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THE NEGATIVE ONLY WORKOUT: TAKING YOUR INTENSITY TO THE MAX - CityWide SuperSlow

We like to say that the secret to SuperSlow is intensity done within the constraints of safety. In other words, we afford the client the ability to work the muscles to their maximum capacity, and that person’s mental and physical ability, without a fear of injury. THAT is unique. That intensity and approach yields great results for those who embrace the work.

So what are the limits of intensity? What if the client wants to take it up a notch? What if they want to increase what we call the “inroading,” or “thorough inroading,” that is, taking the muscles to momentary failure, forcing the muscles to be worked at their maximum capacity.

One terrific answer to those questions is what we call “negative only”. Allow me to explain:

There are 3 parts to an exercise:

  1. The positive.
    This is the initial move, lifting the weight. It is the least strong part of a rep, meaning that it is the first component where the muscle(s) fails.
  2. The static.
    This is holding the weight. We have experienced where we can’t move it forward anymore, but we are still able to hold it and stop it from moving. Statically we can do more weight that we could positively.
  3. The negative.
    This is the lowering of the weight, or resisting phase, and it’s where we are the strongest.

In a normal SuperSlow exercise we, typically, “fail” on the positive and then hold the weight for 10 seconds. THAT alone is a most demanding experience. However, in reality, there is still some strength left from a negative standpoint. If somehow the weight was moved, positively, the trainee could still lower it slowly and the inroading would increase. The ” somehow ” is the trainer.

In fact, what if, from the beginning, the trainer moved the weight out for the trainee and they only had to do the lowering? THAT would be “negative only.” There would be no positive or static. Under those circumstances, the person is not only failing, but accomplishing it IN THE STRONGEST PART OF THE EXERCISE. Talk about deep inroading! There is one final wrinkle. Since the client is stronger at that part of the exercise, they can use more weight. So there is an experience and confidence from using weights that would normally seem beyond that person’s ability.

So what does this look like? Regardless of the exercise, the trainer puts on 10-20% more weight than normal. The client gets positioned in the machine as usual. The trainer moves the weight out and the client slowly resists the weight and lowers it. They do this until they can no longer stop it from moving. Our targeted time is around 1.5-2 minutes per exercise.

One question commonly asked: Is this more dangerous? In reality it’s very safe. Most injuries occur when someone pushes hard to get a weight out; not from the lowering or the negative. Obviously, the greatest risk comes from a ballistic move that is fast or explosive. This WE never, ever advocate.

The negative only exercise isn’t for everyone. It’s very demanding and mentally exhausting.

However, failing at the strongest part of the exercise is a terrific experience…if you can handle it.

By Keith Morton, Owner, CityWide SuperSlow