The 3 phases of movements and strength training.
For pretty much all basic human movements it’s possible to break them down into 3 phases:
The Positive phase (concentric)
The Negative phase (eccentric)
The Static phase (isometric)
A quick breakdown of 2 look movements will easily clarify this.
The Pullup & Deadlift
The static phase is the strongest of the 3 phases (read as lasts the longest).
In the case of the humble pullup, hanging from the bar with arms fully extended and feet off the floor is the static phase.
In the case of deadlift the static phase is typically holding the bar at the top of a deadlift.
It may surprise some to learn that the positive phase is the weakest of the 3 phases. Muscularly you will reach failure the fastest on the positives.
In the case of pullups the upward part where you rise up by pulling with the arms and lats towards and beyond the bar, getting the chin or chest to the bar is the positive phase.
For deadlifts, raising the bar off the ground to the full standing position is the positive phase.
The negative phase sits in the middle in terms of muscular reaching failure.
Intelligent strength and conditioning coaches always include negatives in training and programming as it will develop strength goals much faster than just working positives. In fact working “forced negatives” once the positive phase of a lift is completely exhausted means you can get much more bang for your buck.
For pullups the negative phase is lowering yourself from the top back down into a full hang.
For deadlifts, returning the weight to the floor from the full hip extension is the negative phase.
Working negatives isn’t easy.
For maximum results performing the movement slowly, under full control is best.
Negatives can lead to a fair bit of soreness as there is more time under muscular tension.
Soreness for some people is like a plus. They like it because they associate it with having worked hard. For many others soreness is not pleasant. It can be unbearable and restricting so they dislike it and don’t want to experience it. I know of some untrained individuals who, having experienced soreness in muscles they had never felt sore before, were utterly convinced they were injured. The “injury” was fine after a few days.
We’ve written about muscular soreness (not injury…SORENESS) several times and the best solution is movement. Yes, it may go against your natural instinct to avoid pain but movement is life, so move and the soreness will go away faster.
Generally speaking to do a negative you have to do a positive first and the static phase is always included at some point so it makes sense to train the 3 phases all together.
For example in the case of the pullup a set including all 3 phases might go something like this:
Hang for 5 seconds.
Complete 5 strict pullups.
At the top of the 5th pullup hold it for 5 seconds, then using a 5 second count slowly lower yourself back to the full hang.
Repeat for 5 rounds with a 1 minute rest between rounds.
In the case of the deadlift you could try something like the following:
Complete 6 rounds for heaviest load of:
3 deadlifts with a 5 second negative on each rep There has also been proven research on the benefits of using negatives for individuals with certain tendinitis conditions and it’s a great tool for increasing mobility and strength in older athletes (60+).
Of course, more complex lifts like the clean & jerk or snatch are not something that you’d work negatives on for the entire movement. The reason being that they inherently involve multiple components. You’d work those components with negatives. For example doing slow positives and negatives of a snatch grip deadlift or front squat have tremendous benefits.
Consitently training negatives along with positives and static phases demonstrates a good understanding of athletic development. I don’t know why but from what I’ve seen most CrossFit gyms rarely use negatives in their programming. Perhaps this is due to a lack of experience or knowledge or down to something like time. It’s hard to say without doing a survey! Perhaps because many gyms have 20+ participants per coach and this ratio is far too high to provide quality coaching. I used to teach spin classes and bodypump to 25+ people on a regular basis and I can say with absolute certainty that there were always individuals in those classes that didn’t get the attention they needed to improve simply because it was too busy. This should never be the case with CrossFit. This is why members pay more than $50 a month for membership.
The programming at CrossFit Brit has always included the 3 phases of strength for athletic development.
A smart solution with proven results.