Anatomy of a Repetition

  • The Positive (concentric) Phase
    • This refers to the lifting of the weight and the shortening of the involved muscles.
    • The Positive phase of every repetition should take at least 3-4 seconds to complete.
  • The Negative (eccentric) Phase
    • This refers to the lowering of the weight and the lengthening of the involved musculature.
    • The negative phase of every repetition should take at least 5-6 seconds to complete.
  • The Upper Turnaround
    • When the weight is in the highest position transitioning from the positive to the negative.
    • The upper turnaround should be performed especially slow and controlled
  • The Lower Turnaround
    • When the weight is in the lowest position transitioning from the negative to the positive.
    • The lower turnaround should be performed very slowly with an emphasis on moving extremely slow through the first inch of the upcoming positive repetition.

General Guidelines for HIT

(High Intensity Strength Training)

  • Intensity
    • The effort for every exercise needs to be high in order to trigger the body to make change. Ideally every exercise should be taken to momentary muscular failure, which is the point where, despite your best effort in proper form, you cannot complete the last attempted repetition. You should continue to push against the resistance, trying to create any positive movement, for 3-5 seconds upon reaching momentary muscular failure.
  • Volume
    • If you’re intensity is high, then you must keep the workouts brief. Workout duration should be 20-30 minutes. Anything longer that 30 minutes should be a red flag, suggesting that you’re not giving 100% on each individual exercise.
  • Frequency
    • As with volume, if you’re putting forth maximum effort during your workouts you will need to give your body a minimum of 48 hours between sessions.
  • Form
    • Every exercise must be performed with a smooth and controlled cadence with the proper positioning and mechanics. Learning how to perform each individual exercise properly is critical to the safety and effectiveness of your workouts. Virtually every strength training injury I have seen or heard about are the result of some form discrepancy.
  • Resistance
    • A properly performed repetition should take approximately 10 seconds (refer to Anatomy of a Repetition for more details).
      • Upper Body Exercises – Select a resistance that will allow for 6-8 repetition (60-80 seconds) before achieving momentary muscular failure.
      • Lower Body Exercises – Select a resistance that will allow for 8-10 repetition (80-100 seconds) before achieving momentary muscular failure.
  • Progression
    • Once you are able to perform more than 8 repetitions for upper body and 10 repetitions for lower body you should increase the resistance by approximately 5%.
  • Standardize
    • In order to assess progress all exercises need to be a standardized as possible. That means that seat and body positioning, speed of movement and sequence of the exercises must be the same in order to accurately compare performance. At EVOLVEEXERCISE we use a benchmark routine that consists of a specific sequence of foundational exercises to periodically measure progress.
  • Recovery
    • Exercise is merely the stimulus, all the benefits of exercise come during the recovery between workouts. If you don’t allow for adequate rest you will severely limit the results you could achieve from strength. It is always better to take an extra day of rest as opposed to not taking enough. Give yourself at least 48 hours of recovery between strength training workouts and some advanced trainees may need as much as 72-96 hours of recovery.


Repetition Protocols


The Standard Repetition Protocol

A Standard (default) Repetition Protocol is 4/6 pace.  The positive (lifting) stroke should take 4-5 seconds and the negative (lowering) stroke should take 5-6 seconds. Every full (positive and negative) repetition should take approximately 9-10 seconds.

The Squeeze Technique:

The Squeeze technique is used during exercises where the midpoint of the exercise does not unload the working muscles. Examples of such exercises would be Rows, Chest Arm Cross (Pec Dec), Biceps Curls and any other exercise where squeezing at the midpoint of the repetition would increase the exercise intensity. The Squeeze Technique would not be used during any exercise where the midpoint essentially involves balancing the weight in a straight limbed position, which meaningfully unloads the working musculature (ie. Bench Press, Overhead Press, Squats etc..).


Super Slow Protocol/SMP (Slow Motion Protocol)

A Super Slow Repetition is a precise 10 second positive (lifting)/10 second negative (lowering) repetition.  SMP or Slow Motion Protocol is a little more loosely defined as a repetition performed as slowly as possible without stopping or segmenting the movement’ in other words, smooth and slow. As fatigue sets in one’s ability to maintain a smooth, fluid 10 second positive repetition is compromised (the fluidity of the negative repetition is not usually affected); with SMP the speed of the positive should increase, as necessary, in an effort to keep the repetition smooth and fluid.

Negative Repetitions

Negative Repetitions put the emphasis on the lowering phase of the repetition. There are many variations to Negative Repetition Protocol (NRP).

Negative Only (NOP):

During Negative Only Protocol (NOP) you will select a weight that is 30-40% heavier than your normal weight and only perform the lowering (negative) phase of the repetition.

