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Fitness & Health

28th Jan 2014

JOE’s pre-workout tips: Negative reps can help you break through your workout plateau

Hitting a plateau can be frustrating and demoralising, but there are some ways to break through that barrier


Hitting a plateau can be frustrating and demoralising, but there are some ways to break through that barrier

Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or someone who just started back and wants to get serious about their fitness in 2014, everyone eventually hits a plateau, and it can be very frustrating and annoying to not see yourself making the progress you were just a few weeks earlier.

There are several ways that you can try to solve the issue, and one of the best techniques that JOE has found is to use negative reps in your regular workout.


A negative rep essentially uses the weight on the ‘negative’ motion of the rep to its full effect, rather than being just an afterthought of the lift or the ‘positive’ motion. What it means, for example, when applied to the bench press, is that when you’re lowering the weight down towards your chest, you do so in a slow and controlled manner which stimulates your muscles on the negative motion instead of allowing them to rest. This will bring about failure on your reps quicker, but the added tension and stress on the muscle also helps it to become stronger. It sparks growth because you are able to sustain more weight on the way down through the negative or ‘eccentric’ range of the movement than you can on the way up.


Timing is key to this process, and there are a few different ways that you can use it to your advantage when doing negative reps. You can vary the count that you use when lifting from 1-1-3, to 2-2-4. Experiment with both and see which you find the most effective. For 1-1-3, you try to make the lift last one second, hold it at the top of the movement for one second, and then lower it for three seconds. So that’s a one count positive rep, a one count hold and a three count negative rep. For 2-2-4 the principle is exactly the same, using a two count positive rep, a two count hold, and a four count negative rep.

Overall benefits

This is not just for people who are looking to gain size for their muscles. That can happen as a result of doing negative reps, but as usual diet will play a key part in that. What it can do is make your muscles stronger as they are under tension for a greater period of time and this also requires much greater control on your part. This will definitely benefit your technique also, and by slowing the motion down you can spot where you might be making an error, where there is an imbalance, and so on.

They can be added to almost any exercise, and as usual, it’s always of benefit to have someone spot you to help you out when you can. If not, you can isolate single arms or legs and spot yourself that way. As always, if you’re unsure of any technique or not familiar with it, then you should ask a trainer at your gym, who can show you the correct form.

Nutrition is always key to any workout, and for something great with a high protein content that’s also delicious, try Mooju chocolate milk. With over 10g of protein in a 250ml container, as well as carbohydrate. Mooju is a great choice for your workout.

Enjoy Mooju as part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle.


Hat-tip to Men’s Health for the picture.

LISTEN: You Must Be Jokin’ with Aideen McQueen – Faith healers, Coolock craic and Gigging as Gaeilge