Negative Reps: The Secret to Muscle Growth

Negative reps are an advanced training principle. The importance of negative reps started in the Golden Era of bodybuilding. The technique allows you to condition the body to adapt to a heavier weight. You don’t see many bodybuilders using negative reps anymore. When you do, they usually do it wrong.

What is a negative rep?

A negative rep is when you only perform the eccentric (lowering) part of an exercise. Think of a squat. Set up as normal and lower yourself into a deep squat. At the bottom of the rep have the safety rails catch the bar. With the help of a partner lift the weight back to the start and reset. You only perform the negative part.

How do you set up a negative rep?

Negative reps can work for all exercises, but compound lifts offer more bang for your buck. Pick an exercise which you wish to improve upon and start there. In most cases, you’ll need a workout partner to help reset the weights and spot you on the negative reps.

Once warmed up, start the lift with a heavy weight. Somewhere between 110-130% of your 1-rep-max. You don’t need to perform the concentric part of the movement so you should be able to handle at least 125% of your 1RM.

You can programme negative sets on their own or add sets to the end of your regular lifts. It’s recommended to use negative sets as a variation to bust through plateaus. There’s no right or wrong way to perform negatives so have a play around with it.

Benefits of Negative Reps

Microtrauma (gains)

Microtrauma is damage to the muscle fibres. This is how you build muscle. Lifting causes the muscle fibres to break down, which recover during rest. The fibres recover stronger than before to better handle the stimulus next time. This results in muscle growth.

The majority of microtrauma occurs during the eccentric (negative) part of the rep. Focusing on negatives allows you to lift more weight and causes more muscle fibre breakdown. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is often worse after negative reps.

Plateau Buster

Negative reps are an advanced training principle which helps you bust through plateaus. Most of us reach a limit with compound lifts and struggle to progress. Negative reps get your muscles and central nervous system used to heavier weights. Time under tension with a heavier weight will help you improve your one-rep-max.

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