Negatives Info Part1

by Lyle McDonald

Hi guys. Well, last time I talked a little bit more about muscle fiber
types, so I thought I'd sort of continue on with muscle physiology and
talk about how muscle grows. First, let me say that scientists don't
really know exactly how muscle fibers actually get larger although
some recent studies do provide a starting point. Very possibly, what
I'm going to outline will be completely invalid a year from now. But for
now, this is sort of the state of the information about muscle growth.

Well, if I wanted to make this essay really short, I could sum up muscle
growth in one word: NEGATIVES. Yeah, negatives. As a recap, remember
that the negative portion of a movement is the lengthening portion of
that movement. For example, in a biceps curl, lowering the weight towards
the ground is the lengthening or negative portion. Well, so what??

Let me digress a bit and talk about how the body seems to adapt to stress.
In most cases, the body adapts to a given stress by strengthening the
particular system stressed. Apparently, the body reacts to any kind of
damage (for lack of a better word) by strengthening the damaged system
so that it can withstand more damage next time it is stressed. For example,
when you get sick, your body notices this and builds up anti-bodies so that
you won't get sick next time. So, how does this apply to muscle growth??

Well, it seems that weight training has the potential to cause a significant
amount of microscopic muscular damage. When this damage occurs, the body
reacts by laying down more muscle so that the muscle will not be damaged
by that load again (this is what adaptation and progression are all about).
Well, negatives tend to cause the greatest amount of muscle damage for
some really boring physiological reasons. As another aside, Delayed Onset
Muscle Soreness (DOMS) has been found to be maximized by negative muscular
contractions. Well, the time course of DOMS (peaking at about 48 hours) matches
the time course of a compound hydroxyproline almost exactly. Well, this
substance is a biochemical marker for muscle damage indicating microscopic
damage to the fibers.

Anyway, so it seems that the negatives are the most important part of a
muscle building regimen. This led some bodybuilders to experiment with
negative-only routines which, in theory, should cause the most muscle
damage and, thus, the most growth. Well, in practice, it doesn't really
work that way. Some studies have found that negative+postive movements
cause both greater damage than either negative or positive only regimens.
Some have suggested that the negative seems to "prime" the muscle for
the positive movement and a type of synergy is realized. So, the upshot of
this is that, if muscular growth is your goal, make sure to emphasize
the negative portion of the movement.

In the second part of this essay, I will talk a little about incorporating
negatives into a workout and also give some real world examples of
negative versus positive only athletes. From there, I will talk about
power training versus strength/mass training and the implications
that it has for women (i.e. the "I don't want to get too big syndrome").
For a catalog of previous posts, send mail to lyle…@delphi.com. Also
send questions/comments to the same address.

Lyle

source: misc.fitness newsgroup, 19 Jan 94.

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