Think doing partial range reps is cheating? You’d think the answer would be “yes”, but that might not necessarily be the case. You’re able to use more weight when doing partials, so therefore that should mean you can better overload the muscle, stimulating strength and growth gains. But are you short changing yourself by only working in the strongest part of your range of motion (ROM)? This article will look at the benefits of partial range reps as well as how to use them.
What are Partial Range Reps?
Partial range reps are exactly what they sound like they are – reps that are performed over only part of their full range of motion. Unless you actively try to do otherwise (such as with “21s”), they’re normally performed in the part of the rep where you’re the strongest. In “pushing” exercises such as the squat, bench, and overhead press, this is going to be near full muscular contraction. In “pulling” exercises such as pulldowns or curls, this is going to be near where the muscle is fully stretched.
Science Proves Partial Range Reps can Make You Stronger
The idea you can use more weight by only working in the strongest area of your ROM to better overload the muscles, thus getting stronger, is a valid one. A study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research compared two groups of lifters performing similar strength training programs. The only difference was that one group did nothing but full ROM reps while the other group did both full range of motion reps and partials.
While both groups got stronger over the course of seven weeks, the group that incorporated partial range reps experienced better results. However, don’t take this to mean you should train solely with partials. You want to couple them with full range of motion movements to ensure you’re getting stronger through your range of motion – not in just one part of it. Adding partials to the mix just means you can use more weight specifically where you’re the strongest.
How to Use Partial Range Reps
Now that you know partial range reps can get you stronger, you might be wondering how you should use them. There are three good ways you can implement them into your regimen:
Extend your sets when repping out – Perform as many reps of an exercise as you can with a full range of motion. When you don’t think you can perform any more full reps with good form, keep the set going by only working in the strongest part of your ROM.
Sets of full ROM followed by heavier partials – Perform your normal sets and reps of a given exercise using full range of motion reps. After that, start over by doing the same exercise for the same sets and reps again. However, this time bump up the weight and use partial range reps, instead.
Sets of heavy partials followed by lighter full ROM – Perform a few sets of partials for lower reps (say 4-6) using heavier weight. After that, lower the weight to something more manageable for more sets of 4-6 or a little lighter for sets of as high as 15. Try to be as explosive as you can with these sets as the heavier partials done first should have fired up your nervous system.
In the end, partial range reps can be very beneficial. Done correctly, they let you use a lot more weight which will overload the muscle and has been proven to increase strength. Just be sure to use them in addition to full ROM work so as to work the entire muscle thoroughly.