While bodybuilders have gotten bigger and bigger in recent years, most of us would agree that it was the golden era athletes who truly had the most desirable physiques. These guys still had mass no doubt – Arnie wasn’t exactly small – but they also had flat stomachs with excellent vacuums and weren’t on half the amount of performance enhancing steroids that modern competitors are using. While Dorian Yates and beyond are ‘mass monsters’ that most of us could never hope to emulate, the physiques of guys like Arnie, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Sergio Oliva and the rest are attainable and highly inspiring as a result.
And to get a body like them, you need to train like them. That means utilizing the ‘Joe Weider Intensity Principles’ and one of the best of those is the partial rep – a brilliant tool for increasing the intensity of your workouts and really accelerating your gains.
What Are Partial Reps?
So what precisely are partial reps? As the name suggests, these are repetitions where you perform only a portion of the range of motion. That might mean training just the top portion of the movement, just the middle, or just the bottom.
One of the best examples of using a partial rep is the infamous ’21s’. 21s are a technique where you grab a barbell and get ready to do curls – 21 in total for a single set. Here though, you’re going to divide the repetitions into three portions. For seven reps you will curl at the top of the movement, for seven reps you will curl at the middle and for the last seven you will curl at the bottom.
Why does this get results? Well, not only does it focus intently on a specific portion of your ROM thus helping to create more laser-focus definition but it also forces you to stop the weight in its tracks, essentially eliminating the momentum that’s helping you and introducing a slight isometric hold.
More Powerful Ways to Use Partials
Another way to use partial reps is to train only the most difficult potion of a movement. In the case of something like a lateral raise for instance, this would mean training only the top where the arm is perpendicular to the force of gravity (horizontal). If you don’t go all the way down, you’ll increase your time under max tension and you’ll be forced to lift against momentum.
This shouldn’t be the only way you train any muscle group as it doesn’t train the whole range of motion. But as a way to increase intensity for a while, it’s great and demonstrates another way you can increase intensity without necessarily increasing the weight or even the volume.
Another strategy is to use something I like to call ’28s’. 28s are like 21s except you’re going to add 7 reps of normal curls/raises/whatever at the end. So once you’ve targeted each area of the muscle, you’re then going to complete as many forced reps through the full range of motion as possible. Let the pain commence!