February 29, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

Partial reps are an intensity technique used to allow a lifter to accumulate additional work for a muscle group post-full-range failure. There are two types of partial reps that can be considered:

  1. Continuing to perform reps in the shortened portion of a lift
  2. Continuing to perform reps in the lengthened position of the lift

The first option would be doing something like a full squat for a specific number of reps, or to failure, and continuing to do reps to a quarter of the full range depth. Performing reps in this manner has been a favorite of the bodybuilding community for quite some time.

The second option would be doing something like a curl for a specific number of reps, or to failure, and continuing to do half or quarter ROM reps in the lowest/lengthened position. This was a favorite of the first Mr. Olympia winner Larry Scott, aka Mr. Biceps, who advocated doing “burns” in the bottom position of a preacher curl after the regular set.

Recent sports research has indicated that lengthened partials lead to superior hypertrophy compared to shortened partials and possibly full ROM as well. The issue with this comparison is that it looked at shortened partials as standalone reps, not reps completed after a full ROM had been performed. In a scenario where full ROM is exhausted and additional work is provided to the muscle, the outcome might differ since the time under tension and muscle damage will be great, both components of the hypertrophic response.

Where short-range partials are easier to perform in most cases (due to the increased leverage of the shorter end range), lengthened partials are typically harder to perform due to the muscle being stretched to its greatest extent. Certain movements automatically lend themselves to lengthened partials; lat pulldowns are the classic example. As we fatigue, the reps tend to get shallower. However, reps can still be performed with less ROM and a great stretch at the top. Conversely, trying to end range reps after a full set of squats or leg presses is a recipe for disaster.

In the end, both types of partials have a place at certain times in training, if a lifter so wishes. By no means are they required and, if they are done, care should be taken to ensure they are done safely. Always have spotters or safety bars ready when using free weights and choose the correct exercises for lengthened partials - machines and dumbbells are going to be your best options for safety purposes.

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