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Negative Reps – Negative Repetitions

negative reps
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Have you heard of ‘negative reps’?

It’s a highly effective style of training for building muscle and causing metabolic damage (that’s a good thing by the way!). In this post we’ll look at what negative reps are, the pro’s/cons and how to implement this type of training into your workout routine, giving you a bigger and stronger physique.

What are Negative Reps?

Negative reps are where you lift more weight than usual (30-40%) and use the help of a spotter – who helps you lift the weight on the concentric portion of the lift BUT on the lowering phase of the lift you have complete control.

Here’s an example of negative reps on the bench press…

  1. Normally you bench press 100kg when your training by yourself, however now you are going to do negative reps. Thus you load an extra 30kg on the bar (130kg).
  2. You get in position, your partner helps you unrack the bar, and then you slowly lower the weight down to your chest, taking 2-3 seconds to lower the bar.
  3. Once at the bottom your partner helps you lift the weight back up, taking off approx 30-40% of the weight so that you can press the bar back up to the top.
  4. This is then repeated throughout the rest of the set i.e. you control the lowering, your partner help you with the lifting portion.

Pros of Negative reps

The obvious benefit of negative reps is that it allows you to lift heavier. The heavier you lift the more damage you create, enabling you to get stronger at a quicker pace. The stronger you get, the bigger your muscles will grow.

Negative training is a way of placing more stress on your muscles compared to training alone. This type of training was used by top American bodybuilder Casey Viator, who reportedly gained 63.21lbs of muscle in 28 days – by using this method for a lot of his training.

Cons of Negative Reps

The most obvious negative (pardon the pun) of negative reps is that it’s highly stressful, placing the joints under a lot of stress, due to this extra weight. This increases the risk of injury and taxes the central nervous system; increasing the chances of overtraining, should a user be sleep-deprived or their diet be lacking in calories.

It’s important to get the volume right when performing negative reps. For beginners or intermediate lifters with less than 3 years lifting experience you probably don’t want to do more than 2-4 negative sets in an entire workout. It’s hugely taxing and you must build up slowly.

You also need to ensure you have a good spotter and training partner who you can trust, as this can be highly dangerous when done wrong. There’s a real art to spotting, the key is helping enough, without helping too much, or too little! If you’ve never done ‘negative reps’ It’s worth practicing first with lighter weights, until you have enough confidence to implement this with monster loads.

How to include negative rep training into your workouts 

There are lots of ways to include negative reps into your workouts. You CAN do you entire workout with negative reps, although most people use them more sparingly, as it’s very hard work.

For example in your next push workout you could do the following workout, including negative reps on a few exercises, such as follows:

Chest:

  • 1 set flat bench press – 6-10 (negative reps)
  • 2 sets incline DB press – 8-12 reps (normal reps)
  • 2 sets decline fly’s – 12-15 reps (normal reps)

Shoulders:

  • 1 set machine shoulder press – 6-10 (negative reps)
  • 2 sets DB side raises – 10-15 reps (normal reps)
  • 2 sets DB rear fly – 15-20 reps (normal reps)

Triceps:

  • 1 set EZ skull crushers – 6-10 (negative reps)
  • 2 sets DB overhead extensions – 10-15 reps (normal reps)
  • 2 sets cable push downs – 15-20 reps (normal reps)

Good exercises for negative reps…

You can’t do negative reps on every single exercises, as you need your spotter in a good position. E.g. doing negatives on the military shoulder press exercise isn’t going to be ideal (unless your spotter(s) are stood on boxes either side!).

Here are some great exercises to try negative reps with…

  • Chest – bench press
  • Back – lat pull down
  • Shoulders – machine press
  • Biceps – BB curls
  • Triceps – EZ skull crushers
  • Quads – Leg press
  • Hamstrings – lying leg curl

Have you tried negative reps before? Feel free to share you experience in the comment section below!

Nick Screetoni

Nick is a certified personal trainer who's been transforming people's physiques for the last 10 years. Nick's conducted over 10,000 training sessions and his brand LEPfitness is continuously growing (based in Sheffield, England).
Nick Screetoni

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