Our H.U.G.E.® (Hardgainers Ultimate Growth Enhancement System) retro-gravity hamstring routine incorporates both types of negative reps. In the leg curl exercises, go to failure on regular reps before doing 2–4 additional negatives. The negatives can be done without a spotter if you stop short of failure and then lift the weight with both legs and lower it with one leg, alternating sides on each rep. (In this case, do twice as many total negative reps as prescribed in our routine to compensate for the fact that only one leg is being worked at a time.)
On the Romanian deadlifts, a spotter helps lift the bar, then you slowly lower it back to the starting position. A Smith machine makes it easier to assist on these and other lifts because the spotter can stand out of your way to one side and lift up on just one of the bar’s collars.
Here are the pluses of going negative.
- ■ STRENGTH GAINS - Because you’re approximately 20% stronger on the eccentric (negative) portion of reps than the concentric portion, lowering heavier weights than you can raise overloads your nerves and muscles and boosts strength and growth.
- ■ MAXIMIZING EFFICIENCY - Since you spend half of every rep on the negative side, this adds up to a lot of workout minutes—you may as well focus on maximizing your effort during this time.
There are two potential pitfalls to emphasizing retro-gravity. Here’s how to avoid them.
- ■ HELPING HANDS REQUIRED - On free-weight exercises, you’ll need a spotter to assist in raising the weight. However, on some machine exercises you can go negative without a spotter by lifting the weight with two arms or legs and lowering it with one arm or leg, alternating sides each rep.
- ■ MUSCLE ADAPTATION - Your muscles will grow accustomed to the additional stress of negative reps. To keep negatives fostering new gains, include them in your routine for only two weeks every two months.
Because you’re stronger in the negative portion of reps than the positive portion, you can add resistance to the former. The way to do this during a set is via forced negatives. These are reverse forced reps in which the spotter makes the reps harder instead of easier. He pushes or pulls down on the weight during the negative portion while you resist.
For example, on retro-gravity pulldown reps, you’ll pull down the bar on your own (or the spotter can help you), then as the weight is lowered and the bar goes up, the spotter pushes down on the bar, increasing resistance. The key is for the spotter to add just enough to make the negative half-rep harder—but not hard that you can’t smoothly and slowly lower the weight for at least three seconds. With experience, a training partner should be able to add just enough resistance to negative reps to make them about 20% harder. FLEX