Negative Training
Negative Training

Negative Training: Go Negative to Increase Muscle Mass

Table of Contents

Why the Word Negative is Positive in Weight Training

Negative Resistance Training = Eccentrics; the phase of the move where you are lowering the weight, not pressing it. Eccentric training (also known as negative training) is a technique that allows you to push your muscles past their normal point of failure. This allows you to lift, eccentrically, 30 to 40 percent more weight than you could normally handle.

Negative reps, or “negatives,” are not new. For years, bodybuilders and other weight training enthusiasts have incorporated them for added intensity and variety. The idea of devoting entire workouts to performing eccentric only movements started back in the mid 70’s, so it’s a tried tested and true technique.

Understanding Muscle Contractions 101

3 Types of Muscle Contractions

Concentric –the muscle shortens under the load (the lift)

Eccentric –the muscle lengthen under the load (lowering)

Isometric-develops tension but does not changes in length

For example, during a traditional dumbbell biceps curl the movement of curling your arm up is concentric, lowering your arm back down from the curl position the movement is eccentric, which causes the muscle to contract as it lengthens. Lengthening motion of exercise triggers hypertrophy the most.*

You are stronger during the eccentric phase of any lift…simply put; you can lower more weight than you can lift.


Benefits of Negative Resistance Training

  • Greater increase in muscular strength levels
    • Greater increase in muscular hypertrophy (muscle size)
    • Muscles can work with higher loads eccentrically than concentrically, with a greater load meaning more efficient workouts and faster results
    • Strength gains developed during eccentric training will carry over to concentric work
    • Can be performed with most equipment, including dumbbells and machines
    • Good way to switch up your workouts, avoid plateau, and challenge your muscles in a new way.

To get the full effect of training with negatives, you need to go very slow. You should take at least 3-5 seconds to lower the weight. You must use the longest range of motion possible. This means all the way down for the bench, and arms fully extended for the bicep curl. Negatives are most effective for low reps. Also, negatives will lose their effectiveness if you do them every workout. Negative training techniques require you to have a partner to help lift and or return the weight from the start position.

There are different styles of negative training, all are very effective, and can be used in conjunction with your current workout.

Pure negative setsAs the name suggests, pure negative training is when your sets only consist of negatives.

Finishing negative sets-finishing negatives are when negatives are used to finish off a set.

Negative supersets– just like a regular superset routine with emphasis on the negatives instead of the positive.

The best exercises for negatives are:

  • Bench press
  • Wide grip pull up (jump up on the bar and lower yourself down)
  • Bicep curl
  • Bicep preacher curl
  • Close grip bench press
  • Smith machine press

Negatives are a great way to add more intensity into your workouts, this is why lifters who are trying to build more muscle, strength and power, use negatives to overload the muscles and push through plateaus. The key to this program is simply this: NEVER let GRAVITY do the work!

Train safe, train smart.

Joseph Palumbo is an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder, Certified Trainer (SMART), Advance Sports Nutrition Specialist (ASNS), and Certified Navy Seal Fitness Instructor. You can contact him at


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