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Harness the power of negative training to boost muscle growth, crank up your metabolism and fast-track your gains in the gym.
You lift weights, sure, but you’ve probably never much attention to lowering them. So start now. Eccentric training, which involves focusing on the lowering (or “negative”) phase of an exercise, can potentially trigger greater strength gains than concentric (lifting-focused) training, says Dr Ellington Darden, author of the new book The Body Fat Breakthrough. “Your muscles can handle more weight during the lowering phase,” Darden says. “And if you draw out that phase to a minute, as you will with the negative dip and negative chin-up, you can recruit up to 40% more muscle fibres and enjoy a surge in muscle-building hormones.” The result: more power and strength in significantly less time.
The Challenge – You’ll be completing only two reps total (one per move),but they’ll probably be two of the hardest reps you’ve ever done. “Take one minute to lower yourself for each exercise, and rest two minutes between them,” says Darden. If you can’t last longer than 30 seconds, your eccentric strength needs a lot of work.
Negative Dip – Grab the bar using a shoulder-width, underhand grip and hang at arm’s length with your ankles crossed behind you. Pull your chest up to the bar. Lower yourself slowly, a few centimetres at a time.
Negative Chin-up – Grab the bars of a dip station and lift yourself so your arms are straight. Lean forwards slightly and lower your body slowly – a few centimetres at a time – until your upper arms are below your elbows.
Is a foam roller really the best way to speed up recovery? – Kneading your muscles after a hard workout can help ease soreness by breaking up adhesions (tight knots of connective tissue) and enhancing bloodflow. But a foam roller is just one of many tools you can use before, after, or between workouts to boost your mobility and fast-track your recovery. Here are three other options you’ve probably never considered.
Barbell – Use this to loosen up your calves and Achilles tendons, especially after a tough run or interval training. Place your lower legs on the bar (or even one leg at a time on the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell) and move them from side to side to break up adhesions
Resistance Band – Secure a thick, looped resistance band to an anchor point – a squat cage is perfect. Then step inside the free end so it sits above your ankle. Facing away from the anchor, walk forwards a few steps to put tension in the band. Now drive your knee past your toes several times. Repeat with your other leg. Physical therapists call this “band distraction.” It’s great for ankle mobility.
Softball –Your targets: glutes and chest. The payoff: improved hip mobility and upperbody range of motion. Sit on a tennis ball (or a bigger ball if it’s too sore) and dig into your glute muscles, which can become knotted and tight from prolonged sitting. Repeat with the ball sandwiched between your chest and a wall.