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.

HOW IT WORKS:

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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DIRECTIONS:

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 >>

* 1A ONE-QUARTER SQUAT [left]
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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* 2A DUMBBELL WALKING LUNGE [not shown]
Sets: 3    Reps: 8-10 (each leg)    Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step forward. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel with the floor and your rear knee is about an inch off it. Step forward and repeat on the other leg. Each lunge step is one rep.

* 2B HIP THRUSTER
Sets: 3    Reps: 8-10 (each leg)    Rest: 60 sec.

Sit on the floor with your feet flat and your upper back resting against a bench. Roll a barbell into your lap and grasp the bar just outside shoulder width. Drive your heels into the floor to raise your hips until your body forms a straight line.

DAY II >>

* 1A ONE-QUARTER BENCH PRESS
Sets: 4    Reps: 2-4    Rest: 120 sec.

Set the spotter bars in a power rack so when you bench press you can lower the bar only one-quarter of the way. Load the bar with 100–130% of your max. Lower the bar until it touches the pins and then press back up. Do not rest on the pins at the bottom.

* 1B BENCH PRESS
Sets: 4    Reps: 4-6    Rest: 120 sec.

Set the spotter bars to the bottom position of your full bench press and perform a set with full range of motion. Choose a load you could usually perform five reps with but go for six
 if possible.

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* 2A SEATED DUMBBELL PRESS [not shown]
Sets: 3    Reps: 8-10  Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on an adjustable bench with the back support set between 80 and 90 degrees. Using a neutral grip (palms facing each other), press the dumb- bells overhead. Keep your core tight.

* 2B FACE PULL
Sets: 3    Reps: 8-10  Rest: 60 sec.

Face an adjustable cable station with the cable height set just above eye level. Attach a rope handle and grasp it with palms facing each other. Pull the rope toward your nose—your hands should end up on either side of your ears, and your upper arms should be parallel with the floor in the end position.

 

DAY III >>

* 1A RACK PULL
Sets: 4    Reps: 2-4    Rest: 120 sec.

Set the spotter bars in a squat rack at just above knee height. Place a barbell on them and load the bar with 100–130% of your max deadlift. Grasp the bar and pull it against your shins. Keeping your back flat, extend your hips to lockout and stand tall.

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* 1B DEADLIFT
Sets: 4    Reps: 4-6   Rest: 120 sec.

Set up a bar on the floor outside the squat rack. Use a load that you can usually perform five reps with but go for six if possible. Keeping your lower back flat, drive your heels into the floor and lift the bar until your hips are locked out and you’re standing tall.

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* 2A PULL THROUGH
Sets: 3    Reps: 8-10   Rest: 60 sec.

Set a pulley to the lowest setting at
 a cable station
and attach a rope handle. Face away and grasp the rope. Straddle it between your legs. Step forward until there’s tension on the cable and then drive your hips back, bending your knees only slightly, until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Extend your hips.

* 2B ALTERNATING DUMBBELL REVERSE LUNGE  [not shown]
Sets: 3    Reps: 8-10 (each leg)   Rest: 60 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step backward into a lunge. Keep your torso upright.