In Oxygen, we love to preach about doing full range-of-motion reps. And in fact, studies confirm that stopping short robs you of the complete benefit of an exercise.
That said, there is a time when a less-than-complete rep is not only acceptable but encouraged.
Partial reps allow you to extend a set beyond the point of initial failure, putting more beneficial stress on your muscles and promoting a hormone response that sets recovery and repair activity into motion. You may not be able to do a full rep anymore, but you can likely still move through part of it, trying for three-quarters, then a half and then one-quarter reps, stopping when even those become impossible.
“I’ve always been a fan of partial reps because they can be done anywhere and with any type of weights or resistance,” Shoemate says. Partial reps typically focus more on building muscle endurance versus strength, but it really depends on how you do them. “If you’re doing higher reps, then your focus will be more on endurance,” Shoemate says. “But if you only do a certain angle or range of motion and are using heavier weights, it’ll definitely build strength and give muscles more shape and definition.”
TRY IT YOURSELF
Because they’re so intense, use partial reps sparingly on a set or two at the end of a workout once or twice a month. Try it with dumbbell hammer biceps curls:
“Start with full reps, doing as many as you can,” Shoemate says. “When you can no longer get the weight all the way to the top, start doing half reps. When that becomes impossible, finish with quarter-range-of-motion to ‘pulse’ reps, stopping when the burn is red hot and you can’t move the weight anymore using just your biceps.”
In addition, Romero suggests a quarter squat to build your legs. “Set the safety bars in a squat rack so you can only lower yourself one-quarter of the way down before touching,” she explains. “Load the bar with 100 to 120 per cent of your full squat one-rep max. [Editor’s Note: if you don’t know that figure, you can add 25 to 30 per cent more weight to what you regularly lift for 10 reps.] Do the quarter squat, lowering until the bar touches the pins — then drive right back up through your heels to standing.” You can either do these quarter squats on their own or after regular squats in your leg workout. £