The Reverse Gravity Principle of Training

A muscle will achieve its maximum size when it's stimulated with full intensity through the entire range of contraction.

Muscles move bones, and as these bones move through a range of motion, leverages change. The degree of muscular reaction varies according to the changes in leverage.

Muscles help one another. But when you lift a weight, some muscles do more work than others due to more advantageous leverage. The muscles that receive the major share of the work will grow the most. Those muscles in a less advantageous position along the line of motion find the weight too heavy to respond with maximum effi­ciency, and their growth suffers.

Back in the early '50s I wrote about the Re­verse Gravity Principle of Training, explain­ing why reverse resistance could be so effective. The benefit to all the muscles involved in an exercise is not always equally divided, I stated. Reverse resist­ance can be used to counter this problem.

In order to make a muscle grow, you have to make use of the overload principle. This can be accomplished in more ways than one — e.g., forced reps, supersets.

I learned early that you didn't try to establish detente with muscles. When I was working on Arnold Schwarzenegger's training routines,

had him change his exercises constantly to shock his muscles into responding, to prevent them from adapting. Muscles are very tricky, and soon find the easiest ways of doing various exercises.

So how can you get the entire biceps muscle, for example, to work with max­imum intensity through the full range of a curling motion? First of II, you have to use a lot of weight in order to affect the strong middle section of the biceps. But the problem then becomes: how do you get the upper and lower parts of the biceps to handle this excess weight? Simple. By re­versing the move­ment, letting the heavy weight travel slowly downward through the full range of the curling motion.


First the weight is boosted off the thighs ­however imperceptibly — to gain momentum. In the middle arc of the movement, the biceps exerts Its fullestpower and continues the momentum upwards. At the top of the arc where the biceps curling power diminishes, the movement is completed, deceptively. by moving the elbows slightly forward, permitting the weight to literally fail the remaining distance to the shoulders. Obviously, only in the middle arc of the motion does the muscle sustain the major load.


If you're capable of getting a 150-pound barbell to the shoulder, you have the start of a heavy curling movement ­downward_ As the weight descends, you resist, hard, attempting t stall its downward progress. Th6-top, middle and bottom parts of the muscle get a full share of the effort. All the ligaments and tendons get tougher and thicker in a way that doesn't happen when you isolate the parts of the biceps with exercises like Concentration Curls and Incline Curls. You are making the biceps work against 150 pounds in a way not possible with an upward curl of 125 pounds.


There are three ways of using this Reverse Gravity Training Principle:


1) Start at the top of the movement with a heavy weight and lower it slowly all the way down.


2) For the more advanced bodybuilder, a heavy weight can be lowered slowly halfway down, stopped, then raised back to the starting position. Reps can be performed this way. lowering the weight to the bottom position only after completion of the set.


3) A training partner can apply downward pressure on the weight to increase the stress as a's being lowered. This is a kind of "forced reps" in reverse, as you're forced to fight through the slow downward movement.


The trick to this reverse method of training Is being able to set up the movements so you can handle them effectively. For example. how would you do reverse Chins Behind The Neck?


Stand on a bench under the chinning bar so that the bar rests across the shoulders. Strap a heavy dumbbell or heavy plate around your waist. Grip the bar at the desired width, lock the lats. and raise your feet off the bench. Lower as slowly as you can. resisting hard all the way down to arms' length.


The lats get the full shock of the load right at the beginning of the exercise, in the position of fullest contraction where peak development occurs. When you've lowered yourself to the very bottom. simply stand on the bench and return to the starting position for another rep. You can also leave the feet on the bench during the downward movement. keeping the weight off them as much as possible.


Regular Chins with weights cause you to stall about halfway up after the first few reps (as in Biceps Curls) because you have reached the weak point in the upward movement. Thus, only the muscles exerting power through the lower range of the movement are worked to the limit.


Many top bodybuilders do their Chins without weights in order to get the fullest contraction. Using the Reverse Gravity Training Principle. they could lower themselves with 40%. 50% or even more weight, effectively working the muscles in both the upper and lower ranges of the motion. It's possible for a strong bodybuilder to do reverse-gravity Chins with 150 to 200 pounds strapped around the waist.


After doing the heavy reverse reps. do regular Chins without weight to augment the pump. Its also feasible to do supersets with regular and reverse reps done alternately one or two reverse reps with a heavy weight, followed by 10 reps of regular Chins. without weight.


The Reverse Gravity Principle complements the idea of partial reps (incomplete movements) where the more powerful section of a muscle's range of contraction isn't sacrificed to the weaker sections. For example, you can use much more weight with quarter to half Squats than with full ones.


Also. If you were to do strict Lateral Raises with dumbbells to work the deltoids, you would not be able to budge a heavy enough weight from the side to make the exercise useful. Instead, by raising heavy weights to the horizontal position with a slight throw. and then fighting to lower them slowly. you are in effect doing reverse reps against gravity. The powerful area of contraction at the horizontal level is not sacrificed to the much weaker area a third of the way from the bottom. Thus, you are giving priority to the upper range of motion. permitting the deltoids to handle the heaviest possible weight in this range.


There are a number of reverse gravity exercises that can be done with assistance from a training partner. With the various Lat Pulls. for example, yOu can overload the pulley and then let the partner give the cable a downward pull, When the handle reaches the finish position near your shoulders or chest, you can slowly return the weight to the starting position.  Thermogenics can also be a big help in burning excess fat when working out.  Check them out at


I suggest you add reverse gravity resistance training to your program. Do about four or five reverse reps for the final set with the heaviest weight possible. The muscles will be thoroughly warmed up from the preceding sets. which will eliminate the possibility of strain. Try a muscle rub to help keep the muscle relaxed and to help remove soreness.


You might keep a chart of the poundages both for the reverse gravity movements and the regular movements Establish this relationship between them Don't let one muscle area get ahead of the other. Strive for complete development Like I said. you can combine reverse movements with regular ones for the same muscle, using the supersets principle.


I developed this reverse gravity idea years ago when I was training with Marvin Eder, Reg Park and Doug Hepburn, all men of super size and strength. It merits a revival_ Mike and Ray Mentzer. as well as Casey Viator, have lately been using the principle to increase the intensity of their workouts, and they have all gained greater muscle mass.


Why don't you give this principle a try?