What Is Negative Training?
Negative rep training focuses on the negative, or eccentric, part of an exercise. It's the phase of the move where you are lowering the weight, not pressing it. An example is the stage of a squat when you're bending your knees and coming down to the bottom of the move or after you've pressed the barbell up in a bench press and are lowering it to your chest. This phase of the exercise should be slower and more controlled as you should being supporting and resisting the weight and not pushing it.
Negative rep training is useful for those who want to increase their muscle mass. The technique overloads the muscles, helping to achieve hypertrophy. By overloading a muscle, you create small tears in its fibers and they rebuild larger each time, building up bigger and bigger muscles every time you challenge them.
When you use negative training at the beginning of your workout, you take advantage of your existing strength and rested muscles by pushing them to lift more. In his book on muscle and strength, James Stoppani notes that a lifter can resist 130 percent of his 1RM (the maximum amount of weight he can lift in one rep) when using negative rep training. By challenging your muscles in this way, you'll call upon more fast twitch muscle fibers to work through the lift. Your muscles will respond by rebuilding more and stronger fast twitch muscle fibers so that it can meet the challenge next time, building up your strength overall -- including the positive and concentric phase, not just in the negative portion of your exercises.
How to Negative Rep Train
If you want to give negative training a try, do it on the days when you have a lifting partner, someone who can help out during the positive phase of your exercises and be there to spot you during the negative phases. Typically negative training is accomplished by 1) adding manual resistance on the lowering phase of any lift 2) adjusting the weight lifted and lowered when using a selectorized plate machine (lighter when lifting and change to heavier when lowering), or 3) assisting your lifting partner through the concentric (lifting) phase with an amount of weight they could not lift on their own, and allowing them to lower the weight during the eccentric phase without assistance.
You should do three or four sets that include negative reps, then perform two more sets of the same exercise reducing the weight to 75 percent of your 1RM while completing 10 to 12 reps.
Negative rep training is extreme, providing an intensity that you'll enjoy but also one that you'll feel in the days following your training. Give your body the rest it needs both between sets and between negative training days. Between sets, allow yourself about three minutes of rest before hitting the weights again. Rest periods between negative training workouts should be a full week -- that's right, an entire seven days. Be prepared for the muscle soreness you'll experience from negative training to be just as intense as the workouts are. You will eventually get used to them and the severity of the discomfort will decrease, Also, don't push yourself to train if you're not feeling 100 percent. Negative training after a viral infection can compromise your health, too.