Negative Thoughts (Part 1)

15 comments written by Joshua Trentine

The following article was written by General Tso. This gentleman has spent many years refining his craft, many years studying proper exercise when he’s not making his delicious chicken bites. The general is not part of the Renaissance Exercise team, but we do find his insights noteworthy and we would like to share his observations about the current state of High Intensity Exercise.    

SLOWLY…Letting go of the past

Most people still believe that we are approximately 40% stronger on the negative portion of an exercise?  The “solution” to this is has been to “emphasize the negative” by spending twice the amount of time lowering the weight. 

2/4 protocol right?

So the negative offers a respite because the muscle(s) have an advantage during the lowering portion of the exercise.  We then engage them in this respite longer, twice as long as the positive lifting part of the exercise. We make the easier part of the exercise longer (twice as long) and this is designed to increase the efficiency of the exercise? 

Now add to this situation the friction problems inherent in the early machines that unload the muscles even further while lowering the weight and you’ve got a real mess on your hands.  This entire process was a step in the wrong direction.  Even removing friction with bearing upgrades does not release a person training in this modality from “emphasizing the easy”. 

This respite situation only seems to come up when discussing 10/10 protocols because we “spend too much time on the negative” while everyone else spends twice as much time on it, and that’s just fine and dandy.  Don’t believe that you’re using heavier loads for your 2/4, and that you’re unloaded less because of this.  We use damn heavy loads with cams that load up coming back, not backward cams that generally reduce resistance as you lower the weight. 

The problem is congestion, more on that later.

Let’s explore this a little further.  We’ve been led to believe that, through the performance of an exercise your positive strength is depleted and in some cases your negative strength actually increases.  It’s all over the MedX literature. 

Even though it is clearly stated in the manual and literature, what the non-careful reader may not observe is that while MedX states that only static testing is valid, the negative lines on many of their graphs are:

1. Dynamic (how could you take a static negative?)

2. Not produced on a MedX testing machine that they were selling. 

Instead they were (probably) produced on a true isokinetic machine built in the early to mid-80’s.  How exactly would a negative strength reading ever occur on a MedX testing machine, right?

On pages 112-113 of Arthur JonesThe Lumbar Spine” (the older large blue book), it is stated during a test of the quadriceps muscles:

                “Prior to the exercise it was established by the test of the fresh strength that this subject was 40 percent stronger during the negative test than he was during the positive test, so his negative to positive ratio was 1.4 to 1.  With fresh muscles”.

                “But that ratio changed as the fatigue increased the friction within his muscles; during the fifteenth repetition his ratio was 2.2 to 1, meaning that his negative strength was then more than twice his positive strength.  During the last repetition, number thirty-six, his ratio was then 9.6 to 1; his negative strength was nearly ten times as high as his positive strength”.

I have no doubt that this is what the test indicated.  However this test is fraught with problems.

The subject performed 14 sub maximal repetitions.

Was the subject resting (unloading or taking tension off the muscles) at any point during the set?

I can only guess what the protocol speeds were (fast). 

Thirty-six repetitions is a tremendous amount of mechanical work to perform and virtually warrants that the resistance was too light, or restated not meaningful enough to induce an efficient inroad.  If the subject was in control of his effort (the resistance he was subjecting himself to) he had incredible endurance?

I’m not sure, I wasn’t there.

The fatigue was ultimately dramatic to the positive portion of the exercise; I wonder what portion of that was neurological do to the shear amount/volume of the exercise.  In many ways this experiment probably shows us more for the lab, then leading us to refining protocols.

So the common wisdom is that after we have depleted all of our positive strength, we have loads and loads of negative strength remaining.

 If you train on lousy cams and faster protocols that load/unload the musculature, I believe you end up in a situation where you have loads of congestion that “you get to keep” that works against you during the positive portion of the exercise (probably inhibiting true inroad) and works for you on the negative/lowering part of the exercise, inhibiting and masking inroad. 

Ever hear how people were trained on this machine?

Perform the exercise until positive movement ends.  Next, machine lifts leg(s) via motor to the extended position and subject performs a negative (read- muscles resting during this process)- repeat. 

