By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training
The partial rep is one of the most effective training techniques for building strength quickly but how can you adapt partials for boosting muscle mass at the same time?
The answer is simple: high rep partial training.
Partial training involves only moving the weight in a shortened range of motion.
This can be anywhere in the range of motion of an exercise but for our purposes, we're going to use the strongest range of motion, e.g. the top few inches of the bench press. For a more detailed description of partial training, please refer to the following article:
The reason conventional low-rep partial training is so effective for strength building is that you are using extremely heavy weight for low reps.
This builds up excellent connective tissue and muscle strength.
Unfortunately for muscle gaining purposes, this type of training also results in a very short time under tension. Time under tension refers to the length of time a muscle is placed under continuous tension during an exercise. In order to stimulate muscle growth, your muscles need to be under tension for approximately 30 to 60 seconds (this is a rough estimate - it works out to about 6 to 12 reps in a conventional, full-range set).
A typical partial rep may take only one or two seconds to complete. If you do 5 reps, your muscles have only been under tension for 5 or 10 seconds. This is not nearly enough time to stimulate muscle growth. Now imagine doing 30 reps instead.
This puts you right in the middle of that optimal range. Not only will you be using extremely heavy weight (which is great for building muscle and strength), you'll be placing your muscles under tension for a long enough time to stimulate muscle growth. This is an extremely effective combination.
High rep partials can be used on their own or in combination with low-rep partials or even conventional full-range sets.
I often use them after doing a few sets of extremely heavy low-rep partials. For example, I will do top range bench press partials with 600 or 700 pounds for low reps then remove a few plates and do a set of 50 or 60 reps with 315 pounds on the bar.
I have also done sets of extremely high rep partial squats with extremely heavy weights (150 reps of 950 pounds). I've found both of these techniques to be very effective for building both strength and muscle mass quickly.
Give high rep partial training a try in your next workout and don't be afraid to push yourself. You may be surprised at how many reps you can do with a weight you may not have even considered using before.
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