I’m a born optimist.
You’ll never find my glass half empty, oh no.
No matter how shit the shit storm, I’ll always be that annoyingly chipper sod that finds the silver lining. And if I take one step forwards and two steps back – I’m not regressing; I’m doing a mutha funkin’ cha cha.
But when it comes to strength training, I can’t get enough of the negatives.
Let me explain…
What is ‘negative’ training?
Training ‘negatives’ (otherwise known as ‘eccentric’ training) is a training technique used to push muscles past their normal point of failure. It’s popular with bodybuilders and those grunty blokes in the gym clanking weights around and clogging up the squat rack – and I want to show you how you can use it to get stronger on the pole too.
This might sound really technical, but to explain how this works, you first need to understand the difference between ‘concentric’ and ‘eccentric’ contractions of the muscles, so let me give you a quick “in the gym” example first and then I’ll show you how it relates to pole.
A quick ‘gym’ example
Let’s look at a super simple movement – the good ol’ bicep curl…
The ‘concentric’ part of the bicep curl is the bit where you lift the weight towards your shoulder – the bicep muscle shortens as you do it (welcome to the gun show… pow pow pow).
When you lower the weight back down (and the muscle lengthens), this is the ‘eccentric’ (or ‘negative’) part.
Why does it matter?
Here’s the interesting bit. Our muscles are stronger in the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement.
In fact, your muscles can handle up to 1.75 times more weight through the eccentric movement than they can handle during the concentric lifting part.
So… if the max weight you can bicep curl without keeling over like a penguin watching an aeroplane was, say, 10kg, you might actually be able to handle lowering over 15kg.
Even though you wouldn’t be able to lift the 15kg weight, you’d be able to lower it no probs. So the way I would train negatives with a bodybuilder or someone doing general strength training in the gym would be to physically help them lift the 15kg weight into the top position (remember, they can’t do that bit by themselves), so all they have to do is the lowering part of the exercise (the eccentric/negative bit).
That, my pole friends, is ‘eccentric training’ – otherwise known as ‘training negatives’.
But what does it all mean, Basil?
I don’t want to blind you with the science behind why negative training works, but challenging the muscle on that eccentric part of the lift forces the body to use more muscle fibres. In the most simplest of terms: you’re putting greater demand and stress on the muscle and over time, that stress forces the muscle to adapt. That adaptation = muscle growth and strength!
By training the negative part of the exercise, eventually, you’ll be able to lift a heavier weight on the concentric part of the movement too.
So how does this relate to pole?
I’m so glad you asked!
Training negatives works exactly the same way on the pole as it does in the gym.
If you’re not strong enough yet to perform a certain pole move, you can train the ‘negative’ of that move to build the strength you’re missing.
The easiest way to think of it is to imagine doing those movements you really struggle with in reverse.
Struggle to lift yourself in a pole pull up? Then train the negative – get yourself up into the top position of the pull up (with the help of a little jump, or a box) and lower back down as slowly as you can.
Want to get stronger to lift into your invert? Then train the negative – i.e. slowly lower out of your invert.
Want to build the strength to lift into your shouldermount? Then train the negative – i.e. slowly lower out of your shouldermount.
Want to deadlift your handstand? Then train the negative – i.e. kick up into your handstand and lower the legs back to the floor as slowly as you can.
It’s a very powerful and scientifically proven way to train that will help you build the strength you need to do the same lift in the opposite direction.
Whoa – slow down there tiger
One thing to note before I drop the mic – when you’re training negatives on the pole, you need to do the movement SLOOOOWLY.
It won’t do anyone any good if you hoik yourself into your shouldermount position and then flop out of it with the speed of a bungee jumping rock. The movement needs to be controlled.
This video is an example of training negatives on the pole to build strength for the shouldermount. It’s taken from our 8-week shouldermount strength programme. Please don’t try this unless: 1) you are super confident with your invert and crucifix; 2) you fully understand the positioning and grip for the shouldermount; and 3) You have a crash mat and a spotter!
I hope this helps explain what ‘training negatives’/’eccentric training’ means and why it can be so useful in pole. It’s such an effective training tool, I use it in all of my strength training programmes and I think you should too! 🙂
As always, give me a shout if you have any questions at all and if you want to know how I can help you personally to programme your training to be a better, stronger poler, check out my online training page.