situation the body can perform better because it has been strengthened by the overload. You get the point. Let's say your goal is to bench 400 lbs. If you've never tried it, the initial shock might surprise you. If you've felt the weight of 450 lbs and done negative sets with it, your mind and your muscles will be preconditioned to handle the 400 you were aiming for. You've felt heavier weight, making this weight seem lighter. Your muscles need to feel the shock of heavy weight to prepare for a max. So why not take it to the extreme?
3. The Challenge
If your training lacks intensity I'd like to see you have the courage to take this exercise lightly. Actually I wouldn't, but don't worry about it because it's not possible anyhow. Your heart will begin racing, and you will be pumped with adrenaline. Not to mention the fact that you have three people watching you. You'll be ready to perform, because there is no other choice. This is more weight than you've ever lifted in your life, so you will get psyched up for the big challenge. As mentioned earlier, some people call negatives ego boosters. They are partially correct. It does feel good to load the bar with the heavy poundage. Whipping out a few reps will definitely give you confidence when it's time to max out for real. The only difference will be you've felt heavier.
4. Letting It Down Slow
Still not convinced? Let me pull out the textbook for you. The eccentric phase is the opposite of the contraction. For the bench press it is the lowering of the weight. Many bodybuilders treat this phase as an after thought, which they shouldn't because it is very important. Research confirms that the eccentric component of a lift may be more important than the concentric phase for promoting muscle growth. One study showed that, when compared to normal weight training, concentric-only training required twice as many repetitions to produce similar results. With normal weight training, during an eccentric contraction (negative) you lower the same weight with fewer muscle fibers, and that means that each fiber involved has to sustain greater force.
5. Get The Last Laugh
We all know variety is important as well. If you haven't done heavy negatives before than give them a try. It may be just what your muscles are screaming for. If you get funny looks at the gym, don't worry about it. You're not there to impress anybody; you're there to get stronger. The only person you have to look at in the mirror is yourself. The weights will always weigh the same so you can't compete with them. You may want to practice negatives with lighter weight before you jump right into this. Round up a couple buddies and show them why heavy negatives are positively a good idea.