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The Partial Rep Workout

Next time you hit the gym, act like your first girlfriend and don't go all the way. Instead, use quarter reps to build strength and size.
James Michelfelder & Therese Sommerseth

One of the first things you learn when you start lifting weights is how important it is to use a full range of motion on exercises. That’s how you work the entire muscle and avoid developing imbalances that can reduce your flexibility and cause injuries later on. This remains sound advice, and if you’re a relative beginner to resistance training, you should follow that rule. But if you’ve been lifting for a few years, it may be time to break it.


Part of getting bigger means getting stronger, and after you’ve milked the quick gains every beginner enjoys, it gets harder to add weight to the bar. Performing only part of a rep—usually the top-quarter range of motion—allows you to break this plateau. It’s easier to handle heavier weight when you’re doing only the first quarter of a rep, such as coming down just a few inches on the squat. Called a “partial rep,” this isn’t necessarily cheating. When you use very heavy weights for a partial, you stimulate your central nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers. This then “convinces” your body that you’re actually stronger, and you’ll find that you can handle heavier weights when you go back to using a full range of motion.

The workouts that follow take advantage of this trick, alternating heavy partial-rep sets with heavy full-range ones for big gains in strength and the muscle growth that will inevitably follow.

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Perform each workout (Day I,
II, and III) once per week, resting at least a day between each session. Exercises marked “A” and “B” are paired and alternated. So, you’ll do one set of A, rest, then one set of B, rest, and repeat until all sets are com- plete. Then go on to the next pair.

Click here to see a video of Dan demonstrating some moves from the Partial Rep Workout.

DAY I >>

Sets: 4    Reps: 2-4    Rest: 120 sec.

Set up spotted bars in a squat rack so that you can lower yourself only one-quarter of the way down before touching the pins. Load the bar with 100-130% of your max. Squat, lowering your body until the bar touches the pins—but do not rest on them. Drive back up through your heels.

* 1A SQUAT [right]
Sets: 4    Reps: 2-4    Rest: 120 sec.

Set the spotter bars to the bottom position of your full squat. When you squat, take a deep breath and push your hips back as you descend. Push your knees outward at the same time.
 Use a load you could usually perform five reps with, but go for six if possible.



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