Negative Training with Bill DeSimone
- Can Negatives build bigger muscles compared to conventional high intensity protocols?
- Thoughts on when to use negatives as a good tool. Different types of negative protocols.
- A novel way of looking at ‘plateaus’ – the point where the trainee doesn’t seem to be getting any stronger.
- The potential dangers of negative training and how to avoid the big mistakes?
Arlene [00:00:01] The Inform Fitness podcast with Adam Zickerman and co-host Mike Rogers is a presentation of Inform Fitness studios a small family of personal training facilities specializing in safe efficient high intensity strength training. On our bi monthly podcast Adam and Mike discuss the latest findings in the areas of exercise nutrition and recovery with leading experts and scientists. We aim to debunk the popular misconceptions and the urban myths that are so prevalent in the fields of health and fitness. And to replace those sacred cows with scientific based up to the minute information on a variety of subjects. We’ll cover exercise protocols and techniques nutrition sleep recovery the role of genetics in the response to exercise and much more.
Arlene [00:00:59] On this episode Adam and Mike welcome back biomechanics expert Bill DeSimone to discuss an exercise technique called negative training.
Bill [00:01:08] You’re not proving that negative only training or positive negative or no negative is no better or worse. They all work. I think the real value of playing with the negative is it helps you get a little extra mileage out of a given weight.
Adam [00:01:23] We’re back with Bill DiSimone again biomechanics expert from Cranberry New Jersey.
Mike [00:01:34] This show we’re going to talk about something very negative.
Adam [00:01:37] Yes negative. Want to stay positive but we have to get negative. All right. So again current events and you know they’ve been some books out recently touting the negative portion of weight lifting. Those of you don’t know that negative is the lowering of the weight when you’re when your weight training and the positive motion is when you’re lifting the weight. So there is a school of thought out there been there for a long time but it’s becoming popular again and that is that the negative portion of the repetition is actually more beneficial than the positive portion or if you emphasize negative only type training that you get better results meaning to a lot of people bigger muscles and we’re going to talk about what’s being shown out there what the truth is what the science is if there is any validity to the fact that negatives have some kind of magical benefit or should we just be doing nice normal slow reps positive and negative and you know leaving it at that. So what would you like to say about that Bill?
Bill [00:02:37] Funny you should ask Adam. Just off the top of my head I feel like Sam Kennison with my rant.
Adam [00:02:47] Hopefully not as loud as, or as dead.
Bill [00:02:51] Beginning of the year roaming right. Yeah he’s kind of dead. Think of a more recent comic who yells a lot. I don’t know. It was tragic my car crash. I just get that I deserve a cheap joke I wasn’t. I don’t really know the guy. Anyway where were we. Where was it. So where was I. After the new year in a bookstore looking at the brand new crop of diet and fitness books I stumble onto one that I won’t name we can put it we can put the information in links I don’t I’m not looking to make enemies here. So it’s predominately a diet book with a couple of chapters on exercise. The gist of his exercise program is to work as a week to 20 second sprints with recovery sort of like Martin Kibala type protocols and the other work out a week is supposed to be a Doug McGuff type protocol like a Big Five routine only negative only advocating just negative contractions in the workout. With the justification that it’s more intense so you have to do a briefer so it ties into the whole just twice a week for 20 minutes in addition to that Sprint workout. I didn’t buy the book and I went to look at look it up online and sure enough there is a Web site so looking through exercise information on the Web site and it’s more negative emphasized exercise but almost reckless like lifting one dumbbell heavy dumbbell over your head lowering it with one arm for a press one a TRICEP EXTENSION we’re doing a one legged squat you know to negative failure and then switching legs. So it it’s really a cursory look really superficial look at negative training and then since I signed up for my free report in the following month I got 30 emails text messages and voicemails from the website calling me to buy stuff. And when I poked around a little bit deeper in the store is where they have the nutraceutical sales that you can get on auto renew. The point of the book wasn’t to convey information in a package. The point of the book was to get you hooked into this auto renew of the nutraceuticals, otherwise we use to call them supplements.
