Repetitive pushing, pulling and squatting movements in the weight room combined with sports-related pushing, pulling, throwing, running, kicking, jumping and lunging can tax shoulder, elbow, knee and hip joints and lower-back muscles. Over time, you may feel sore and beat up, and your natural range of motion may become limited, impairing your skills and exercise form.
This article discusses the benefits of substituting partial range reps for full-range reps of various upper- and lower-body exercises to continue building muscle while minimizing joint stress and optimizing recovery of muscle and joint soreness.
Performing partial reps in the strongest range of the lift in a Power Rack with a barbell set on pins (e.g., the top or near lockout position of a Bench Press) is not only safer and places less tension on your joints, it also allows you to use heavier weight in the stronger range (the weakest range is lifting the bar off your chest). In comparison, full-range reps generally require using less weight.
Below are two fast and intense full-body workouts (one with bodyweight-only movements, the other using a barbell) that incorporate both superset combo and regular set partial rep exercises.
- Barbell (80-90% RM)
- Pull-Up Bar (or substitute Inverted Rows in a Power Rack)
- Bar Dip Station
- Portable Bench
- Power Rack
- Water bottle
- Timer (optional)
- Do an upper- and lower-body Dynamic Warm-Up (e.g. Arm Circles and Lunges).
- Finish with upper- and lower-body cool-down static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
- Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
- Perform workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
- Perform partial reps in the strongest range of movement, and do isometric holds of 10 seconds on the last rep of each set.
- Sets/Reps: 3x10
- Rep tempo: 2-1-1 (2 seconds negative [lowering], 1 second pause, 1 second positive [lifting]).
- Rest: 30 seconds between supersets and regular sets; 60 seconds between exercises.
Workout 1 (Bodyweight Exercises)
Partial Bar Dips or Partial Push-Ups Superset with Partial Pull-Ups or Partial Inverted Rows
- Start with your arms extended on the bars.
- Lean forward and lower yourself a few inches with your arms slightly bent.
- Pause and then press back to start position.
- On the 10th rep, hold in the partial rep contracted position for 10 seconds, then immediately go to the Pull-Up bar and pull yourself up only a few inches (arms are slightly bent in this range).
- Pause, then lower and repeat for 10 reps (substitute partial rep Inverted Rows for partial rep Pull-Ups for variety) and hold 10 seconds on the 10th rep. If substituting partial Push-Ups for partial Bar Dips, assume a Push-Up position and lower yourself a few inches with your arms slightly bent, pause, and return to start position.
- Rest and do two more supersets.
Partial Wall Squats Superset with Partial Single Leg Squats
- Stand with your back against a wall and lower yourself a few inches with your arms extended at shoulder level.
- Pause and return to start.
- After holding 10 seconds on the 10th rep, immediately do 10 Partial Single-Leg Squats on each leg.
- Hydrate, then do two more supersets.
- Assume a supine position with your knees bent, feet on the floor and arms folded across your chest.
- Slowly lift your upper back/shoulders a few inches off the floor while simultaneously lifting your feet off the floor and bringing your knees toward your chest.
- Hold one second.
- Lower to start position and do 3x10 – holding 10 seconds in the partial rep contracted phase on the 10th rep of each set.
Workout 2 (Barbell Exercises)
Partial Deadlifts or Partial Squats
- Position the barbell on a pin in the Power Rack just above your knees.
- Assume the Deadlift stance and lift the bar.
- Pause and lower the bar without resting it on the pin.
- On the 10th rep, hold the bar for 10 seconds before racking it.
- Set the safety pin where you're descending into a partial Squat (knees are not parallel to the floor) for 10 reps. Pause on the 10th rep for 10 seconds at the top of the movement (standing) before racking the bar.
Partial Overhead Presses
- In the Power Rack, set the barbell on a pin a few inches below the top range (near lockout position) of the Overhead Press.
- Perform the exercise either standing or seated (on a portable bench).
- Press the bar overhead, pause, and lower without resting it on the pin for 10 reps (holding 10 seconds on the 10th rep before racking it).
Partial Barbell Rows
- Set the barbell on the pin just above your knees.
- Lean slightly forward with knees bent and pull the bar a few inches toward your waist.
- Pause and lower it without touching the pin.
- Do nine more reps, holding 10 seconds on rep 10 before racking the bar.
Partial Bench Presses
- Lie on the portable bench inside the Power Rack with the barbell on a safety pin a few inches below the top range (near lockout) of the Bench Press.
- Your arms should be slightly bent—not locked out—when pressing the bar off the pin.
- Pause and lower it without touching the pin.
- Do 10 reps and finish with the 10-second hold on rep 10 of all three sets before racking the bar.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock