“How often should I incorporate negative reps into any given muscle group?”
Negatives are a great way to add more intensity into your workouts and overload the muscle groups engaged in the exercises you are performing. Negatives are performed by controlling the tempo of the repetition and slowing down the lowering phase of the lift to an approximate 3-5 seconds rep count.
Negatives are frequently touted as by far the most effective approach to muscle growth after having worked up to your with positives. Herein, a simple model is provided to demonstrate the effectiveness of negative repetitions.
Lifters have been using eccentric-focused training as an overload technique for decades. But recent science has given greater insight into why this works, and how to make it work best. Here's what you need to know!
Eccentric or lowering phase – lengthening the muscle under tension
Example: Lowering the bar to your chest for bench press
And because we can eccentrically lower and control approximately 25% more than you can lift (concentric phase – shortening the muscle under tension, example: locking out a bench press), heavier weights can be used for negatives.
The majority of muscle fiber damage – or microtrauma – occurs during the eccentric phase. This damage causes the muscles to adapt, which will build bigger muscles and help you to get stronger. This is why lifters who are trying to build more muscle, use negatives to overload the muscles a different way and push through plateaus in the gym.
Add more intensity into your workouts and overload the muscles being engaged.
When to incorporate negatives into your workouts
Negatives are typically done AFTER the primary work is complete for the main exercise.
If you are performing 3-4 sets for bench press, 1-2 sets of negatives will be done AFTER all of the bench work is done. See example below.
Main Lift: Bench Press, 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
You would use the weight on the bar from the last set of your heaviest bench for the negatives set. Just rest around 1 minute after your last set and then perform the 1-2 sets of negatives.
That is one way you can use negatives. Another way would be to add a few negative reps at the end of every set. For example, if you are performing bicep curls and the set calls for 12 reps, perform slower negatives for the last 3 reps. Each rep should have a controlled negative, but you can extend the length of the lower phase another 3-5 seconds to emphasize the tension on the muscle.
This will be a great way to end the set strong and blow out your muscles. I wouldn’t recommend this intra-set technique for the bigger lifts – like bench, squat, or deadlift – but for all of your accessory work, negatives can be used often to really push you in the workout and overload the working muscle groups.
How often to perform negatives
Negatives are very taxing and to your muscles, so you need to look at your training volume for the week and understand how quickly you’re recovering between workouts. If you are on a 4-5 day training split, using negatives every other workout should be ok. If you are training 3-4 days a week, incorporating negatives into every workout, shouldn’t be a problem. Just listen to your body and adjust the weights you’re using for each exercise according to how you feel during your initial warm-up sets.
The actual control of raising and lowering the weight will result in higher muscle gain. True control of the weight builds incredible core strength.
Every time you load a bar or perform an exercise, remain in control. Take weight training serious and always own the weight you are using. This is a huge key to not getting yourself hurt.
When you allow a weight to drop into position, you lose an opportunity to grow. Controlling the weight in all planes of movement, builds much more muscle.
Every time you move weight during training, it is another chance to grow. Take it serious, concentrate and grow. Remember the negative portion is your best growth opportunity.
So stop dropping the weight and learn to control the drop. Fight the descent in the squat. Coil your muscles like a spring as you lower the bar for the bench press.
If you can win the mental battle, you will become powerful. What do we mean by this statement? When you stay in the moment during weight training, you can and will control your repetitions. Keep your muscles tight!!
Control the descent or your negative portion of your repetitions. Slow your reps down a little and build tension in your muscles during the negative portion.
In the termination of the negative repetition, hold your built up tension for one or two seconds. Never relax under tension. At the completion of the one or two second hold, release your built up tension. Move the bar steady with power to completion.
Abbreviated Weight Training
Your mind plays a huge part in using weight training negative repetitions. Focus intently upon your exercise. This is another reason to use Abbreviated Weight Training.
These are relatively short workouts, by design. We need to stay in the moment while weight training, to maximize our opportunity. These type of workouts build muscle efficiently. Use your mental ability to maximize the negative portion of each repetition.
During the ending portion of your weight training cycle, you could use negatives to overload your muscles. Watch out, you can easily enter the over training zone, kind of like the twilight zone, almost as crazy.
Good rule of thumb only apply the use of pure negatives towards the end of your weight training cycle. Remember by not allowing over training, to get out of hand, we control another aspect of weight training.
You already know we want each weight training cycle to end in new territory. We also want a very short recovery phase between cycles. ( one or two weeks ) This is another reason to control all aspects of weight training, even over training.
The idea of doing pure negatives, is to use more weight than you can use during the positive portion of your exercise repetition. The best use of negative repetitions would be a compound exercise, like the squat. (deadlift is not a good match)
When doing negatives the rule of the day is safety. You are weight training with more weight than you can use, for the positive portion of your exercise.
This type of work needs to be performed in a squat rack. This will keep you from getting squashed. You need to be able to control the weight during the descent. You need to resist the weight from just dropping.