Poor guy’s in the damn machine for something like 30 plus reps. 

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a hell of an effort and one that I would imagine few could replicate. But if you’re not getting weaker with every rep, and quick, something is wrong.

So, the inroad takes a step back and the congestion remains, and probably increases.

 My contention is that lots of congestion gets in the way of inroading.  It also gets in the way of what you think you’re observing, which in turn influences how you believe you should train. 

It all comes back to how the muscles receive-and what they do-with the resistance at hand.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Scott Springston February 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

We use damn heavy loads with cams that load up coming back, not backward cams that generally reduce resistance as you lower the weight.

==Scott== So I take this to mean that the cams on a Hutchins machine increase the load as you lower the weight?
My take of the conjestion part of this is to say that conjestion/pump gives you the illusion that you have inroaded quite well when in fact you may not have??


avatar Al Coleman February 22, 2011 at 7:34 am


The cams merely give back on the negative what was taken away during the positive. The fatigue created during the positive makes the negative harder.

During a set that produces too much mechanical work, too fast, congestion will short circuit the inroading process. This is one of the ways the body protects itself from being inroaded too deeply so as to preserve movement. By lowering the mechanical work and upping the metabolic work, we “fly under the radar” and dupe the protective mechanism.



avatar Jonas Olofsson February 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Guys, been following you for awhile now, Im very impressed and really looking forward to every blog since I so far been learning something from every one of them.

I cant see anybody in this business beeing more intrested in finding out the whys & hows then you guys, not just repeating what everybody thinks he knows.

More to come Im sure, Im already a fan!


avatar Al Coleman February 22, 2011 at 7:35 am

Thanks Jonas!


avatar Joshua Trentine February 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Thanks Jonas,

Yes much more to come.


avatar Thomas February 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

Can you expand on what you mean by congestion?


avatar Joshua Trentine February 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm

An article is coming in about a week or two that will delve deeper.

Thanks for your interest Thomas.


avatar Joshua Trentine February 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Article on the way.

Thanks for your interest Thomas!


avatar Andrew Shortt February 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Great to see congestion/protection being considered, way too overlooked IMO.



avatar Danny February 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

The Leg Extension machine referenced in the book is one Dr. Lester Organ made during his contracted time with Nautilus. It’s in this picture:

It was also referenced extensively in “Exercise 1986: The Present State of the Art”.
It was, at the time, the only real isokinetic device that provided positive, negative, and static resistance. The speed was preset, and I wouldn’t call it ‘fast’, but it wasn’t Super Slow. People didn’t train on the device. It was used for research and testing. Arthur later decided it was worthless, as it didn’t anchor the pelvis and prevent the thighs from lifting to his satisfaction. Still, it was the best of kind at the time, and lead to many more discoveries.

The testing of fatigue response (called “Work Capacity” at the time), was done beyond positive failure. The movement arm actually would lift the leg back to the extended position once the subject was no longer able to lift their leg at all. Even when all positive effort was not available, negative effort was still high.

The device was partially intended to work with para/quadriplegics, and provide them with some way of stimulating the muscles.

Ask Ken more about it.

PS – I’m the guy that wrote the “Critique of the Lumbar Extension” article that appeared in a SSEG issue, but I no longer see it available.


avatar Joshua Trentine February 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm


There is MUCH to say about this.

I was just discussing this with General Tso about an hour ago.

I can’t wait to discuss this more. Great find Danny! and yes…many discoveries made from and to be made from this application.


avatar Chasbari February 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

“Don’t get me wrong, that’s a hell of an effort and one that I would imagine few could replicate. But if you’re not getting weaker with every rep, and quick, something is wrong.”

Absolutely spot on!

Pleasure to read this.

Chuck Spencer


avatar Jay Horn August 24, 2012 at 1:57 am


I gotta try these machines.


avatar Joshua Trentine August 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

Oct 6th , 7th Jay!


avatar Johan Dekker March 24, 2021 at 10:14 pm

So you’re saying that after spending 120 million dollar in research by Arthur Jones at the most respected Universities in the country by the most knowledgeable scientist you think that MEDX has flaws……really


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