Sunday, May 25, 2014

Are Partial Reps Bad? By Veeraj Goyaram


Who Said Partial Reps Are Bad?
By Veeraj Goyaram
The Myth Sergio Oliva used partial reps to build his chest
"Half reps equal half results" 
One of the first advice I received when I started training was to always train with a full range of motion (ROM) in order to get the maximum benefit. That's the usual advice we always hear and can be generally viewed as good advice for those starting out. However, nothing is set in stone as partial repetition training can also bring sizeable muscle building benefits. It is important, however, to know when and how to use them. That's what this article aims to teach you.

Half-assed reps vs. partial reps (pardon the english)
Some gym clowns do partial reps for the wrong reasons because the weight is too heavy for them to do even a single full repetition. Therefore, what they do is to rep out whatever range of motion they can with that weight, almost always with the help of a spotter. This half-assed approach is most commonly seen on leg presses, bench presses, squats and shoulder presses. We have all seen people piling up the weight on the bar or machine and then lower the weight only a quarter or halfway down rather than go any deeper. That's the easiest range of motion because the deeper you go the harder it gets.
That's the deepest that some gym clowns will go on the bench press. They'd be better off dropping the weight a bit and do the stuff right.
Give 'em no chance to relax
A great stimulator of muscle hypertrophy in resistance training is the time the muscle spends under tension. A lot of top trainers, like Dennis James and John Meadows advocate subjecting the working muscle to greater time under tension (TUT) using partials reps. On certain exercises partial reps allow you to maintain constant tension on the muscle. These are exercises that would normally involve a "lockout"position, which is a position at which there is less tension on the muscle.

On shoulder presses, for example, I stop a few centimetres short of lockout, meaning that I don't go all the way to the top. The top part of the pressing movement involves my triceps a lot and therefore doing partials, "bottom partials" as I would call them, allows me to keep my deltoids under constant tension while reducing triceps involvement. This creates a greater pump which contributes to muscle hypertrophy. Now, try to imagine doing the same bottom partial trick on bench presses, dumbbell (not cable) flyes and squats. 

Examples from old school
Mr. Olympia Larry Scott performed shoulder presses only in the middle 3/5th of the movement because, according to him, the top portion is mostly triceps and the bottom portion is mostly traps. Read more here.
Larry Scott Partial Presses
Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva performed bottom partials in the bench press as shown in the video below. He actually built his chest using this technique and its not something he was doing, as some would argue, to just maintain his chest size as he had already reached his maximum growth.

How to use partials?
  • Pure partial rep sets: Every rep of the exercise is performed with partial reps or you can do a full rep once to lockout after performing a few partial reps (as in the Sergio Oliva video above). Let's say I'm bench pressing. I'd do five bottom partial reps followed by one full rep. I then repeat with 5 partials followed by an excruciating full last rep. I get 12 reps.
  • At the end of a set: I like performing full range of motion barbell curls until my biceps are exhausted and can't perform any more full repetition. I can still crank out a few more reps by moving a few inches from the bottom of the lift (your strongest part of the lift).
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My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka and Dr. Tertius Kohn, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2012, 2014), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
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