If you can not control the negative repetitions, then the weight is too heavy. Reduce the weight until you can maintain control.
Negative Repetitions Build Strength
Negative repetitions will give you positive results along the path to Get Strong-Stay Strong. Limited use of advanced techniques will bring greater gains. Each workout you recover from, gives you another opportunity to become stronger. We want you to use advanced techniques, just use them sparingly.Weight Train smart to weight train another day.
- Sign up for the e-zine and get your Rss feed to stay on top of this site and the weight training world. Ignore the hype and embrace the sensible approach, Abbreviated Weight Training. You must exercise, but you must exercise smartly.
- Whether you are doing your weight training workouts for biceps and triceps, a full body strength training program or just a few push-ups it is very important to understand negative repetitions and negative training to get the best results from your strength training workouts.
- What exactly are negative repetitions and how can you benefit from them? First some very basic background information. Your major muscle groups perform two basic types of contraction when weight training. Concentric contraction is when you lift against resistance and eccentric contraction is when you lower against the resistance. To get maximum strength gain benefit from a regular weight training exercise you will want to make sure you are focusing on both aspects. A common exercise protocol is to lift the weight taking two seconds and then lower taking a four full seconds, going extra slow as you lower. Many advanced training methods require much slower lowering of the weight. A common mistake people make is to let the weight down far too quickly thereby missing out on the beneficial eccentric or negative phase of the exercise. By focusing on this lowering phase of the exercise you will be involving more muscle fibers and stimulating the muscle growth process more. It turns out that your muscle are actually much stronger at lowering a heavy weight then lifting it. You can actually lower slowly about forty percent more weight then you can lift.
- So how do you incorporate negative repetitions into you workouts? Well the simplest way to first make sure that on each repetition you lift slowing, with no momentum and then lower about twice as slow. Continue to perform the exercise until you each muscle failure and can no longer complete a repetition.
- The next step up the intensity ladder with negative repetitions will be to add assisted negative reps to the exercise. The best and safest way to do this is with the assistance of a knowledgeable training partner. It is important that this person understands how to properly assist you with the last few reps. For example lets say you are performing a standard barbell bench press exercise. Continue to do the press, all the way up and then down to gently touch the chest, until you can not lift the bar up on your own. As you still attempt to lift the bar your training partner will provide enough of their own lifting force for you to keep the bar moving up to the top, then you lower it back down very slowly. On the next rep the partner will need to assist a bit more as you are now even more fatigued. By doing about two to four of these assisted reps at the end of a weight training set you will be working the muscles harder then normal and stimulated them to get stronger.
- To perform these assisted negative reps safely and effectively it is very important that both you and your training partner understand the procedure and stay focus at all times. With many muscle groups this type of training is best done on exercise machines rather then free weights. The important things are to work hard, work through the full range of motion and always use proper form. Please do not fall for the mistaken idea that free weights are much better then machines for building strength. You can get great results from eight device (and even simple body weight exercises) if you train properly. Your muscle do not really know if you are curling a barbell, dumbbell or using a bicep machine. The muscle do respond if they are exercised hard!
- Another advanced form of training with negative repetitions is negative only training. This is also best done with a training partner and in some cases a couple of training partners. This is due to the extra heavy weights being used. The idea is to use about 20 to 40 percent more weight then you can lift for several reps and just lower that weight, taking 8 to 10 seconds to do so. For example lets say you can lift 100 pounds in a leg extension machine for ten reps, failing on the eleventh. Try using about 130 pounds for your negative only reps. To begin do NOT attempt to lift the weight but have your partner in front of the machine, grab the backs of your ankles or the movement bar and raise it up to the top position, then let go. Now you slowly lower, taking 8 to 10 seconds, all the way back down. Then repeat immediately and continue until you can no longer control the downward movement.
- Perhaps the two most effective upper body exercises, chin-ups and dips, can both be performed in a negative only manner and can be done without the help of a training partner. Most gyms have stations for these exercises and a waist belt to use extra weight plates when needed. For the chin ups use a chair, bench or other device to get to the top position with chin above the chin -p bar, palms facing toward you. Release your feet and hold steady, then lower yourself very slowly all the way down to a full hang. Step back up and repeat. The combination of negative only chin-ups and dips can build tremendous upper body strength.
- How should you work negative repetitions into your workout routine. Moderation is the key here. Negative training greatly fatigues your muscle and increases the need for muscle rest and recovery. Increased muscle soreness is common. It can also add stress to your joints so watch for any undue pain. Weather you are using assisted negative reps or negative only reps just perform one set per exercise once per week. You will most likely be amazed at how you get a lot stronger and handle greater poundage. Several years ago a research program in Florida was set up to study the benefits of negative only repetitions. The program was terminated prior to completion when many of the volunteer assistants quit due to the fact that the subjects were getting so strong that it was too difficult for them to lift the weight that was being lowered!