Training Upper Body with Negative Dips and Chins Only

Dr Darden,

I have been training regularly for over 30 years and have used many different types of training methods. Wendler’s 5 3 1, high volume high frequency, HIT, Heavy Duty and many of Christian Thibaudeau’s programs.
While building and maintaining a fairly muscular and athletic body with all of these various workouts I have never seen much of a difference in my physical appearance.
Over the last 4 weeks I decided to train my upper body with negative only chins and dips. I had never tried negative only exercise before.
I have been staggered with the results. At the age of 46 I have had better results in 4 weeks than I have ever had previously of 30 years.
Can you provide any explanations as to why this is possible?


Interesting experience. I am curious as to how the negative-only training was carried out. Was it normal loads with slow cadence (Darden’s 30 second or 60 second negatives). Or was it an overloaded eccentric: get into position with extra weight, and then just fight the negative for as long as you can?

Like you I have gone through many different routines through out the years and a while back I gave negative only dips and chins a try. Unlike you I found it made very little difference in results.

I am performing sternum chins negative only lowering initially for 8 seconds and terminating when I can no longer lower for 4 seconds.
I keep my elbows bent at roughly 90° through out and feel it very well in my lats. 2 sets of roughly between 6-8 reps.
I do wide grip dips allowing the elbows to flare out some to activate the pectorals.
I then do close grip palms facing chins, placing emphasis more on the biceps.
I then finish off with narrow grip dips with elbows pointing straight back to target the triceps.
All performed for the same sets and reps as the sternum chins.


Great to hear @Dylan2 !

I share similar experiences when going into the regime from Dr Darden’s “The new HIT” about three years ago! The difference from previous regimes, was the inclusion of full body workouts on less days, and also the cadence emphasis on form and slower negatives. I also highly recommend 30-10-30 which is a recurrent subject in Darden’s forum.

I have read quite a bit about Dr Darden’s 30-10-30 protocol and intend to try it on leg Extensions and leg Curls as it is difficult to do negative only exercises for legs as I train alone

I find performing 30-10-30 on leg curls is much more easily accomplished on a seated leg curl machine. The contracted position is much more intense.

Thanks for the advice. I will give it a try.

How can you keep your elbows bent at ~ 90 degrees throughout the movement when the movement entails moving from a position where your chest is against the bar to a completely lowered position? I can understand how the arms can be bent at 90 degrees at the elbow when the chest is against the chinning bar – but not in the completely lowered position.

I watched the video on Forgotten Exercises: Sternum Chin Up - Physical Culture Study – and on the eccentric part the guy’s elbow angle changes from << 90 degrees to 180 degrees.

Jesse Lee

Indeed. The seated leg curl machine is a significant improvement over the prone version – IMO. .

Jesse Lee

Were you ‘free hanging’ on both movements while lowering - or assisting the eccentric movement with your legs.

Jesse Lee

Free hanging. Of course I couldn’t do many reps that way , maybe 5 or 6 before I’d just drop like a log. I’d try 2 or 3,sets that way with lots of rest between sets. I did get sore doing those at first but then I’d get sore trying any new routine.

Wow. I would think that for chins & dips that would qualify as a real negative. I’m surprised that you didn’t grow like the proverbial weed.

Maybe strap some weight to yourself around your waist and do them. Legs assist on the way back up, of course.

Wouldn’t it be great to have two or three helpers every workout to assist in ALL exercises - for forced reps and negatives?

Jesse Lee

I remember once I tried adding weights to my chins to see what that would do and in no time I hurt my shoulder. It was one of the few times I ever got injured working out so after that I was very Leery of adding weight to negative movements .
As for growing on the negative routine or lack there of I think through out the years I rarely suddenly made substantial gains regardless of what I tried. I do recall times when it seemed like a new routine resulted in visible gains but at best a new routine might have added a quarter inch or less of size on my arms or back.

I hear ya.

I often wonder how olympic weightlifters, pro powerlifters, World’s Strongest Man contestants (in general, anyone who lifts humongous amounts of weight for years) fare when they get old(er). I well imagine that they have to get replacements of knees, hips, shoulders, etc. because those joints get SO much abuse from the weight lifted. Must take quite of bit of painkiller meds too.

I myself have had a partial replacement of my right knee back in 2013 - and am no doubt going to have a full replacement of my left knee next month (November 2021). Bone-on-bone stuff hurts. I have had to change my workouts because of the left knee issue - and since I do mainly leg work every workout, I have had to alter pretty much my entire workouts.

Jesse Lee

Like anything else, there is probably a lot of individual variation. Still, if you look at the video of Ronnie Coleman getting his “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Arnold Classic, it is kind of heartbreaking. This guy who had been enormously strong and muscular, is leaning into crutches, in order to stand on stage to get the award. He paid an enormous price for those achievements.

The contrast to Jay Cutler is stark. Jay produced a physique that was just as impressive, but using a much different philosophy when it came to using weight. Jay was much more cautious about “ego” lifting, and he is enjoying a lot better health in his retirement than Ronnie…

I will try and explain the best I can. I start with my lower sternum/upper abdomen pressed against the v-handle attached that is draped over a horizontal bar. I lean my body and head as far back as possible, as near to horizontal as I can. My elbows at this point are approximately 90°. I then contract my lats as hard as possible and raise my feet off the blocks I am stood on.
I try and imagine the exercise as a negative pullover. As I lower I TRY to keep the elbows at 90°. As I continue to lower I start bringing my head and shoulders forward so at the bottom they are slightly in front of my hands. My elbows are probably about 110° at this point.
I hope this helps.

This is why I started this thread. I started doing these negative only exercises with just bodyweight.
Straight away I could do 8 or more controlled reps.
Each and every workout over the following month I am able to add 2.5kg or 5kg to every exercise.
I seem to be increasing in strength every workout and have seen been physical changes as well.
This is better than any progress I have ever had in years of training. I can’t understand how negative only training has made such a dramatic 3for me.


According to this , advanced training techniques, like eccentric training, offer little advantage.

Find your technique(s) and work hard!

Wow nice !! very well written. Thank you for sharing this :slight_smile: .