You can search for a key word in our fitness tips and articles by using the search box below.

Search Term:

Health and Fitness Tips

Negative Equals Positive Results!

A unique training technique for body-sculptors to use to shake-up their routine, is to go heavy with negatives to get positive results. Confusing - no... very simple.

In the gym, you strive for bigger lifts. Each workout, you want to lift more, whether it's 10 more pounds on the bar, grabbing that next set of dumbbells off the rack, or moving the pin one or two notches lower on the machine. More weight, more growth. If you hit the weights with that mind-set, you are halfway there. But if you focus only on the positive portion of the repetition, you're missing out on a key element of the repetition that could make the difference between incredible gains and minimal progress.

In weight training, lowering the weight is the 'negative' portion of each repetition and it is as important as lifting. And not doing negatives correctly make a huge difference in your regular training, but harnessing their power can be used as a technique to bust through a plateau and send strength gains skyrocketing.

The principle of going negative to get positive results works like this. A partner assists in lifting the weight through the positive portion of the lift, then you work to resist the downward motion, letting the weight down as slowly as you can while keeping tension on the working muscle. For instance, on the bench press, you'd load up a weight that's about 15%-25% heavier than you can typically handle, your spotter would help you lift the bar into position over your chest, and then you'd slowly lower the bar down to your pecs.

You can employ negatives in two different ways first, as described above, where you load the bar and do a set of 1-6 negative repetitions. Or you can do negatives at the end of a regular set after you have reached muscle failure on the positive repetitions. Back to the bench-press example, say you do eight full repetitions by yourself before you reach muscle failure on your last set. On the ninth repetition, your spotter lifts the weight up for you, even though you've reached failure on your positive repetitions, you're still good to go on negatives. Two or three negative repetitions at the end of the last exercise of the set can ensure that you get the most out of your training. (This second variety shouldn't be confused with forced repetitions, which also come at the end of the set. Although similar, during forced repetitions your partner provides just enough help so that you can complete positive reps, then you take the negative at your regular speed; during negatives, your partner provides the vast majority of the power to get you through the positive contraction and you really focus on fighting the negative repetitions.)

Having said that, negatives shouldn't be used all the time. They typically induce a lot of muscle damage, leaving lifters very sore - if done too often, they can compromise your recuperative abilities. However, occasional negative workout can offer variety and an opportunity to manipulate your training intensity.

Take the message to heart. Use negatives, but judiciously - every four or five weeks is pretty good if you are training on a regular basis. If you do try them, make sure you have a good partner - one who knows when to verbally challenge you, and when to pull the weight off of you.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed