Negative Thoughts: If Only It Were So Easy (Part 3)

22 comments written by Joshua Trentine

Negative Thoughts: If Only It Were So Easy (Part 3)
by General Tso

Do you really think it’s as easy as comparing going fast versus going slow?

I wish it were, it would have saved me 5 years of building and “un” building.

Let me save some of you some typing. 

I don’t care if you don’t have the equipment, time money etc. 

Neither did I.  

This isn’t a hobby, it’s a life’s work and I’d require 100 years to study everything I want to investigate.  Developing the tools (no motors please) requires as much time in the week as earning a living. 

My advice is to pay someone and get on their equipment. 

Good equipment does nothing more than get out of your way, period. 

Control variables, take the equipment variable and get it out of your way so you are not inhibited by noise.  I don’t care how you train, but try and work harder on your own experiments. 

It’s somewhat like training. 

Most people will not sacrifice (time, money, effort, mistakes) enough to get the returns.  Some don’t care, and that’s fine.  Book a trip-but don’t come visit me, ok?

This may sound blasphemes but it is my contention negative strength is depleted to a much larger degree using proper equipment and exacting protocols than most realize.

What do I base this on?

Not much, the tools don’t exist-yet. 

Static testing became the focus of the only real tools.  

Consider the following that occurs on many exercises. 

During the first repetition the positive requires greater effort than the negative.  That’s why competent instructors don’t allow their clients to lift in 10 seconds and lower in, say 15 seconds, especially during the initial reps. 

The second rep, the ratio of effort narrows. The negative becomes more productive (intense). 

The third rep the effort ratio narrows further.  If I fail to produce positive movement on my next rep, and I continue to attempt to move in a positive direction, I quickly encounter a situation where my holding strength “gives out” and I am forced to use every ounce of remaining strength to control the negative, with effort easily equal to or greater than the positive effort that was occurring when I reached failure.  With this level of inroad fatigue overcomes congestion.

Note that the above situation I have described is not dangerous when employed using slow protocols and proper supervision.  If it were, I would install braking systems into my machines.

Instead, it feels somewhat similar to the last repetition of a set of a negative only exercise.  Keep in mind that while it feels somewhat similar to the negative only criteria for termination of a set, I’ve achieved this situation with less resistance (not more) than a negative only set required. 

Furthermore, it is logical that using all available negative strength to control the weights descent with less starting resistance I have conceivably inroaded to a much larger extent than negative only protocols can achieve.  

Several “authorities” on the net have stated that such a situation is “more dangerous” than adding 40% to the negative, and have further stated that the culprit is the radical resistance curves employed in some machines.

I have no interest in 40% negative accentuated equipment and therefore cannot responsibly comment on its utility (a responsibility too many people shun when commenting on things they do not understand). 

I may test the use of motors at a later time. My only impression is that the subject’s motor ability is probably “overrun” but I can’t prove it –not yet

Maybe they are the way to go?  Doubt it, but it could be a part of the puzzle and I applaud the efforts.  Nevertheless, please understand that being around something does not equal mastery or even understanding of the material. 

Read a history book. Perhaps the knowledge seems vast but only to the uninitiated. This happens frequently by those who endorse equipment but have never built anything. 

Nevertheless this fellow should take note that I’ve achieved this level of fatigue (and so have many others) in the performance of a push up. 

To better understand inroad, let’s look at the classically used example. 

We take into account that this model is used to teach novices a basic objective of exercise.  Suppose a subject is capable of lifting a weight of 100lbs for one complete repetition and cannot perform a second.  Their fresh strength is then 100 lbs. We then select a resistance of 80 lbs and perform consecutive repetitions to the point where positive volitional movement in a positive (concentric) manner is impossible.  This is often termed as “muscular failure”.

Where the subject could once perform a repetition with 100lbs he can no longer perform a repetition with 80 lbs.  The set of repetitions that he performed diminished his strength from a starting strength of 100lbs to an ending strength of 80lbs or 20 percent. Hence, he has inroaded his starting strength 20 percent or perhaps with continued effort, to a somewhat greater degree.

Keep in mind that the inroad model is used to illustrate a concept to novices-or people who are intellectual novices and are unaware of this fact.

Simply failing under a given weight, say perhaps 20% less of what you are capable of lifting once, does not take into account what the cam’s instant lever (moment arm) was when you failed. Forgetting the leverage factors introduced by the body, we don’t train on round wheels, we train on cams.

Also we don’t, or shouldn’t, fail in the same place every time. A whole paper could be written on the problems with this model, but suffice to say let’s use it to illustrate a point and don’t quote it as scripture.

Remember that we can’t avoid congestion altogether. However, and this has been proven to my satisfaction, moving slowly allows for longer continued movement than faster movement does, from a muscular efficiency standpoint.  Reference Jones’s more popular/later Lumbar Spine book under No Contradiction

Quote: “Earlier, we mentioned that slowing the initial speed of movement may permit you to perform one or two more repetitions by reducing muscular friction…later, we said that less repetitions are possible with a slow speed of movement, an apparent contradiction.”

