Build muscle

We’ve all heard the classic tempo scheme, to lift “slow and controlled” so you can really feel each rep of work in the gym. Beginners can all benefit from this.

But a beginner you are not. So such simple guidelines simply don’t apply to you anymore.

You’ve put in your time at the gym, and as a result, you’ve got a great physique. It’s that next level that you’re after, however.  On the cusp of a plateau, it’s time to shake something up. 

Now before you go all crazy and go from isolation workouts to the Crossfit “Chrissy” or “Fran” workout, it’s worth mention that you may not need to tweak all that much to bust through plateaus that have been holding your gains back.  Enter eccentric loading.

The Benefits

Focusing on exaggerated negative (eccentric) reps of your exercises will be a very humbling experience.  Using a 50X0 tempo – and being disciplined about doing so – will be the biggest shock your muscles have received since whiplash.  We have to remember that our muscles are comprised of 3 major types of muscle fibers.

Type I – “slow twitch” fibers. These are least explosive in nature and have a high resistance to fatigue. They’re geared for endurance – based exercise.

Type II – “fast twitch” fibres. These are much stronger, and much less resistant to fatigue. These are geared towards anaerobic movements that are explosive in nature.

Type IIb – “super-fast twitch” fibres. These are the strongest muscle fibers present in the body. Though they’re least resistant to fatigue, their potential for max strength is very high.

Based on the above, we can now stop to think about traditional strength training protocols with weights. A standard set of strength and size training will usually make the type II muscle fibers take control of the lift. Imagine a bench press to a 10 rep max. On the 10th rep, you reach failure, and can no longer push the weight off the chest. The catch is this – you haven’t reached negative failure. Even if you could no longer perform any reps off the chest, it’s almost guaranteed that you could hold the bar with extended arms, or at least lower the weight slowly for more reps. THESE stores of strength are dominated by the type IIb fibers. For this reason, it is beneficial to throw exercises into your program that tap into the eccentric strength of your muscles, and work towards that negative fatigue and failure.


The Moves

This short workout is a total body approach that uses supersets. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity, however. This will leave your muscles screaming if you perform the reps correctly.

A1) Barbell Bench Press – 5 second negatives – 10 reps
A2) Pull-ups – 5 second negatives – max reps

Perform 5 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.

B1) Barbell Back Squat – 5 second negatives – 10 reps
B2) Barbell Push Press – 5 second negatives – 10 reps

Perform 5 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.

C1) Inverted Rows (palms in) – 5 second negatives – max reps
C2) Eccentric Glute Hamstring Raises – 5 second negatives – 6 reps

Perform 3 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.

Negative Reps, Positive Gains

It’s a simple solution for stagnant muscle development. A quick look at the science of muscle can turn into a new approach to exploiting them for everything they’ve got. Try peppering this workout into your 6 week program, and you’ll notice not only an increase in size, but an increase in strength too. Remember, you’re increasing your total time spent under tension with such long negatives, meaning you’re going to increase the amount of lactate you produce, resulting in elevated hydrogen levels and ultimately DOMS.  You read it right – prepare to be more sore than normal from this kind of workout. Make sure your post workout nutrition is on point and then go get ‘em!


Lee Boyce is a sought after strength coach and fitness writer based in Toronto Ontario. His work has been featured in major publications including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, TNATION, Musclemag, and Inside Fitness. Lee is the owner and operator of  and is regularly featured on TV media as a fitness expert. Be sure to follow him on twitter @coachleeboyce, and facebook .