Mike [00:05:06] Like Infowars.
Adam [00:05:08] Yeah I was sensing a thousand times a ten second left ten seconds lowering.
Bill [00:05:12] So I would not regard that as a good source of negative training information that’s pretty negative. Yeah. Wasn’t I get a 30 second negative a 30 second positive 30 second negative thread and so according to this study a little eccentric little eccentric. Thanks.
Adam [00:05:30] Well having our friends Dr. James Fisher and Steele and company do some real research on negative training.
Bill [00:05:40] Well I think what those guys did was approximately the same degree.
Adam [00:05:44] So choose your poison if you like.
Bill [00:05:47] Yeah. More specifically what they did was compared to normal code cadence. Two seconds up four seconds down. I don’t think that you’re not proving that negative only training or positive negative or no negative. There’s no better or worse with a super slow cadence 10 seconds up 10 seconds down and then a 10 second pass. They all work especially compared to not working out at all. I think I think the real value of playing with the negative if you’re doing it safely for instance like is it helps you get a little extra mileage out of a given weight. So when you start lifting weights and you know the old Nautilus protocol you do 12 repetitions you add five percent. Dropped down to 8 12 at 5 percent. That works for the first year or so a training. What do you start training like. I like this guy. Like 40 years or so he should be.
Adam [00:06:42] He’s pointing at me.
Bill [00:06:43] He shouldn’t be side right. He should be side raising like hundred pound dumbbells by this point. And you know no one side raises hundred pound dumbbells or how many people bench press 300 like that kind of literal progression. If you’re training smart really have maybe a year but with some of these different wrinkles like Dardens for instance his recent stuff what it does is it allows you to get a little more effort out of a working weight. So the other book that came out.
Adam [00:07:09] Of me in other words a negative kind of holding the negative value so you get know 10 seconds out of out of a set because you’re just holding it.
Bill [00:07:18] You can manipulate the negative right. So for instance Darden also had a book out in January where he’s got a slightly different scheme. The 30 second negative 10 reps 30 second negative again. What he’s done with that is he’s tricked you into getting to 90 seconds with a weight. All right so if you would ordinarily have done 10 reputations I can’t do eleven. Now you add the add an incremental weight but it drops it down to two or three repetitions or worse your form gets thrown off.
Mike [00:07:50] As prolonging the road time a little bit as well.
Bill [00:07:55] You know you’re extending the set you’re making that given weight harder before you go into right form breakdowns.
Mike [00:08:02] Right. Which is a pretty good thing though.
Bill [00:08:04] Especially for the good.
Mike [00:08:11] But David just ended the podcast.
Bill [00:08:13] But especially for those of us who’ve been doing this stuff you know. Yeah.
Adam [00:08:20] My contribution.
Bill [00:08:21] But especially for those who have done this a long time or if you have a client you’ve been training for years. Like I said on that next increment of weight throws their form off. It’s a way you’re still using that weight they can handle safely but you can still get more effort out of it.
Adam [00:08:36] Yeah I find myself using with my clients naturally doing some negative when I raise the weight and it’s a little bit more aggressive than I thought it was. And it turns out that you can only get like three reps out of it. So instead of stopping the set and lowering the weight I had them do some negatives with that weight again to get some more inroad and to get some more time under load but it’s not something that I look at as a protocol in and of itself. It’s more of a reaction to a particular set to help get more time under load.
Bill [00:09:09] Yes it’s a tool as a tool. It’s the same I was looking for it’s the same it’s the same muscle whether you’re lifting it and lowering it or just lowering it or any combination like you’re always gonna be. Well you’re always going to be quote stronger lowering than lifting whether you whether you do extra negative training or not that’s just the way muscles work.
Adam [00:09:33] Yes.