“But in fact both statements are correct; current knowledge and technology do not permit meaningful measurement of metabolic work, and trying to do so with measurements of mechanical work is meaningless;.”

Someone who is actually thinking might conclude that our sets last longer because we use less resistance. 

This is incorrect. 

We use very heavy weights; our sets last longer because the slow movement drastically reduces the congestion problem.  How else did we inroad deeper if our resistance levels were lower? 

Therefore, “less repetitions are possible” is true but “slowing the initial speed of movement” allows the latter to trump the former. You get a longer TUL but deeper inroad.

How can I assert this? 

Maybe because our weights are heavy, very close or equal to 2/4, but our speed is approximately 5 times slower on the positive and 2.5 times slower on the negative.

It isn’t friction gentlemen, but whatever the hell it is; it affects us less by using slower protocols.

Comparing when you get stuck going fast versus going slow screams that you don’t understand the salient factors involved. 

Most guys who try and compare protocols don’t understand that reaching failure and inroading deeply are not the same.

They can’t measure true inroad, so they assume fast failure equals higher intensity and more efficient inroad.


This is another reason why TULs are a poor choice for measuring performance. Forget them, or at least use them within their limitations and stop assuming they are an absolute marker of inroad or performance.  They are not a new standard of anything-only a tool that can be used under very controlled conditions to enable us to study certain specific effects.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jonas Olofsson February 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Joshua, what you are describing is an Ideal Scen. I own a company working with Management & Sales training. What we do with our customers is to first create an Ideal Scene, eg. how would the business run ideally. If you havent seen the Ideal Scen, you only see whats there, not what is missing. You dont see whats not there Because you dont know how it should be. How do you know what to do if you havent seen how it should be?

I applaud your work and comitment and is very courios what your findings will show. Having high standard in what you do is always what to aim for if you ask me.


avatar Joshua Trentine February 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm


Your experiences allow you to see the intent of Renaissance Exercise 🙂

I’m pleased to see you make the comparison, perhaps people will get a clearer understanding.

I hope you will continue to participate I’m grateful for the insight.



avatar General Tso February 26, 2011 at 4:08 am

To Jonas Olofsso

This is by far the most insightful public comment I have received.

In essence, we are attempting to create an ideal “scene” or environment that predisposes the
musculature to deepest inroad. What we don’t subject the muscles to and what we do is of equal importance.

In the earlier installments I was attempting to illustrate this through “intensity of circumstance.”

This may seem in excess of what is necessary, but I prefer to work from an optimal model. I have done this
with mechanical designs and have learned that too much always trumps not enough.

Thanks for you interest

-General Tso


avatar Scott Springston February 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm

We use very heavy weights; our sets last longer because the slow movement drastically reduces the congestion problem. How else did we inroad deeper if our resistance levels were lower?

I’m not sure I understand why slow movement reduces congestion and it’s still unclear why or how congestion or pump as I call it ( possibly mistakenly?) interferes with inroad?? By resistance levels do you mean higher congestion interferes with inroad?


avatar Joshua Trentine February 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Yes… congestion “gums up”( for lack of a better way of saying) our ability to recruit and therefore inroad, something stops the set before deep inroad, that’s why another could easily be performed.

I’m releasing another article about the so called “pump”, it should be up in a week to ten days I have a few pieces that should precede it.



avatar Chasbari February 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm

“Good equipment does nothing more than get out of your way, period. ”

So profoundly true.



avatar Joshua Trentine February 26, 2011 at 4:26 am

Yup, you feel one with good gear.


avatar Terry Condrasky February 26, 2011 at 6:43 am

Hi Josh
As always, thanks for the insight and the willingness”to push the envelope” when it comes to efficient training. To those, like myself, who do not have ideal equipment there is much to learn here and adapt to our own training. Although, my training may not be “pure Ren-X”, I believe I have made meaningful modifications through what I have learned thus far. Thanks again and Be Well!


avatar Joshua Trentine February 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Hi Terry,

You are welcome, of course there will be a variety of incarnations based on circumstances. We feel that the only way to ever really know anything is to see this all the way through, to remove any and every constraint. I expect to see and am very pleased to see people applying this information and benefiting from what we consider an ideal.

I’m grateful to have you along.


avatar Andrew Shortt February 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Yup it has always surprised me how most folks never really question their ability to perform multiple sets with reasonable loads. Why wouldn’t it be a huge question mark when you see you can work additional sets of the same exercise? The quicker you hit the mark the deeper and more thorough the stim in my books. The longer it takes the more superficial it is. This of course explains the marathon tail chasing and wide use of drugs. Why wouldn’t you want it to be extremely concentrated with pinpoint accuracy?


avatar Joshua Trentine February 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Hey Andrew,

I think much of the writing that you and Brian did a few years ago hit this subject with pinpoint accuracy. I learned much from it.

