Partial rep training is performing repetitions within a partial range of movement. The aim is to increase maximal strength by taking advantage of the strength curve of an exercise by lifting heavier weight/resistance through the range of movement where you are stronger. Or target the range of movement where you are weakest so that you can lift heavier through this point. Reps are usually kept very low and at a very high % of 1RM.
Studies offer mixed results as to the effectiveness of this technique, suggesting it may be only applicable to specific muscle groups and exercise variables. However, proponents of this technique claim it to be useful for breaking through a plateau. To perform this training with intelligent consideration, you will need to understand the strength curve of the exercise you want to do. There are a few ways to do this training:
- Have spotters to help you through the range of the desired movement.
- Use the pins of a rack setup for the range of the desired movement.
FORCED REP TRAINING
Forced rep training is a type of partial rep training that involves having spotters assist you in performing a few more reps beyond your point of failure. They do this by helping you lift the weight through the weak portion of the strength curve of an exercise and let you lift through the rest of the movement.
A VARIATION ON PARTIAL REP TRAINING
A variation of partial rep training is to attach resistance bands or chains to the ends of your barbell to increase the resistance through the part of the lift where you are stronger. While this technique isn’t strictly partial rep training as it trains the full range of motion, it does apply much the same principle. Again research isn’t conclusive, however many highly trained weight lifters are proponents of this technique despite the sometimes high level of complexity in setting it up.
I see partial rep training more often than not. And I’d be willing to bet that most lifters do partial rep training because they can lift heavier to boost their ego rather than as part of a considered training plan. That’s fine in the short term. But in the long run, not doing exercises through their full range of motion is going to exacerbate weakness and be to your detriment. For that reason, I prefer the methods that include a full range of motion.
MIXED PARTIAL REPS AND FULL REPS
Another form of partial rep training is to alternate reps in a set between doing a half rep through your range of weakness followed by a rep through the full range of motion. For example, if you were to do squats, an exercise where you are weakest at the bottom. You would go down, come back up halfway, go back down, come back up all the way to the top, and repeat. This method allows you to add a little bit more weight on the bar than if you were to do the full set through the full range of motion and focus on your point of weakness.
1. An analysis of full range of motion vs. partial range of motion training in the development of strength in untrained men. Massey CD, et al. J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Aug;18(3):518-21. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15320644
2. Effect of range of motion on muscle strength and thickness. Pinto RS, et al. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):2140-5. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22027847
3. Effects of changing from full range of motion to partial range of motion on squat kinetics. Drinkwater EJ, et al. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Apr;26(4):890-6. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22222322
4. The effects of 24 weeks of resistance training with simultaneous elastic and free weight loading on muscular performance of novice lifters. Schoepe TC, et al. J Hum Kinet. 2011 Sep; 29:93-106. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23486257