Name: Jim Vaglica
From: Boston, MA
Occupation: Strength and conditioning specialist, police sergeant, cast member of Mark Burnett's 'Expedition Impossible'
When you were a kid playing with bottle rockets, you learned quickly that what goes up must come down. The same goes for lifting. However, oftentimes we put all of our energy into propelling the weight upward, then just let it drop.
Unfortunately, that approach doesn't take advantage of the strength- and muscle-building powers of the eccentric contraction—the negative half of the rep. It's during this portion of the rep that a lot of the microdamage occurs within the muscle tissue—damage that'll be repaired and replaced with thicker muscle fibers, which translates into larger muscles.
So while it's much easier to let gravity take over and just speed through the negative, like the falling bottle rocket, you're cheating yourself out of muscle-building results.
Slow Down (Your Rep)
How slow should the negative rep be? Studies have addressed a number of time intervals, and it's clear that too long of a negative can be counterproductive. While many eccentric-focused protocols call for a five-second negative, the one we're doing here lasts three seconds. You'll consciously have to fight the descent of the weight, meaning you'll make any set significantly harder than when you focus only on the lift (positive rep). Embrace making your sets harder—that's what gains in size and strength are all about!
I've put together a triset for arms—a string of three movements done back to back with no rest in between—that's designed to take full advantage of the benefits of eccentric training. This set focuses on the brachialis and the brachioradialis, which work as elbow flexors in addition to the biceps, though you can similarly do it with other exercises so long as you use the same pieces of equipment to keep the rest interval between sets to a minimum.
The brachialis and brachioradialis are often overlooked in favor of the larger biceps brothers, which are located higher up on the arm. Yet neglecting these two hard-to-pronounce muscles is a big mistake; they add thickness to the arm. What's more, if not properly developed, they can hold back your overall biceps growth.
First Move Take An Overhand Grip
To start, choose a pair of dumbbells you can strictly reverse curl (that's an overhand biceps curl) for about five reps. These are the weights you'll use for the entire giant set. Stand in front of a mirror, because you'll need to check your form as you transition from one move to another. Hold the dumbbells with your little fingers pressed against the outside plate to facilitate the correct form for a reverse curl. Start with one arm and reverse curl the bell up quickly, then fight the negative for a slow descent of three seconds. Alternate arms until you can no longer reverse curl the weight up.
Standing Dumbbell Reverse Curl
Second Move Use A Neutral Grip On The Positive
Turn your wrists to a neutral position (palms facing in) and hammer curl the bell up, then turn your wrist so your palm is facing down (pronation) to perform another slow negative reverse curl. Alternate arms until you can no longer fight the descent in the reverse-curl position. You're not done yet!
Alternate Hammer Curl To Dumbbell Reverse Curl
Third Move Use A Neutral Grip Throughout
Continue the set performing alternating hammer curls with slow negatives, keeping your palms facing in throughout. As it becomes more difficult to raise the weight, use some body English to help get them up, but remember to still fight the descent for a full three seconds to take full advantage of that ever-important negative portion. Do as many reps as you can, aiming for at least another 5, for a total of 15 reps.
The brachialis tendon is notorious for tendinitis, so I'd advise limiting yourself to just one set the first time you try this routine. If your forearms are sore the next day, let them fully recover before you hit them again with any pulling movements.
Alternate Hammer Curl
Well-developed muscles both above and below the elbow joint display an incredible look of power, and are often the only part of the arm revealed when you're wearing a shirt. Turn a negative into a positive and build a pair of thick, vascular forearms to rival Popeye's. Don't be surprised if people start offering you high-fives or fist bumps instead of handshakes.