  • Select a weight that is 30-40% heavier than your normal weight.
  • Have someone assist you in moving the weight to the mid-point of the repetition.
    1. In the case of bodyweight exercises, such as Chin-ups, Dips and Push-Ups it may be possible to perform Negative Only exercises without the assistance of a trainer/spotter.
  • Lower the weight slowly, through the entire range of motion, to a 10 second count. If the weight selection is correct:
    1. The first repletion should manageable enough to stop and possibly reverse the direction of the movement.
    2. The second and third repetition’s should be manageable to stop, but not reverse
    3. For all repetitions thereafter it should be almost impossible to stop the negative movement in proper form
  • Rest for approximately 10-15 seconds between repetitions.
  • Repeat for a total of 3-5 repetitions
    1. Terminate the set when it is no longer possible, in perfect form, to control the weight down over at least 5 seconds.

Slow Negative Protocol (SNP):

SNP is a standard positive repetition (4 seconds raising the weight) followed by a 10 second negative. SNP reps utilize between 90-105% of the weight load used for standard repetitions.

  1. Select 90% of the weight load you would normally use for the given exercise.
  2. Perform a normal, 4 second, positive stroke
  3. Perform a slow, 10 second negative stroke
  4. When you can perform 8 repetition in strict SNP form raise the weight 5%
  5. If you cannot perform at least 4 repetitions in strict SNP form lower the weight accordingly.


Negative Accentuated Protocol (NAP):

NAP can performed with or without the assistance of a trainer/spotter. An example of NAP performed on a Leg Press machine would look like this:

  1. Select a weight of approximately 70% of your normal weight load for the exercise.
  2. Perform a normal positive repetition (remember the weight is lighter, so this should be relatively easy).
  3. Carefully transfer the weight to one leg, and with that leg, slowly lower the weight.
    1. Each rep should take 10 seconds
    2. Perform 4-6 repetitions with the first leg selected and then repeat the process on the other side.
    3. If you are able to perform a full 6 negative repetitions (each leg) for 10 seconds raise the weight by 5% the next time you perform the exercise.
    4. Conversely, if you can’t maintain a 10 second negative for at least 2 repetitions lower the resistance.


Negative Emphasis Protocol (NEP):

NEP is performed with a trainer/spotter, who will manually apply negative resistance by pushing against you on the negative stroke.

  1. Select a weight load that is approximately 70-80% of your normally weight for a given exercise.
  2. Perform a normal 4-5 second positive.
  3. Pause at the midpoint of the exercise.
  4. The trainer/spottter will gradually begin to apply resistance against your efforts to lower the weight to a 10 second count.
  5. Perform 3-6 repetitions.
    1. The first repetition should be sub-maximal efforts.
    2. Repetitions 2 through 4 should get progressively more challenging
    3. The Finally 2 repetitions are maximal effort, where you are trying to create positive movement while the trainer/spotter is pushing against you. It is the trainer/spotters responsibility to apply the appropriate pressure to maintain the 10 second negative while you are pushing with maximum effort.




The Pre Exhaustion Set

A Pre-Exhaustion is an isolation (single-joint) exercise followed by a compound (multi joint exercise) for the same muscle group with a minimum amount of time (ideally less than 5 seconds) between the 2 exercises.

  • Set up both exercises prior to starting the first exercise.
    1. Select a weight load for the first exercise that is appropriate for the exercise sequence.
    2. Reduce the weight load of the second exercise by approximately 20-30%
  • Perform exercise #1 to momentary muscular failure
  • Upon completion of exercise #1, immediately, without any rest, move to and begin exercise #2
  • Perform exercise #2 to momentary muscular failure.


The Breakdown Set

A Breakdown set is performed by taking an exercise set to momentary muscular failure, reducing the set by 20-30%, and immediately, without rest, performing a second set to momentary muscular failure. A third breakdown can be performed following the same procedure if desired or necessary.

Breakdowns can be pre-planned or utilized when muscular failure was reached too soon.


Rest/Pause Protocol

Select a weight that will all you to perform approximately 4-6 repetition (but no more) in proper form using Standard Repetition Protocol.

  • You will then perform a set until you can no longer continue in perfect form (Momentary Muscular Failure).
    1. Upon failure, place the weight down and rest for 15 seconds.
  • After the brief rest, perform a second set, with the same weight, until you can no longer continue in perfect form.
    1. This set will typically allow for 2-3 repetitions to failure
    2. Place the weight down and rest 15-20 seconds.
  • After the brief rest you will perform a third and final set with the same weight until you can no longer continue in perfect form.
    1. This set will generally only allow you to 1-2 repetitions to failure.



  1. Myo-Reps are a variation of Rest/Pause training.
    1. Select a weight that allows you to perform 8-20 repetitions.
    2. Perform the initial, activation set and stop 1-2 repetitions short of failure.
    3. Rest for 10-15 seconds
    4. With the same weight perform another mini set of approximately 20-25% of the repetitions you completed on the first set. Stop short 1-2 reps short of failure.
    5. Rest for 10-15 seconds
    6. Perform the same number of reps as you did in step d. and continue in this manner for 4-5 mini sets or until you reach muscular failure.