Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Focusing on the Negatives

Did you know that one of the most important things you can do to build muscle size is to start focusing on the negatives?

Newbie lifters like me sometimes forget how important the negative portion of a repetition is. When you do any type of lift, you have a positive (or raising) portion and a negative (or lowering) portion of that lift. You want the muscle to be under tension regardless of whether you're lifting up or lifting down. You don't want to lift the weight up and then just let the weight drop due to gravity. Some people might argue that the most important part of the rep is the positive. That may be true but only because it puts you in a position to do the negative part of the rep. Experienced lifters focus all the time on getting the most out of the negative portion of the exercise. With a concentration on the negative or eccentric portion of the rep, you elicit more muscle growth response from your body and ensure that your muscles are growing and benefiting from every workout. 

When I started lifting, I was looking for ways to get over my slow biceps gains, but it was all concentric (raising) focused. But when I tried heavy eccentric sets, it was immediately clear to me that they were the missing piece of the puzzle. 

I've noticed consistent biceps gains every week ever since. 

Thus, in lifting, positive is good, but negative is best. 

You know me, so you know that I'm going to apply all this to our spiritual lives. Jesus often warned his followers that they would have "negatives" (i.e., troubles) in life (John 16:33). Paul likewise told his converts that they would have to "go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). It's always been this way with believers. We can't avoid trials. I can't. You can't. Nor should we want to. The perfection of our Christian character is best achieved through the negatives in life, not the positives. Just as in lifting we can't rush the lowering part of the rep, so in the Christian life we can't hasten perseverance in trials. We have to let the testing run its normal course. This is not a call to some morbid fascination with suffering. All I am saying is what every New Testament writer says: the negatives in life have the potential to draw us to God and grow us in grace. Without the negatives in our lives, we are doomed to perpetual immaturity. 

To grow into Christian maturity is to lay down the wisdom of the weak and lazy ("just let the weight drop") and to take up the wisdom of the strong and mature ("let the weight down slowly even though it's harder").