What are negative reps?
There are two phases to any reps: the concentric phase and the eccentric phase. The concentric phase is when your muscles are shortening, For example, during a bicep curl, the concentric phase is when you bring the weight up. During the bench press, it's when your bring the bar from your chest up to the finishing position. For the squat it's when your go back up from the bottom squat position.
The eccentric phase is when the muscle lengthens. For the curl it's when you lower the bar. Same for the bench press and the squat. This phase is also called the negative phase.
Doing negative reps is when your only work the negative part of the rep.
I only recommend negative reps to advanced trainees who have a lifting partner as they require a very high amount of strength, technique and require a spotter to ensure maximum safety.
How to do them
You are 20%-30% stronger during the eccentric phase compared to the concentric phase. For this reason, you need to use a weight that is very close or even slightly higher than your 1 rep max.
An easy trick I tell people is to have your partner "assist" the negative rep by applying pressure onto the bar during the negative portion of your lift and letting you do the concentric part by yourself. This way you don't have to worry about adding and removing weights and you work with a load you are comfortable with.
You do not need to perform negative reps slower than usual.
Let's go back to our bicep curls. You would start in the regular position, curl the weight up, and on the way down (the negative part) your partner would press gently down on the bar, creating a heavier load that you would have to control down. Then you would curl the weight up by yourself and repeat.
There are a few different protocols on how many reps to do, the simplest one being 1-2 negative reps followed immediately by 3-5 regular reps.
Negatives are quite stressful on the muscles and nervous system so take at least 2 minutes rest between sets.
Only do negatives a couple times a week for no more than a month in your program.
Why are negative awesome?
The best way to gain strength is to lift heavy weights. Negatives offer the opportunity to lift very heavy weights, sometimes heavier than our 1 rep max. They overload the muscles in a controlled setting. Sine they are very intense, you won't be spending a lot of time doing them, resulting in a very efficient workout.
Exercises you can do these
Not all exercises are suitable for negatives. Joint integrity and safety are the main concerns here. I only use negatives on the following exercises.
- Bench press, all variations
- All variations of pull ups
- Tricep and bicep work
- Machines targeting the back muscles (for these you can pull the weight with both hands and then slowly release the weight with one hand)
Exercises you should NOT do these
- Any exercise where a weight is over your head, so all shoulder press variations are out
- Any leg exercises
- Any core exercises
All the exercises above are best performed at lower intensities to ensure maximum safety.
Negatives are an advanced technique that can drastically increase your strength. Always have at least one spotter with you and only stick to the recommended exercises.
The strength increase is mainly due to neural adaptations, however, your muscles will also go through a tough time, and you will feel extra sore the next day. Always give enough rest time between workouts involving negatives to make sure you don't run yourslef to the ground.
If you have any more questions about negatives, feel free to contact me here!