Q: Is there a danger to ligaments and tendons with Negative-Accentuated sets [from The Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout]? I’ve gotten fantastic results with NA sets [normal positives followed by slow, six-second negatives], but I recently shared that with a friend who tore a muscle in his shoulder doing heavy bench presses. He said that his orthopedist discourages the use of eccentric loading because of the stress on tendons and ligaments. I’m wondering if NA sets are safe, and can my friend who had prior shoulder injury ever incorporate NA sets to experience the great results I’ve gotten with it?
A: What the orthopedist is talking about is heavy pure-negative sets—where you overload the muscle with about 20 percent more than your normal weight. Someone helps you raise the extremely heavy poundage, and you lower slowly, fighting the overload through the negative stroke.
We discourage regular use of pure-negative work, as it can be very damaging to muscle as well as tendons and ligaments. Not so with NA sets…
Negative-accentuated sets are actually lighter than your standard two-seconds-up-two-seconds-down 8-rep sets, so NA training is much easier on ligaments and tendons. In fact, NA sets can work well for injury rehab on certain exercises because of the slow, deliberate muscle/tendon/ligament activation on the negative stroke—just be sure to keep the positive stroke under total control as well. Feel the muscle working for both safety and size increases…
To increase muscle building, we use NA on the last set of a standard-set grouping. For example, on squats we will do one or two standard sets, then on the last set lighten the load and do an NA set. Be aware, however, that even with one NA set you will get sore…
Emphasizing the negative stroke creates more muscle damage, or triggers more microtrauma. That can heighten the anabolic environment as well as significantly ramp up your metabolism during the recovery process over a number of days following your workout—in other words, you get a heightened fat-to-muscle effect.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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