Bill [00:09:33] But you’re not stronger. It takes less energy to release a contraction than to create one.
Adam [00:09:38] Correct.
Bill [00:09:38] So that’s why Darden’s original protocol tool or Jones two seconds up four seconds down that’s why you can heat failure at 10 and if somebody helps you do a couple of more reps you can continue lowering for two or three more you can lift but you can’t lift that. That’s right. I think that what Darden has done in its last couple of books instead of new wrinkles on old material he’s put a lot more attention into manipulating the negative in each book has a little different system. They’re all just again they’re all just techniques to use and I have really spoken to about this where I’m sure this comes from the years of experience he has training himself in clients and realizing you can’t always add 5 percent to the bar.
Mike [00:10:24] Right.
Bill [00:10:24] If you guys remember and they all super slow tactical manual Hutchins tells the story of training Flanagan in the leg extension machine he would do a strict set they’d add weight keep pushing to feel like keep pushing failure until they are using a phenomenal amount of weight. But he realized the form had had deteriorated. So he backed off the weight until he can get good form again and end up going back to the original weight. And every time he got to a certain point the form broke down. And those guys those guys are pretty instrumental in hit.
[00:10:54] So it’s not that they didn’t understand the protocol.
Mike [00:10:55] If they hit it if that’s diminishing returns and actually like sort of exist like people who are like 80 would they be lifting 4000 pounds right a leg press by the time they were hitting. That’s right There’s a certain point where you’re kind of hitting your head with good form you know hitting that maximum.
Adam [00:11:10] But you know what I like to say and remember I remember this conversation one of our clients came into my office and I was with Mike and she was 60 years old and she’s been training with us for like six years right. Even longer. And she said you know Adam I don’t know if this is working anymore I haven’t really gotten much stronger over the last three years. You know I’m kind of plateaued you know even though she’s probably 400 percent stronger than she was when she started. She hasn’t increased in the last three years. And I said congratulations.
Bill [00:11:43] That’s right. You haven’t lost either.
Adam [00:11:45] Right. And if you like and she was like what. Like she couldn’t believe I answered that way like I didn’t take it as a negative thing. I said Congratulations you’re 60 years old.
Bill [00:11:54] Hey hey hey hey hey.
Adam [00:11:54] And you are strong for 60 years old and you’re a lot stronger than you were. And you know you haven’t lost muscle in the last three years as you said just now Bill and she was like huh. Never thought of it that way before.
Bill [00:12:07] Because if you if you don’t train normal is to get less dense bones and lose muscle.
Mike [00:12:12] Yeah I think I think what has to for people to understand is to really understand that there is an expectation that if you do not do something you know an exercise program with weight lifting you’re going to lose strength over time from 30 on approximately you know.
Bill [00:12:27] That’s very nice of you. Maybe a little longer. OK. That’s right. I think I think that’s. You know most of the books we have on you pop books on exercise. Ultimately they’re aimed at beginners who can progress dramatically but you can’t you can’t keep it up indefinitely. I mean you know look at Arnold you see videos of him working out he’s using light weights.
Mike [00:12:51] Right.
Bill [00:12:52] So again you have to get the point across. That was and this is where the negatives come in too right. The person comes in they do 10 reps with 50 pounds for four years in a row. They may feel like getting stagnant. We know they’re not getting weaker so that’s really a great accomplishment. Yeah. So now this is where manipulating the negative comes in play you gonna do 30 second slow lift 10 reps another 30 seconds slow.
Mike [00:13:17] That’s the good news with this study that if there really is no difference you do it losing variations to try keep engaged.
Bill [00:13:23] You can play with it just to engage the client because again we’re in the people business.
Mike [00:13:27] Right.
Adam [00:13:28] I see I see a negative in the negatives. I just thought of one.
Bill [00:13:31] Well that’s eccentric.
Adam [00:13:32] God I just I just thought one.
