Get smart with your weightlifting training program by doing negative reps. Discover how a negative rep workout boosts muscle growth.
Grow Your Muscles Fast with Negative Reps
A Sample of a Forced Negative Set on a Chest Bench Press
When you want to quickly grow your biceps and triceps as well as the muscles in your legs and shoulders, then learn how to do negative reps. Here’s an example:
- Grab two dumbbells and a flat bench and then follow along as Tim McComsey demonstrates a forced negative chest press to a fly (in the video below this post).
- Lay flat on the bench with the dumbbells straight above your chest.
- Perform a fly out to the side, bring those dumbbells in, and then press straight up.
- Perform this exercise in reps of 10 or 15.
This workout makes you much stronger on your fly and builds up your chest at the same time. Negative reps sound simple, right?
In reality, you can apply the same principles for other types of chest exercises and workouts. The concept behind forced negative training is the focus of this article.
What Is a Negative Workout?
In the world of fitness, you’ll come across a variety of terms, and they may not have a literal meaning. Take, for example, positive and negative workouts.
It may seem as if positive workouts refer to good ones and negative sets are exercises you should avoid. The truth is they refer to the types of contractions of the muscles.
Depending on the actual movement and the speed at which you perform the bench press workout, for example, you can build muscle or increase muscle strength and size more quickly.
Now, for the specifics. When one says a positive workout, it means you apply a force toward your body, and you go toward the same direction as the force.
Negative reps, therefore, work oppositely. When you feel the force applied to you, you go in the opposite direction.
It’s similar to resistance training using a band. The more you pull the band in different directions, the more you can feel the strain or the tension on your muscles.
Concentric and Eccentic Contractions in Negative Reps
We cannot complete a discussion on negative reps without mentioning concentric and eccentric contractions.
These two are examples of isotonic contractions, wherein you maintain the tension of the muscles but modify their length. Put it simply:
- In a concentric phase, you are shortening the muscles.
- When you are doing an eccentric bench press, you are lengthening the muscles.
How does it work in a forced negative exercise such as a bench press workout? In general, when you’re lifting the weights up, you are doing concentric work.
When you’re lowering it down, then you’re making an eccentric contraction. That’s not all, however.
Because the goal is to boost muscle strength and muscle mass when you’re in the eccentric phase in negative reps, you need two other components besides repetition:
- A heavier weight
- Slow movement when lowering down the weights
Negative reps are not partial reps where you shorten your range of motion for a particular exercise.
How Negative Reps Help in Building Strength and Size
What do you achieve when you perform dumbbell curls, leg extensions, or other chest workouts? You are creating tears or microtraumas on the muscles.
These types of injuries are not inherently bad. With them, you are encouraging protein synthesis or letting it do the work.
With the constant tearing and repairing, you are adding more muscle layers. In turn, you increase muscle mass.
Doing weights can lead to these microtraumas, but it’s when they are in the eccentric phase that you experience muscle overload and the most muscle damage. It then forces your muscles to adapt as much as possible.
Not only that, when you’re in an eccentric phase or doing negative reps, you are training your body to lift weights heavier than you normally lift. In the process, you are not only building muscle mass but also enhancing muscle strength.
A study also outlines some of the benefits of negative reps:
- Improves your concentric phase when performing stretch-strengthening cycles, such as in running and sprinting
- Allows the activated muscles in the lengthening movement to work as shock absorbers
- Enhances muscle coordination when doing eccentric tasks
Some Tips to Improve Negative Workouts
You can make the most of your negative reps (and make sure they work to your advantage) with these tips:
- Start your training session at the gym. You may need the assistance of a personal trainer when doing negative sets, especially when lifting heavier weights.
- Focus on speed and form in every rep you do.
- Avoid doing supersets when doing negative sets to give yourself more time to slow down in every forced workout.
- Apply eccentric contractions in many of your exercises like squats.
- Don’t ignore other types of exercises like resistance exercise.
- Improve your peak performance with plant-based protein powder such as Sunwarrior Protein Warrior Blend. It’s great for either a pre- or post-workout food supplement and will give you the full amino acid profile you need to build lean muscle.
Watch Tim McComsey as he demonstrates forced negative chest workout in this video from Sunwarrior:
Sometimes, it’s not only the number of reps that matters when increasing muscle growth—so does the speed in which you perform the contractions. Negative reps can help you achieve that.
If you’re gunning for bigger pecs, try adding negative reps to your workout. It helps improve strength, flexibility, power and helps you achieve more muscle damage with less energy expenditure, too!
What do you think are the other benefits of negative reps? Share them in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 7, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.