Negatives Info Part3

by Lyle McDonald

Hi. In this third and final part on negatives, I would like to discuss the
differences between power training and standard mass/strength training.
Previously, I discussed why negatives seem to be responsible for muscle
growth, some guidelines for incorporating negatives into your workouts,
and some real world examples.

Last time I talked about the differences between Olympic style
lifters and bodybuilders with regards to the style of lifting employed:
positive only versus negative+positive respectively. Well, there is one
other major difference between the style of lifting used. I would like
to differentiate between them by calling the style of Olympic lifters
power training while bodybuilder's style of lifting I will call mass/strength

But, first some physics (yeah!!). Recall from mechanics that work is defined
as mass times distance written as W = M * D. Regardless of the speed of
movement, the same work will be done (incidentally, this is why walking
a mile and running a mile have more or less an identical energy cost. Speed
is irrespective, more or less, as the same mass is moved the same distance.
It's just faster to run than walk a mile.) Well power is defined as the amount
of work done in a given amount of time written as P = W / T. (again running
requires more power than walking but the work is still identical). Ok, enough
of that.

Well, one of the primary differences between power and mass training is
in the speed of movement. Generally speaking, bodybuilders tend to use a
rather slow speed of movement. Thus, although their workload is very high
(due to the use of heavy weights) the power output is very low (due to slow
movement speed). Olympic lifters (and powerlifters to a degree) tend to
use lighter loads but they are moved very quickly. Thus the power output
is high (short movement time) while absolute workload is lower (lighter
weights). Well, so what??

Well, depending on your fitness goals, you will generally want to choose
one type or another of these two choices. If mass is your goal, slow movements
with heavy weights and an accentuated negative is part of the prescription.
But for athletes who want strength and power without a lot of mass (i.e.
cyclists and other endurance athletes who occasionally need bursts of power
for hills and sprints), power training without a negative movement seems
to be indicated. Note however, that the lack of a negative should not be
interpreted as a suggestion to sloppily lower the weight. The weight should
still be lowered in a controlled manner, it's just that a slow negative is
not necessary. Also, note that power training should not be incorporated
into a workout until a sufficient strength base is developed and tendons and
ligaments are strengthened as well. Generally no fewer than three months
at least of standard resistance training should be performed before
including power training. Also, when power training is first begun, weights
should be lowered to no more than 70-80% of maximum and then brought up
slowly as power and skill is developed.

Well, this is getting longer than I had intended, so I will finish up by
my biggest pet peeve in the whole world: that is the female notion of "I don't
want to get too big". No offense is intended at all but, generally, it just
happen that way. But before I start ranting, let me sign off. For a catalog of
previous posts send email to lyle… along with flames and comments.


source:, 19 Jan 94.

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