Negative Only Reps – An Advanced Training Technique

As we talked about in our post on advanced training techniques, you might find yourself wanting to increase the intensity of your workouts to get over a growth plateau. However, you can’t increase your weight stack forever as you approach your biological maximum potential, and you shouldn’t necessarily keep spending more and more time in the gym. You may be doing more total work, but that doesn’t always mean you’re getting more benefit, just like at your job. Instead of just increasing your hours or days at the gym, you may be ready for an advanced HIT training technique to reach past your current limit, such as Negative Only reps.

Check out our master list to see all of the advanced techniques we recommend. This week, we’re going to take a look at the Negative Only Reps training technique.

What is the Negative Only Reps Training Technique

In a Negative Only set, each repetition is begun with the help of a trainer or spotter. The book “Maximize Your Training; Insights From Leading Strength and Fitness Professionals” by Matt Brzycki details the procedure: “For an entire set beginning with the first repetition, one or more spotters assist the lifter in raising the weight while the lifter concentrates on lowering the weight. Since eccentric strength is greater than concentric strength, the lifter should use a heavier weight than he or she can normally handle–perhaps as much as 40 percent more. In this application, the eccentric portion of the repetition should take about 6–8 seconds to complete.”

You can adjust the speed and weight change of the Negative Only set. “A Practical Approach to Strength Training” suggests that “If you’re performing negative-only repetitions for the first time, start with about 10% more resistance than you’re normally capable of handling.”

There are two phases to every rep that you perform; the concentric (or raising) portion, and the eccentric (or lowering) portion. Keep in mind that you won’t literally be lifting and lowering your limbs or the machine component for every exercise, but you will be lifting and lowering the weight stack itself. You are stronger when you lower the weight than when you lift it, because of how your muscle fibers slide against one another when you contract the muscle. Negative Only reps take advantage of this, because you’ll be able to do more reps at more weight and reach a deeper fatigue; it will help you get those last few drops out of the gas tank, as it were.

Why Do Negative Only Reps? 

Similarly to Negative Accentuated Reps, tapping into your extra strength during the lowering phases of the exercise taps into more of your total possible output. While doing both negative and positive stages of the exercise, you will eventually fatigue to the point that you can’t complete the whole rep with good form, but you would still be capable of doing just the negative portion for a short time. If you kept going after reaching fatigue with a trainer-assisted negative-only rep, that would be a form of Post-Exhaustion training, and it is another good advanced technique.

The real benefit of Negative Only reps comes when you perform the reps much slower, and at a higher resistance, than you would normally be capable of. By increasing the overload on your muscles, you stimulate them to change and grow. The better the overload and subsequent rest/recover period, the better the growth.

To learn more about incorporating Negative Only reps into your routine, talk to a trainer at Vertex Fitness.


Read more about the other Advanced Training Techniques:

Forced Reps

Super Slow

Negative Accentuated


Manual Resistance

Negative Only





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