How to do Negative Reps

Negative reps in a nutshell

  • Simple but brutal technique to increase intensity and force muscle growth.
  • Focuses on lowering the weight when the muscle is too exhausted to raise the weight.
  • Best to use a training partner to perform this technique.
  • Use this to break through a plateau or just to change thing up a bit.
  • Use sparingly as this will cause considerable muscle soreness!

Negative Reps Explained

Using negative reps in bodybuilding is a way for bodybuilders to increase the intensity of a set. Increased intensity and increased T.U.T. (time under tension) can cause more “damage” to the muscle tissue, which triggers greater muscle hypertrophy, or growth of the muscle.

Every repetition of an exercise has a positive (concentric) component when the muscle contracts and gets shorter. For example, the bicep muscle when you curl a dumbbell from mid-thigh up to your shoulder.

There is also a negative (eccentric) aspect to the repetition such as when you allow the bicep muscle to elongate by lowering the weight.  This is the “negative” portion of the rep.

Your muscle can handle more weight during the Negative portion of the rep than the positive portion. This means you can do more negatives than positives of a given set with a given weight.

Using this fact to increase intensity, after your muscle fails to raise the weight, if you can get some assistance with that part, you can continue the set by doing only “negatives”.

Negative reps: Set up

This technique is easily done with a training partner.  Some exercises can be done alone such as one-arm dumbbell curls as you can assist yourself with the positive portion using your free hand.

Negative Reps: Execution

Using barbell curls as an example, when you reach the point where you can no longer raise the weight, your training partner steps in and assists you in raising the weight. This allows you to lower the weight without assistance, one or two additional times.

This technique can be very difficult to use in certain exercises such as squats, where the weight would be far too much for one training partner to assist you in raising it so you could lower it again.

It is easily used in exercises such as concentration curls or single arm dumbbell curls.  When you fail, you can use your other arm to assist you in raising the weight, and then continue lowering the weight with only the muscle being worked.

It is also possible to use momentum or body motion to assist you in raising the weight  if you don’t have a training partner to help you.  Use this technique to extend your final set by one or two repetitions.

Exclusive Negative reps

You can also perform a set of negatives-only. One example would be the Bench Press. You will need two training partners for this, as they will be raising the barbell for you after each negative rep.

Load up a barbell on the raised pins on a power rack with 10% more weight than you can bench press normally, and simply perform only the lowering of the weight. Then your helpers will raise the weight for you so you can perform another rep.

Do as many reps as you want, but I would start with 2 or 3.

Please don’t overload too much as you can injure yourself especially if you are not accustomed to this technique.

Negative reps should be used sparingly as they work the muscle much harder than standard sets.