The Positives of Negatives: The Benefits of Negative-Rep Strength Training

Image of fit man wearing workout gloves doing a bicep curl

Here at Studio SWEAT onDemand, we like to think of ourselves as basically the most positive fitness peeps around. Literally all smiles (sometimes through gritted teeth), all optimism, all encompassing yes-we-can vibes all the time. We feel that a positive attitude is key to working towards, hitting, and surpassing all of your fitness goals. 

But right now… it’s time to get negative. 

No, we’re not diving into our emo phase (though if you’re stopping by Hot Topic, feel free to pick us up some black lipstick and a Cure t-shirt) – we’re gonna be talking about Negative Rep Strength Training! This amazing weight training technique is so simple and yet so utterly effective for helping you maximize your gains, and yet it seems like nobody’s talking about it as much as they should! 

Worry not debbie downers and negative ninnies, because we’re going to be taking you through the ins, outs, ups, downs, yes’s and no’s of incorporating negative reps in your training routine!

What Is a Negative Rep?

Ok, definition time: muscle repetitions can be divided into two phases, concentric and eccentric. The concentric phase of a repetition occurs when you contract the muscle and move the weight, and the eccentric involves elongation of the muscle when you return the weight. So when doing a bicep curl, lifting the dumbbell up is the concentric, and lowering it down is eccentric. During a squat, when you initially lower yourself down, that’s the eccentric phase, and exploding upwards is the concentric. 

First Off, Take It Slow

To make the most out of negative reps for muscle growth, you’ll want to do them at a snail’s pace — the slower, the better. You may be thinking, “Oh, so this means that my workouts are gonna take forever now?” Just the opposite in fact! Because you’re working your muscles more efficiently than ever, working them slower actually gets more work done in half the time. Legendary bodybuilder Dorian Yates was famous for achieving one of the most impressive physiques ever, with a simple 45-minute daily routine. His secret? You guessed it, negative reps! 

Man spotting a woman doing an incline shoulder press

Methods for Doing Negative Reps

We’ve got three favorite ways for doing negative reps for muscle growth. Here they are in order of increasing intensity. If you’re able to do all of these in one set, we guarantee you’ll be feeling it tomorrow (and possibly the next day). 

Method 1: During each strength exercise, make sure to focus your attention on the negative rep, doing them slowly and deliberately, before exploding up for the positive rep again. 

Method 2: When you get a bit worn out on those reps, call a spotter over. Have them help you with the negative portion of the rep, and tell them to really help you slow things down. 

Method 3: When you feel you’ve got ABSOLUTELY nothing left, have your spotter actually perform the entire positive rep, and help them with the negative. This will squeeze every last ounce of strength out of ya. Can you say….gains?!?

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Man spotting another man at a gym, doing a bench press

Benefits of Negative Reps

Now that you know all about the WHAT and the HOW of negative reps, let’s talk about the WHY.

Increased Strength

It turns out that we’re actually capable of exerting more force during the eccentric, or negative phase of the rep. That means that if you’re stuck in an annoying plateau, getting those neg-reps in can actually help you break through, by getting your body accustomed to moving heavier weight than you would normally with the positive rep. 

Reduced Injury

Most muscle injuries occur during the concentric phase of a movement. Think about it, when doing those positive reps, what are you doing: jerking upwards, exploding forward, blasting through…any of those descriptors sound not dangerous??? But when you do slow negative reps, you’re actually concentrating on utilizing proper form, which reduces the risk of injuries during your workout. You’re doing more work, in a controlled, careful way. 

Stronger Ligaments & Tendons

All of us in the strength training game tend to focus on the muscle building aspect of our fitness, and so we often overlook the important role our tendons and ligaments play in the mix. After all, these helpful, tireless friends are responsible for supporting our muscles when doing their work, and are often prone to injury. When we do negative reps, we’re making these connective tissues more resilient, which protects us in the future. 

Better Flexibility

If all that weren’t enough, another benefit of negative reps is that they improve our body’s flexibility! They do this during the elongation aspect of the phase, which increases the length of our muscle’s sarcomeres, which are responsible for the striated, lean, and toned look many gym goers are aiming for. 

More Results, Less Time

As stated above — and worth mentioning again — negative rep strength training boosts your workout efficiency, giving you a harder workout in a fraction of the time. We’d say slow and steady wins the race, but negative reps are actually faster! 

Studio SWEAT onDemand weight lifting class

Welp, if that doesn’t convince you to take your strength training to a negative place (with a smile on your face of course!), we don’t know what will. And when you’re ready to put all that negative energy to positive use, why not sign up for a 7-Day Free Trial with Studio SWEAT onDemand! We’ve got a huge library of online strength training workout videos that you can do anytime, anywhere, on any device. Add to that an endless variety of Indoor Cycling classes, plus Pilates, Yoga, Bootcamp, Barre, TRX, and so much more! Sign up today, and let’s use negative reps to get positively shredded!