Adam [00:13:37] As we were saying before you can handle more weight with the negative than you can with the positive. Sometimes people will take a weight that they know they can handle and negative but they can really can handle on the positive and I see a danger there I see. That’s good.
Bill [00:13:51] I would agree with you.
Adam [00:13:52] Yeah throwing away weight opt into the positive position and hoping that you can maintain it and control it in a negative position. It’s not unnecessary. It’s not a risk that I think isn’t necessary to take because you know you hear oh negative train negative trainer can handle more. So let’s load up all the weight right now and then throw it into the positive position or lifting it up as fast as we can because there’s no way I can lift this kind of weight but I can lower it slowly or slow as I can and they try to see how slowly they can they can handle the negative and sometimes they overestimate how much weight they can handle negative and you get really hurt. I can see that happen.
Bill [00:14:28] See and this is the difference between the first book I mentioned which leads you there and Darden’s last three books. Darden’s a little more methodical in how you do it. That’s why he’s playing with the time not with the extra weight. In fact I didn’t even says start with 80 percent of you the way you used to until you get the hang of the pacing. You know 30 years ago when I wrote about negative training maybe currently now it was with the idea of I can bench press 200 pounds but I can lower 300. And so you know they would make out a pipe seat t handles to put an end to the barbell so your partners could lift the extra heavy barbell up for you as crossed your door. But now by playing with the timing of the negative you’re stuck. So for instance if you do 30 seconds down 30 seconds up 30 seconds down. That’s a minute. You know one minute you’re spending in a negative as opposed to a half actually as right as opposed to forcing seconds in a negative. Now you go back to the positive. You know it would you describe content to play though a conventional barbell squat or barbell bench press because you start you’re locked out on both of those exercises. You’re locked out.
Adam [00:15:38] With a lot of weight.
Bill [00:15:39] The mechanical easiest part. You start. I got it. You start the lowering. I got it I got it. I don’t got it. And now the levers kick in and you are crushed. That’s right.
Adam [00:15:49] Reminds me also of the bench put the pullover exercise all over.
Bill [00:15:53] Oh yeah. I mean I know we talk that’s another one but I there’s a guy in one of the gyms I was working at. Doing a dumbbell pullover lying on his back dumbbell over his shoulders.
Adam [00:16:04] On a bench.
Bill [00:16:05] Over a bench lowers the dumbbell behind his head pulls a back up. He walks up the dumbbell rack takes a 50 pound dumbbell lies down is not too light, puts that weight back comes back with a seventy five pound dumbbell mat like he’s saying too light when it’s tight it’s in the easy position he’s lying on he gets a 90 pound dumbbell he got heavy 100 pound lies on his back dumbbell over his shoulder he goes yeah this is right lowers the dumbbell over his head and dislocates both shoulders. Now when I told the story around Darden Darden said why didn’t he start from the floor.
Adam [00:16:40] Right.
Bill [00:16:40] As a guy you know why. Because it’s never shown that way in pictures in muscle magazines.
Adam [00:16:45] Not only that but you’d have to like you’re on a bench so you have to. But you want to start from the floor. You’ve got to reach all the way back.
Bill [00:16:51] But you would know Darden was right. You would know right away it’s too heavy.
Adam [00:16:55] Yes but it’s hard to be in that position that’s why. Oh it’s just dance. That’s right. It’s that awkward.
Bill [00:16:59] And it’s never in the magazines never to take it that way.
Adam [00:17:01] And the thing is though if we were getting back to negatives I mean like negatives have been shown at this point and it makes sense to me because I have never seen any tremendous progress or different progress in all my years training from doing negative only training or working with just negatives or emphasizing negatives. You know again it’s a good tool in the toolbox. It’s fun to play around with adds a little variety and there’s something to that to stay motivated to work out over the years. But to start getting into these dangerous levels and that’s the fear I always have. You know the fear I have is you have somebody like a Darden and we have people that have these esoteric conversations about negatives and the benefits of them and the subtle benefits of them and all of a sudden it becomes a fad. All of a sudden you know they take this out of context this negative idea out of context and next you know negatives are the best thing since sliced bread. So uninformed people that are just picking up on it on a trend are starting to always negative only training not understanding you know the dangers that they’re going into about this and they’re not really realizing that it’s just not that much better if at all from conventional training they think it’s a magic too and they really start emphasizing this protocol. And again more often than not people are getting hurt or disillusioned at the very least but by all this stuff. And that’s why we’re doing this podcast I guess.
