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Women Bodybuilding

Strongest Range Partials

By Pete Sisco - Developer of Static Contraction Training

So much has been written about getting a "full range of motion" during exercise that many people have not examined what the trade-offs are between full range and partial range of motion. The fact is, "partials" have been used for over a century as a means to maximize the intensity of exercises and break through training plateaus.

Doing some partial, strong range bench presses with 300 pounds can provide growth stimulation that a full range rep with 200 pounds can never do.

What is becoming more apparent is that this type of training can also prevent injuries. The vast majority of injuries occur in the weakest range of motion. For example, the bottom of the squat position is places outrageous stress on the knees and bottom of the bench press position can tear the ligaments and tendons of the upper arm and shoulder.

By contrast, when a power rack or Smith machine is used to limit the range of motion to only the strongest and safest part of the movement, enormously more weight can be used to safely target the same muscles. How much more? I work with clients who have build up to 600+ pound partial bench presses, 1,000+ pound barbell shrugs and 3,000+ pound leg presses. (My 13-year-old daughter can do 1,000 pound partial leg presses.)

What percentage of range must you use to get results?

Perhaps surprisingly, the range of motion needs to be somewhere between very little and none. Studies have been done with bodybuilders and with golfer's that demonstrated that increases in strength (even some full range strength), muscle size and athletic performance could all be achieved with very heavy exercises using zero range of motion.

That's right, a static hold in the strongest range of motion can trigger substantial muscle adaptation and improved, sport-specific performance. The golfer's using this method increased their overall strength as measured in 12 muscle groups by and average of 84% and added up to 30 yards to their drives. (A movement that truly uses a full range of motion.) They did this in an average of 6.6 very brief workouts spread over several weeks.

Try This On Your Next Workout

Here are two common exercises you can try using strong range partial reps. Please note, it is very important to limit the range of motion using this method because the weight you will use are heavier than your usual lifts. The best way to limit range is to use a power rack or Smith machine. A very reliable spotter can also be used, but you must have absolute confidence in him.

Perform a warm-up as described here.

Bench Press

Place the bar inside the power rack so it is resting about 6 inches below your farthest reach. Place 150% of your normal bench press weight on the bar. Using a shoulder-width grip, press the bar off the supports and perform 12-15 reps. Do not lock out and do not let the bar all the way down to the supports.

Rest 30-90 seconds and increase the weight and perform another set. Keep increasing the weight until you can only perform 3 repetitions. You'll be amazed at how much you can lift! An tomorrow you'll feel like you truly got an honest chest workout.

Lat Pulldown

Position the seat under the lat pulldown so that you can just reach the bar with your arms fully extended. Select a weight that is 150% more than your normal lat pulldown weight. Using a wide, overhand-grip, pull the bar down 4 inches (Tip: look at the weight stack to measure the distance.) and perform 12-15 reps.

Rest 30-90 seconds and increase the weight and perform another set. Keep increasing the weight until you can only perform 3 repetitions. Don't be surprised if you can lift the entire stack. I work with clients who can now do 300+ pound partial range pulldowns... with one arm!

Try this method of warm-up and safe range training. You'll avoid needless injuries and maximize the intensity and efficiency of your workouts. Intensity ensures that every exercise is productive. Efficiency reduces the wear and tear on your body and decreases your recovery time between workouts.

All the best,