If you saw someone grab a pullup bar and perform a rep by starting in the top position and lowering themselves slowly, you might wonder what on earth they were doing. This mysterious exercise is the negative pullup. It may look slightly odd, but the exercise offers benefits beyond its unusual form, letting you shake up your workout and your idea of a pullup.
Learning Technique for Full Pullups
The pullup is a gym nemesis for many women. Using negative reps is the best way to achieve a full pullup though, according to Sally Moss, trainer and lifting coach at Ultimate Performance in London. Stand on a box or have a partner give you a boost up to the starting position, then lower yourself as slowly as possible. Once you can perform a 30-second negative, you should be able to do at least one full pullup, adds coach Charles Poliquin, owner of the Poliquin Performance Center in Rhode Island.
Greater Strength Increases
When doing negative pullups, the goal is to move slowly, rather than just drop down. This slow, controlled downward motion is eccentric training. According to Dr. Len Kravitz, professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, eccentric training can cause greater muscle tissue breakdown than regular concentric training. This leads to swifter increases in muscle strength and size and helps you bust through plateaus.
Negative pullups mainly hit your upper body muscles, specifically your upper and mid-back, biceps and forearms, but they also work your core. The true function of your core is to stabilize your torso and spine, not just to provide movement as in crunches or situps. As you lower yourself slowly, your abs kick in to minimize any leg swing and stop your lower back from arching, giving you a great core workout at the same time.
Perform negative pullups twice a week, leaving at least three days between each workout. Start with 10 repetitions per session, making each one last as long as you can while maintaining perfect form. Aim to build up to a 30-second negative. Even if you can do full pullups already, it's worth including negatives too. Switch between regular and negative pullups each session. Use a full range of motion on every repetition, starting with your chin over the bar and descending until your arms are completely straight. If you're struggling with your technique, ask a qualified trainer for assistance and cease the exercise if you feel any pain.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.