Q: I’m very experienced in weight training and I don’t perform heavy negatives. Is there any evidence that heavy negative training helps improve maximal strength in advanced lifters?
A: Heavy negative training has been around for many years. Unfortunately, very few sport science projects have examined its effect in advanced lifters. One rationale for heavy negative training improving strength in advanced lifters is related to the speed of movement when performing 1-RM lifts. When a 1-RM bench press or squat lift is performed, the weight moves very slowly, especially during the negative phase of the repetition. In fact, lifters with very heavy 1-RMs in these two lifts perform the negative portion of the lift at a slower speed than lifters with a lower 1-RM. Thus, one aspect of performing heavy negative training in preparation for performing a 1-RM in these two lifts is to learn how to control and move slowly in the negative portion of a repetition with a very heavy weight.
Several projects have examined the use of heavy negative training in very experienced Olympic weightlifters. For example, Hakkinen and Komi demonstrated that heavy negatives can help competitive Olympic lifters when performing 1-RM lifts. Experienced Olympic weightlifters trained for 12 weeks using heavy negatives in 25 percent of the negative portions of repetitions during their normal training. They used from 100 to 130 percent of their 1-RM in the lift being performed when doing heavy negative training. The lifters performing heavy negatives increased their snatch by 10 percent and their clean and jerk by 13 percent during the 12 weeks.
The lifters performing their normal training (no heavy negatives) increased their snatch by seven percent and clean and jerk by six percent over the same 12 weeks. The improvement in the clean and jerk by the lifters performing heavy negative training was significantly greater than the group of lifters performing their normal training. The results of this study indicate that some heavy negative training can increase 1-RM strength in experienced lifters. It’s important to note that performance of these experienced weightlifters is judged by ability to perform 1-RM lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk. Thus, the results not only show some heavy negative training increases 1-RM ability in experienced lifters, but also that some heavy negative training will increase 1-RM ability in lifters whose competitive success is judged by 1-RM ability. (J Hum Movement Studies, 7:33-44.)