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Men are obsessed with chests (theirs and ours!), but many women don’t put a lot of effort into chest training. Perhaps it’s because our breasts cover a lot of real estate in that area and we don’t notice our chests as much as we notice our shoulders or glutes. But training chest is important for maintaining a balanced physique, and a great way to bring it up if you’ve been slacking off is with eccentric — or negative — training.
A repetition of any exercise has two phases: the positive (concentric) phase where you shorten the muscle against resistance, and the negative (eccentric) phase where you lengthen it. During the negative phase, your muscles contract against the weight in an effort to control it, causing micro-trauma to the fibers, which in turn encourages growth.
When doing negatives, you should go as slowly as possible using good form for each repetition. Try taking 5 to 10 slow counts as you lower all the way from the top of the concentric contraction to the starting position, then power back up to the top in one count. You might find that you’re stronger in the negative phase of an exercise than you are in the positive; this is because your muscles can produce more force eccentrically, so choose a slightly heavier weight than normal to challenge yourself and further encourage change.
Because this technique is intense, it’s best to cycle one or two eccentric moves into your program each week to prevent injury and overtraining. Whenever possible, have a training partner or spotter nearby who can help you push through the last few reps to really encourage growth.
Choose one of the moves below for each chest workout and do negatives with it for three sets of 6 to 8 reps using a pretty heavy weight. Perform your negatives once a week for 4 to 6 weeks and you’re sure to see some positive results!
Flat-Bench Barbell Press
Setup: Load a barbell on the rack and lie on the flat bench with your back arching naturally. Take a wider-than-shoulder width overhand grasp on the barbell and lift it off the rack so it’s positioned over your mid-chest.
Move: Bend your elbows and slowly lower the bar toward your body for the negative contraction, keeping your forearms perpendicular as you lower. When the bar touches or nearly touches your chest, press it forcefully back to the start.
Tip: This is a good move for using a spotter, or a Smith machine with the stops set just above shoulder level.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Setup: Adjust an incline bench to 45-degrees and sit on it holding a set of dumbbells at your shoulders, palms facing forward, elbows down.
Move: Forcefully press the weights up to a full extension of your arms so they’re perpendicular to the floor. Then slowly bend your elbows and lower them to your chest for the negative contraction.
Tip: Keep the weights moving straight up and down to protect your shoulders; don’t let them waver in and out.
Setup: Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor and step your feet back so you’re in a push-up position – with your head, hips and heels all in line.
Move: Bend your elbows and slowly lower your body toward the floor for the negative. When you’re nearly touching the ground with your chest, extend your arms quickly to explode to the start.
Tip: Don’t let your hips sag; always keep them lifted by tightening your abs and keeping your hips raised.