Every movement that requires us to overcome the resistance without reaching the maximum possible amplitude is a partial rep. However, unlike the incomplete ROM, the method of partial reps is more differentiated and can be realized in the first, second and third 1/3 of the movement’s amplitude.
There are options, with which we can eliminate the first and fourth ¼ of the working amplitude, and focus the tension on the middle zone. The advantages of the movements, done with full amplitude, are well known, so we won’t discuss them now.
A disadvantage however, is that at the starting and ending phase of the movement, the tension is insignificant.
Even though we visually observe maximum range of motion, the tension is focused on the lesser part of the range. In other words, from an intensity point of view, we have a partial tension, that is always focused in a single part of the movement, usually the middle part.
Partial reps according to the starting position
1- When the reps are initially done in the overcoming (positive) part of the exercise- for example, during an incline bench press, when the barbell takes off of the chest up until the certain ¼, 1/3, ½, 2/3 or ¾ of the movement, and back down to the chest.
2- Just the opposite- we start in the negative part of the movement, up until the planned part of the amplitude- Half squat with a barbell.
The abundance of bodybuilding methodologies allows the method of partial reps to be involved in a variety of ways during the separate set:
- The whole set is done with partial reps.
Appropriate exercises: Barbell squat, hack squats, leg press, etc.
- The partial reps are included after reaching the point of failure with full ROM.
Appropriate exercises: Bench press, as well as all the exercises listed above.
The effect that we achieve here concentrates on the complete muscle glycogen exhaustion, in the relatively uninvolved parts of the given muscle group.
- This method involves partial reps after reaching failure with full ROM, but the little detail here is that the exercise ends with a drop set, and 3-4 more reps with full ROM. This way, we exploit the positive effect of 2. and neutralize the negatives of the partial reps method, when it comes to joint and muscle flexibility.
Bodybuilders exploit the method of partial reps to stimulate hypertrophy. Partial reps are used by athletes in other sports that require functionality. They do that through a strength workout focused on strength capacity in specific points and angles, needed for overcoming plateaus.
Last but not least, partial reps can successfully be used for the treatment of certain muscle-joint injuries, that limit us of the full ROM.
Partial reps have a number of advantages and can be used to increase the tension upon the strong muscle sectors, that are often insufficiently stimulated with full ROM. It can also be used to strengthen the weak points of the full amplitude, that is often the reason for plateau in development.
Using bigger weights through the method of partial reps, is without a doubt the motive of this method.
And so, we reach the conclusion that in order to avoid the limitation in intensity, that the critical point of a certain exercise gives us, we must apply maximum effort in the beginning of the movement. Such methodic is completely and mandatorily used by weightlifters and power-lifters, for whom, overcoming the critical points grants them success.
At the same time, the weight is meant to be kept under control, so it won’t turn into an injury risk. And so, a variation between cheating and partial reps can be successfully applied to overcome the critical point of an exercise.
Partial reps can successfully be done with one machine, as well as free weights. Machines are less likely to injure you, which makes them appropriate for those who just get into the method of partial reps.
Free weights (e.g.- dumbbells) require additional effort to balance the weight, but their movement trajectory keeps the individual joint, muscular and bone ratios. As a part of the whole amplitude, partial reps can also be used in isometric mode.
Besides the undeniable effect that this method has, we should know that it cannot replace the fundamental method of full ROM. Which, again, implies the intelligent combination of both methods.
Usually, it’s recommended for the first and second exercise to be done using partial reps, while the last ones are done using full ROM.
Such approach solves three main problems:
- Through the exercises, done using the partial reps method, you focus on tensing the less exploited muscle sectors.
- Through full ROM of the other exercises, we put the stronger but exhausted and weaker, but fresher muscle groups in an equal position.
- Finishing the workout with full ROM, is a methodical shield, against the loss of joint and muscle flexibility, that is a trait of the permanent use of the partial reps method.
The relatively big weights, that are overcame, using this method, require perfect warm up beforehand.
To do this, we usually start off with 2-3 warm up sets, using a local exercise and moderate weight with full ROM, in the 20-30 rep range.
Logically, this introductory load is not an actual hypertrophy stimulus, but it’s possible to repeat the same exercise with an adequate, higher volume and intensity.
Practically, the partial repetitions method can be used with every exercise, which doesn’t require certain examples for this method.