Half reps

I was wondering what you guys think about half reps. At 6’1
military and bench press are obviously harder since I have
longer limbs than some guys. Would it be better for me to
press the weight only half way up (since triceps probably do
the last half)? I think I saw Lou Ferrigno doing this in Pumping
Iron. I mean, this would be if my goal was to focus on mass,
not overall strength or anything. Any comments?

I don’t think half reps, quarter reps, ect… should be the mainstay of a routine. I have always used full range of motion, but I have used half reps and such for finishing but thats it. Use of less than full range of motion movements exclusively will cause muscle imbalances which can lead to some unpleasant injuries in the future.

Limiting your rep range is a good idea regardless of limb length. Why? The notion of going for a full range of motion has some merit due to the fact that by doing so, a stretch-reflex response kicks in and one is thus able to recruit more muscle fibres, but this is at the expense of hyperextending one’s joints (something any orthopaedic surgeon will strongly frown upon) and at the risk of exceeding the limit of elastic proportionality of one’s muscles and tendon/ligament attachments. There is a better way to recruit more muscle fibres without these two caveats. And that way would be to working only in your strongest range of motion. Your strongest range of motion must be at a point where there is no risk of hyperextending one’s joints and/or stretching one’s muscle beyond safe limits e.g. doing bicep curls at the top third of the rep or the bench press at the top third of the rep, so this eliminates the two caveats of full or beyond-full range of motion type training. Furthermore, working at your strongest range of motion means you really have to lift heavy. All else being equal, having to lift more weight means having to recruit more muscle fibres. And the more muscle fibres recruited per unit time, the higher the intensity of training. Having given your muscles the stimulus to grow, you must then give the muscles time to heal. Only when your muscle has compensated for the workout AND supercompensated to better enable itself to tolerate another such workout should you then train that muscle again. As a final note, mass and strength are synonymous. I would find it hard to believe if someone had built 21 inch arms by utilizing a maximum weight of 21 lbs. I would find it harder to believe, that a person could curl 120lbs with good form, but had only 12 inch arms. So by all means please, blast away on those half reps (or whichever is your strongest range of motion). There is no need to worry about your triceps stealing the workout limelight from your chest in the bench press as long as you make a conscientous effort in using your chest muscles to do the work.

Half reps should not be the main part of any program. Poliquin, King and other T-mag writers have addressed this issue on the site.

King recommends them at certain times during his programs, and it's after a full range movement. The advantage is to work the strongest half of the lift. But you can't do half reps all the time as your main workout program. They usually come in handy to break through a plateau.

Don’t let long limbs be the excuse for only working a limited-range of motion. Hit the basics (Squats, deadlifts, benches, pull ups, rows, dips, presses, etc) and you will be able to add some mass. Use the half reps for variety.

Check for back issues of T-mag for more info.

In response to the message by The Manhattan Project, the weight lifted is only one of the factors that determines the number of muscle fibers recruited. One of the other factors is the ROM (Range of Motion). Thus, if you’re only using the strongest third, you had better be lifting three times the weight as you would in a full range lift. This obviously won’t happen. Doing partial reps can be beneficial on occasion but not as a mainstay. And partials definitely recruit LESS muscle fibers.

Jagin, I too suffer from long-limb leverage issues. Other responses have addressed the technical shortcomings of partials. So, from one gorilla-armed dude to another, just suck it up, use full reps and let your ego fuel up on deadlifts - us tall guys make great pullers.

I have been training for over 12 years now and for the last 8 years I have been only doing half reps on everything. The reason I started doing this was because of pain in my shoulder from the first four years of full range of motion training. For instance, on the military and bench press once you arms go past the 90 degree angle you are putting an unnecessary strain on the tendons. You can get a complete contraction on a half rep, it just takes concentration. You will also be able to use more weight and pump out extra reps to bring more blood into the area. Many will disagree with me here but I feel military presses should only be performed as a half rep. Bringing the bar down to your chin is just asking for shoulder problems.

I think a lot of you guys misunderstood what I meant by a ‘half rep’. It is lowering the bar completely to the chest, but only pushing it up half way. This is actually a lot harder than full range of motion, and I can’t use as much weight. As I said, I saw Lou doing these in pumping iron for both bench press and military press.