Sunday at The 21 Convention in Tampa, FL I was honored to speak right after Ellington Darden, PhD, which was simultaneously exciting and a lot of pressure. For those of you knew to high intensity training who might not recognize the name, Dr. Darden was the director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries for twenty years during which he helped develop and popularize the machines invented by Arthur Jones, which led to him publishing over fifty books, and being named one of the top ten health leaders in the United States by the President’s Council On Physical Fitness. I first met Dr. Darden at Ken Hutchins SuperSlow Exercise Guild Convention in Maitland, FL in 1995, then after moving to Florida to work with Ken Hutchins was fortunate to have numerous opportunities to observe him training and speak with him about a variety of training and diet related topics. Although I consider Mike Mentzer, Mike Moran, and Ken Hutchins my mentors, Dr. Darden’s writing and our discussions have been very educational and influential, for which I am grateful.
His presentation covered the strength training program, diet, and impressive results detailed in his latest book, The Body Fat Breakthrough, and went into a lot of information on negative-only and negative-emphasized training and older research on how the body is capable of increasing muscle mass even while losing fat. Afterwards he answered several questions from the audience about how to perform his 30/30/30 protocol (a 30 second negative, 30 second positive, and 30 second negative) and his dietary guidelines.
Since I’ve had good results with negative-emphasized training I decided to give Ell’s protocol a go using a metronome to keep time, and it is absolutely brutal. Monday’s workout was shrug bar deadlifts, dips, dumbbell bent-over rows, one-legged heel raise with dumbbell, and neck extension and flexion with a harness. While it was easy to start with the negative on dips and heel raises on the UXS and the neck exercises, to get the weight into position for shrug bar deadlifts had to start with the positive, which I did in about three to four seconds. To get the dumbbells into position for the row I set them on a bench, got into position for the row and grabbed them, then stepped back so the bench would be clear of the dumbbells during the exercise.
The shrug bar deadlift was absolutely brutal, doubling my heart rate and leaving me wobbly for a few min afterwards. After the deadlifts I decided I should do the dips without weight, and am glad I did because on the second negative phase I wasn’t trying to lower myself slowly, I was fighting gravity all the way down and ended up only being able to do it in about twenty five seconds instead of the target thirty. The rows were equally challenging, and as I was doing them I noticed I was feeling all of the muscles involved, including my biceps, much more than normal. The burning in my calves during heel raises was torturous. Neck extension and flexion felt more fatiguing, but less irritating to my neck (I sustained minor neck injuries in car accidents in 1995, 2000, and 2006 which cause my neck to stiffen up somewhat if I don’t train it regularly). I have a feeling today’s workout, which includes squats, chin-ups, and presses, is going to be similarly brutal.
If you have a power rack, a better option for 30/30/30 deadlifts would be to load the bar on hooks set a few inches below the top of your range of motion so you can begin with the negative. The same could be done with a barbell for bent-over rows.
For the 30/30/30 overhead press, I plan to set the safety bars just below the bottom of my range of motion so I can squat under the barbell and stand up with it at the top of my range of motion to begin with the negative. For examples of how to do this with a few other exercises read Q&A: Negative-Emphasized Versus Negative-Only Training.
Considering the results Ell achieved with this protocol compared to his previous fat loss programs, I am starting to doubt my suspicion that more mechanical work is advantageous (so long as the speed is not excessive) and my experiences with negative-emphasized reps seem to support this. I would, however, still like to see a study comparing groups performing a moderate (4/4) and slow (8/8) cadence time-matched for a sixty to eighty second time under load (4/4 x 6-10 reps, and 8/8 x 3-5 reps) to determine what effect, if any, mechanical work has on muscular strength and size increases.
Depending on the outcome it would also be interesting to determine the effects of varying the ratio of positive to negative time under tension. Assuming enough subjects are available they could be randomly assigned to two additional groups with positive and negative emphasized protocols. By reducing one phase of the rep and increasing the other by fifty percent it would be possible to match the groups for both time and work. For example, a positive emphasized 12/4 and a negative emphasized 4/12. Wayne Westcott did something similar to this which I wrote about in Negative Emphasized High Intensity Training, and found the positive and negative emphasized reps (10/4 and 4/10) produced better strength increases in experienced trainees who had hit a plateau than other high intensity training methods like drop sets and forced reps, with the negative-emphasized producing the best results.
I usually don’t get nervous about speaking. When I’ve spoken at high intensity training seminars and conventions in the past my only worry was staying on topic and covering all the points I wanted to make in the allotted time since I have a bad habit of going off on long tangents, but I was nervous going on after Ell Darden. This made staying on topic a bit harder, and I might have even missed a few of the points I wanted to make, but the feedback from the audience after the presentation was great and one person told me that Bill DeSimone’s talk and mine were “life changing” for him. This year, instead of talking about how to exercise, I talked about how to think about how to exercise, specifically, focusing on the real objective and developing the proper mindset for exercising with a high intensity of effort.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend Doug McGuff’s, Bill DeSimone’s or James Steele’s presentations, so I’ll have to wait for the DVDs, but was glad to finally meet James in person after talking online all these years, and enjoyed talking with him, Bill, Ell, and Eric Daniels, PhD during the break.
For those of you who missed it, the presentations will all be available on DVD, probably some time within the next few months, and you can watch the presentations from previous conventions on The 21 Convention youtube channel.