Paying attention to your biofeedback will tell you quite a bit about the effectiveness of your set and whether or not anymore is necessary or even tolerable. RenEx is aiming with a laser sight. The ability to bring the stimuli down to a single set gives us the ability to control more variables.


avatar Brian Liebler February 28, 2011 at 6:00 am

What is RenEX position on a lagging bodypart? Do you employ a second set as a drop set, pre ex, post ex or continue with the single set?


avatar Joshua Trentine February 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

direct work is included for it.

ie:weak biceps- add biceps curl, weak calves- add calf exercise

yes, a single set.


avatar Brian Liebler February 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Josh, If larger muscles are lagging behind such as quads or lats, would you employ pre ex, such as leg ex/leg press or pullover/pulldown?


avatar Joshua Trentine March 1, 2011 at 12:37 am

We usually try direct work first, for example if the lats don’t appear to respond well we might use Pullover or behind the neck torso exercise, however I think the reason people develop disproportionately is due to drug use, poor program design or poor equipment choices for some areas. In the conventional gym setting people tend to put the most effort into their “favorite” parts and the reality is some conventional exercises with barbells and cables just don’t cut it. There is NEVER a case when we can’t get to some bodypart as well as another. I’ve never been the ‘best’ bodybuilder, but judges always say I have a good balance, this I attribute to our training system and equipment.

I am not used to seeing people who have parts of the body adapting and other parts not… or at a disproportional rate, the exception seems to be the calves they sometimes seem to respond very easily or in some cases very little.

The Leg Extension is not an effective prefatigue for the Leg Press. Hip Extension or Trunk Extension would be a better choice.


avatar Brian Liebler March 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Josh, As a result of leg press only (Body By Science Big 5 & Big 3) my glutes have developed much more in proportion than my quads and hamstrings.

This is why I asked the question about and was leaning towards the old pre-ex for the quads. I was thinking of a method to make my quads & hams respond a little more than my glutes.

Would a leg ex/leg curl only routine be a better approach?
How about sissy squats or do you have some ways to get more direct work for the quads?

avatar Andew Shortt February 28, 2011 at 9:52 am

“RenEx is aiming with a laser sight. The ability to bring the stimuli down to a single set gives us the ability to control more variables.”

Yes I am seeing that. An immediate issue Brian and I had was letting workouts run on which obfuscates everything and fast. Bodybuilding ‘real time’ adjustments are fine however a) One loses the advantage of a skilled trainer for the most part as they can’t really share in the immediacy of the event. b) Nothing really gets eliminated over time and the situation fractals so to speak for better and worse.

I am still very partial to partials but what you fellows are working on appears to be the next step.



avatar Joshua Trentine February 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Andrew I know EXACTLY what you mean.


avatar Franco March 1, 2011 at 4:29 am

Great description I totally agree with.
Now we just need to know what the “congestion” is physiologically or biochemically. Is it inhibited/dimnished cross bridging due to fast speed? Or is it some chemical signaling, possibly golgi-tendon related?
It’s not the pump for sure, that’s even bigger with proper “slow” reps, set by set.
If we could name/meassure the congestion accurately, exercise science at a whole would (or at least could) change.


avatar JOHN O'ROURKE March 3, 2011 at 10:57 am

Just catching up with this superb website, a lot to read and digest. The idea of congestion being responsible for the faster failure rate with faster reps was a real moment of clarity for me, this certainly makes sense.
I opted for barbells a while back due to the poor quality of equipment available in my area. I found Bill De Simone’s approach to exercise with this type of equipment to be a major step forward. Using his methods with heavy loads the movements tend to be quite slow.
All the best.


avatar Jacklyn May 18, 2016 at 7:58 am

Det er en træls omgang at skulle igennem. Heldigvis er det for de fleste et forløb helt uden problemer. Jeg vil dog give Simone ret, den er virkelig underlig den oversættelse, har du læst den? Der står at skorpen er lil2gdir&#8e30;. At kilden skulle være dansk lægecenter, virker bare så underligt.


avatar Joshua Trentine March 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Hey Brian, I don’t have a fancy answer, but I’m sure it is the best answer.

Leg Extension

A properly designed Leg Extension will give you every bit of stimulation you could ever want and then some, IMO it’s the ‘purest’ single joint movement that exist and, by far, the most severe.

I don’t see LE as a prefatigue for LP, Trunk Ext or Hip Ext serve as a true prefatigue. After a set of of Leg Ext I can’t imagine anyone wanting any part of Leg Press let alone walking.

There isn’t a Sissy squat that can touch a good L.E.

The catch, properly designed Leg Extensions are far and few between, MedX and Nautilus blew that one.


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