What Are Negative Sets – And Are They For You?

Eccentric training is the only time your workout should be "negative."

Negative sets, also known as eccentric training, is a powerful technique for rapid strength gains – and it is devastatingly effective at breaking through stubborn plateaus.

Negative training involves loading the resistance beyond your maximum and only performing the exercise in the muscle-lengthening (or eccentric) movement. The opposite of an eccentric movement is a concentric movement – and this involves the contracting of your muscles. Since negatives only involve the eccentric movement, you’ll need to enlist the help of a spotter or workout partner for the concentric portion.

For a better explanation and illustration, let’s use the example of doing negative sets on a bench press. It’s generally recommend that negatives should be started at 105% of of your one rep max (i.e., the amount of weight you could press if you were just doing one repetition). Let’s pretend that your one rep max is 100 lbs. In this example, you’d load the bench press with 105 lbs of weight.

Your workout partner would stand behind the bench to provide the required assistance; true negatives can’t be done without a spotter.

When lowering the bench press bar toward your chest, take twice as much time as usual. Really feel the resistance while you lower the bar for a duration of 3 – 6 seconds. Once the bar touches your chest, your workout partner will provide a VERY HEAVY spot to return the bar to the starting position. Lower again, and continue.

Negatives are very tough on your muscle fibers – and you should feel the muscle breakdown fairly quickly; there’s no need to do more than three negative sets. And remember to give you muscles adequate recovery time after your workout.

Only perform negatives on those exercises that can be easily and effectively spotted, like the bench press or barbell bicep curls.

As effective as they are, negative sets shouldn’t be the backbone of your workout routine as they ignore concentric training. Instead, use negative sets as a tool for breaking through plateaus or to spice up your routine.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


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  12. Mark Thompson says:

    Weighted pullups, dips, leg curls and concentration curls are more than achievable without a spotter. Just load weight in a backpack, and either stand on something for the dips and pullups to get into position or use both hands to get into position for the conc curls. Actually, dumbbell one arm upright rows, bent over rows, and the landmine lateral raise/flyes could be achieved using the two to one hand method too. You could even work your abs doing negative crunches with a heavy backpack.


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