Negative Training | Eccentric Contractions

Written by Callum Melly

Negative Strength Training

 What Is It? 


The term “negative” strength training is a training system used during the “eccentric” part of the contraction. The eccentric phase of a movement is where the muscle lengthens & the term “negative” refers to the concept of controlling the load/weight for a certain period of time whilst the muscle is under optimal tension.


What Are The Benefits?


What people forget or simply don’t realise is that we can achieve just as many, if not more, micro tears to the muscle during the eccentric part of the movement. Time after time I see people only focusing on the “concentric” contraction (the shortening of the muscle) & using momentum on the eccentric phase to then achieve another concentric repetition.

How Do You Do It? 


This may all sound rather complicated, but let me make it easier to understand. Imagine you’re doing a barbell bicep curl when you curl the weight up, that is a concentric contraction (the muscle shortens) & when you are at the top of the movement, your bicep will be under optimal tension. When you lower the weight, that is an eccentric contraction (the muscle lengthens) & providing you control that weight down & use full ROM (range of motion) you will encourage more micro tears to the muscle & promote more lean muscle growth.


I always use a tempo of 2:1:2 (2 seconds concentric, 1-second pause under optimal tension, 2 seconds eccentric) when training in a hypertrophy rep range (8-12 reps) to promote lean muscle growth. Remember, the longer the muscle undergoes tension throughout each exercise, the more micro tears you can cause & you can achieve a leaner, toned & shaped body.

barbell biceps curls

How Can It Be Applied?


Negative strength training can literally be applied to any exercise; it is all about making sure you can feel the targeted muscle contract & control the load/weight throughout the entire part of the movement for your desired tempo. I have used a tempo of 2:1:8 before with lighter weight but forcing the muscle to work hard & control the negative (eccentric) part of the movement & then power the weight back up again & repeat. You often need a spot towards the end to help you with the concentric contraction, make sure you have a training partner on these days.


I personally like to stick to compound exercises that often allow you to move more load/weight such as squats, barbell chest press, deadlifts, pull-ups & chin-ups, simply because you can increase the amount of tension from load/weight on the muscle that you have to control through the eccentric part of the movement.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile oranisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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