Bill [00:18:28] I was going to say that’s why that’s why we work the way we work.
Adam [00:18:31] I just I just wish more people picked up on this and their needs.
Mike [00:18:38] I mean that guy maybe you’re the man to do it like I mean a pardon the expression but like for Dummies version of this information.
Adam [00:18:45] I would say has it actually is a good chance a good opportunity to plug his book. Isn’t this book that you just handed to me.
Mike [00:18:52] Is it more for our trainers.
Bill [00:18:53] Well that’s about 6 7 years old now. Yeah. You know I keep I keep lying and feared I go to the bookstore. You know Jillian Michaels or whoever the fitness star of today is going to come up with joint friendly fitness before I get to it and I’ve been afraid that for five years now and so hasn’t happened so I really got to finish it.
Adam [00:19:11] You know what. Because I don’t know. I don’t think people care. Again exercise the lifestyle. This isn’t sexy. You know doing an exercise the right way biomechanically this way and you have to do any of the other ways. I mean so like over right away people’s skepticism just kicks in when they say how is it possible that one way of doing a bicep curl one way of doing a chest press one way is not my glutes is enough. And you know so. So as much as the research and the science kind of shows no differences between all these crazy protocols we still in our minds want to believe I guess that that. How is that true it can’t be true it just can’t be true that all you have to do is these five compound exercises ala Doug McGuff his big five exercises or just a set of push ups and pull ups you know three times a week is enough to keep you strong and flexible. And you know it’s too hard to believe. So I don’t think you have to worry about what’s right. Jillian Michaels stealing is.
Bill [00:20:13] A little dated reference. Now he’s gone kind of worked up isn’t he.
Adam [00:20:19] Just something. You know one thing sets me off and set me off. No it grinds my gears.
Mike [00:20:26] What Adam?
Adam [00:20:27] Family Guy reference.
Bill [00:20:30] So anyway. So anyway the negative always on the negative train. So part of what I think prompted Darden to look into this was the export equipment which is gonna plug x for US equipment. Now that doesn’t matter because it’s only it’s only in Philadelphia and there’s places here in Philadelphia. And what they do is they mechanically tilt the weights stack so that when you lift the weights stack is going on up the incline plane. And then when you lower it the weights X swings up. And now you’re loading the full weight of the other.
Adam [00:21:05] So in layman’s terms what he just said was this they have these machines now that because we understand that you can lift more weight into positive motion the lifting motion than you can the lowering motion. I mean but I’d like to say I’m sorry. Sorry. Just because you can lift more weight a negative portion versus the lifting portion what this machine actually does is when you lift the weight it’s a certain weight. And then when you’re coming down it actually increases it by 20 30 percent which is exactly this strength differential between the positive and negative for most muscle groups. So it actually makes naturally the negative harder. So it’s a very balanced resistance through a full range of motion. And again it’s just a really nice way of working out and getting a more efficient way of working. But it’s not it’s not something I would necessarily call negative type training it’s just compensating for the fact that in our negatives we are stronger. So the weight adjusts for that is no different from the cams on machines that that make the weight lighter during our weak positions and makes a weight heavier in a stronger position.
Mike [00:22:06] Dynamically and making the right appropriate for that for the.
Adam [00:22:10] It’s a great concept it’s a brilliant machine. I’ve heard a lot about it you’ve used them and you love them Bill you know but for the cost you know.
Bill [00:22:19] Well if I had access if I had easy access to them I’d use them.
Adam [00:22:23] Sure was a big expense. It’s really neat. Yeah.
Mike [00:22:26] They only exist in Philadelphia Florida part of Philadelphia.
Adam [00:22:30] But how much is each machine like 15 grand.
Bill [00:22:33] I think I think it’s about you know five times what I spent on Nautilus nitro. So I think I think yeah I think about 15.
Adam [00:22:42] 12 15 grand per machine.
Bill [00:22:45] Yeah.
Adam [00:22:45] So I mean you know if you was a business man as a businessman you were saying yourself you know how do you get your return on your investment I mean New York City here I probably get away with it but most locations probably could not afford a hundred and fifty thousand set up for personal training.
Bill [00:23:02] Well where I am I couldn’t raise my rates five times to compensate for the increased cost of the equipment anyway.
Adam [00:23:07] So but it’s a great machine. I felt like I want to go down to Philly and start using a machine that just so experienced that. But you know thing is this it’s emphasizing negative so you don’t have those machines you lower the weight a little bit and you figure out a way of getting 90 seconds of failure sets and because the negative is not 30 percent heavier each time you do it doesn’t mean you can’t get a really good workout and get really strong because you don’t have a machine that actually makes a negative 30 percent heavier. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re when you’re you know geeks like us and you know and you understand these things and how cool would it be if the negatives automatically got heavier appropriately. But the bottom line is after we geek out for a while we realize you know we can do the same thing with pretty much any weight that that’s used correctly. So then I may stop my fantasy and I go back to work.
Bill [00:24:00] And you said it though you geek out for a while it keeps you charged. It keeps you interested in training because after 40 years 30 I suspect Jones was not writing a 1970s thinking Yeah. Fifty years from now people are going to train this way. You know I don’t think that was built into the program. Well you know maybe you’re saying the same people we’re going to train this way his training his way right now. Nineteen seventy five. Twenty twenty. They can be tracked those same guys are gonna be working out well what do you mean.
Adam [00:24:30] But nothing has really changed. I mean he probably didn’t think people should be working out the same way 50 years from now because in his mind you know biomechanics is biomechanics until the function of the muscles change over time the way you project size shouldn’t change either. So I don’t know. I don’t get into the head of Martha Jones First of all is already.
Bill [00:24:48] Well to bit more relevant to what we do know. It’s a fine line between keeping clients interested with a little novelty and Anything Goes and completely losing your train of thought.
Adam [00:25:01] Then there’s a middle ground for sure. Yes. Just because you know like with my routines don’t change very often because I know what works for me. And I don’t need the variation because and I don’t think of working as a lifestyle and I don’t get bored I don’t care. You know it’s me and as I mentioned earlier exercises in the same category as brushing my teeth you know I do it because I have to do it and I do it as efficiently as possible I move on my life. But for those that need more motivation for those that do need variation I’m all for it as somebody runs a business and trains a lot of people. I obviously want to keep their interests and it’s more important to keep their interests sometimes and to do a couple inefficient exercises to keep their interest as long as I’m not putting them in harm’s way. I’m all for it. You know I’m not above that for sure. So anyway there we have it. Once again these magic ideas that we have about negatives or things like you know there’s nothing magical about it. It’s just worked out according to most on joint function. There are different variations you could do if things keep things interesting but basically keep things safe as always do it according to muscle and joint function as best as you can. And you know join a book club.
Bill [00:26:10] I can’t top that. No you got me.
Adam [00:26:16] We’ll end it there.
Mike [00:26:17] Thanks Bill.
Adam [00:26:17] Thanks. As always.
Arlene [00:26:19] This has been the Inform Fitness podcast with Adam Zickerman, for over 20 years. Inform Fitness has been providing clients of all ages with customized personal training designed to build strength fast. Visit Inform Fitness dot com for testimonials blogs and videos on the three pillars exercise nutrition and recovery.