After reading Ellington Darden’s new book The Body Fat Breakthrough and thinking back on discussions I’ve had with Wayne Westcott, Ryan Hall, Jim Flanagan and others and the results of a recent paper by James Steele, James Fisher, Jurgen Giessing and Franke Rothe I’ve decided to give negative emphasized training a go again. I wrote about my experiments with negative emphasized training three years ago, and recommend reading it for the general performance guidelines, although some of those differ slightly from how I’m doing them now.
Unlike the three to four second cadence I discuss in my recent article on repetition speed recommendations, which I consider to be a good compromise between tension, microtrauma, metabolic stress, safety, ability to maintain focus, and other important factors, because of the longer time spent performing the stronger, more metabolically-efficient negative phase negative emphasized repetitions favor tension and microtrauma over metabolic stress.
In addition to Westcott’s study (discussed in his book Building Strength & Stamina) and the impressive results Ell Darden has been getting with people following his negative accentuated protocol and the results I had using it a few years ago, the study James Steele told me about which is currently under review for publication got me thinking about negative emphasized repetitions again. Within a reasonable range, relative effort is much more important than load for improving muscular strength and size increases. This is part of the reason a variety of repetition methods, cadences, and ranges can be effective when performed with a high intensity of effort. Load is still an important factor, though, and the implications of the study are you should try to maximize both if your primary goal is bigger, stronger muscles (keeping to what you can handle safely to avoid not wrecking yourself in the long run).
In the study they compared three groups. One group trained to momentary muscular failure (MMF), another stopped short of momentary muscular failure (NTF), and another performed rest-pause repetitions and stopped short of momentary muscular failure (RP-NTF). The MMF group had the most improvement in strength and body composition despite not using as heavy a weight as the RP-NTF group, demonstrating the primacy of intensity, but the RP-NTF group improved more than the NTF group, demonstrating the effectiveness of using a heavier weight, and that less efficient inroading (from the rest between reps) does not negatively effect muscular strength and size gains. I suspect that a fourth group doing rest-pause repetitions to momentary muscular failure would have done better than the regular MMF group.
I have also experimented with rest-pause in the past with good results, but I think emphasizing the negative may be more effective for improving muscular strength and size than resting between reps.
I planned to follow the same protocol I had used previously, with a three second positive and ten second negative, but for the sake of keeping the rep counts consistent for comparison with I will instead be using a two second positive and eight second negative. Two seconds should be just slow enough to allow for reasonably good turnaround performance, and eight seconds is a slow enough negative and keeps the repetition duration around an even ten seconds, keeping the time under load around the same for the same repetition range (five to eight repetitions, for a TUL of fifty to eighty seconds).
In short, I’ll be using a 2/8 protocol and a repetition range of five to eight. I will continue my current routine, training twice weekly alternating the following brief, full-body workouts:
- Bench Press
- Lateral Raise
- Stiff-leg Deadlift
- Neck Extension
- Neck Flexion
- Standing Press
- Arm Curl
- Heel Raise
- Wrist Extension
- Wrist Curl
Other than reducing my daily kcal intake to around 1800 I won’t be making much of a change to my diet. The reduction will be from both carbohydrate and fat, which eat roughly equal amounts of, to maintain a protein intake of around a gram per pound of lean body mass daily. Of course, the clomiphene citrate and anastrazole will factor into my results, but I won’t know how much until I have follow up blood work done to determine the effect on testosterone levels.
In addition to reporting on my own results I will be using negative emphasized repetitions with clients whose primary goal is improved body composition. If you want to try this and have questions please post them below, and if you do please come back and share your experiences with them after a few weeks. I’ll be interested to see what kind of results everybody gets.
A note on the terminology: Ell Darden calls it “negative accentuated”, but I prefer to use “negative emphasized” to avoid confusion with the Nautilus negative accentuated protocol which involved lifting a weight with both limbs and lowering it with one, alternating sides each repetition.
I did not feel I was able to perform the turnarounds as strictly as I would like using the two second lifting cadence, so I increased the positive duration to three seconds. I initially reduced the negative slightly to keep the rep duration consistent, but have since gone back to the 3/10 protocol I experimented with originally.