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Is Top-Half Training of Any Use?


I read Thibaudeau's http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/6_weeks_to_superhero_how_i_build_muscle_and_strip_off_fat_fast and tried it. It was working well and I was showing some results in the first two weeks and was pretty happy with it.

But then I started thinking. Why am I so much stronger in the top-half of all my lifts? And can I train that weight to be my full lift?

So that is what I have just started to do, train with that top half weight, and after the first full round I'm really happy.

Simple breakdown is I start just above 50% extension in the top half of lets say the squat, with my setup I was probably in the 60% range. I try to pick a range that will allow me to move as much weight as I can for 6 reps without grind. With each set I start a couple of inches deeper in the squat than the last sat. This part is a little random as I am using plates and wooden shelves to adjust my height. This allows me to make a more gradual progression than moving the pins. I work through sets until I hit full ROM or start to grind. Grinding before full ROM means no weight progression this time. Full ROM means time to add weight. That last bit hasn't happened yet but I'm close.

If this works it will mean as much as 80 lbs added to a single lift in a matter of weeks. (For me.)

My question is: Is this working? Or is there some strange physio thing happening here I dont understand?

Some other questions: Assuming that this is a viable way to train, how should I progress? Will my top half continue to increase? In other words if my work weight on the bench was 100lbs and my top was 150lbs and I've just conquered 150 using this idea will my new top half be 200 or does it work like that?

If it makes any difference I'm training bench, squat, dead and military press. Also I do dynamic work as a sort of finisher, plyo pushups and leaps as they apply.

Thanks ahead of time!


Hi, Tom, welcome to the washed-up meathead forum!

About your proposal, dunno. It sounds logical, but in my case, I spent years squatting too high without knowing. When I finally got kicked into doing it right, had to go through a kind of rehab - my lowest position was just weak as hell. I could squat about 200 high, but when going low, had to go back to the broomstick. Been spending the past couple of months getting the numbers back up.

It might work if you go low occasionally so your body doesn't get out of practice. Haven't seen it done, though.


I am working on the same kind of problem .

Current aproach is that i have cut back my overall weight a lot to get the squat a lot deeper and also specifically do sets with a completely diffrent set-up ie a kb and get those as far down as my flexibility will allow.

Then when i do heavier sets i allow myself to work with a partial (upper range squat) so that i satay used to having weight on my shoulders.

long term i don't want to accept the high squat but do accept that it may have a place in my training schedule.


Hey thanks for the welcome and the reply Cav!
My plan is to work up to full ROM with each weight before progressing to the next, full extension to full contraction and back.


Nurse, my whole idea is to start with heavy partials and to train that weight through the entire ROM. Slowly, gradually until I can push the heavy as a regular work weight. So far it has worked great but I haven't reached a point where I can start adding more weight yet. I'm afraid that this a CNS thing and my progress will end when I reach my max weight through full ROM.


How will you be checking the height (or depth)? Will you be video'ing each lift?

From my own experience on squatting, I was completely screwed up on guessing depth.


On the Squat specifically I rack the bar at a set height and keep it there. My first set is done with feet flat on the floor. My second set is done standing on two 25lb plates. My third set is done standing on two 25lb plates and a section of 3/4 in plywood (if you cant tell, I w/o in my garage.) I continue this progression, adding plates and wood to my lifting platform, putting myself closer and closer to the bar, causing me to have to start and end deeper in the squat on each set. I move between 3/4 and 3 inches closer to the bar on each set.

I keep careful track of my materials so I can track how close to the bar I am getting.


I just realized I didnt at all answer your question. And it's a very good question. And it's one that have a good answer for. I'd like to think that I have a good sense of how deep I squat but I may have to set up some kind "indicator", maybe a stack of plates that I basically sit down on to let me know how deep I'm going.


Hmmm. If I tried doing that, I'd be awfully leery about squatting while standing on something other than a hard floor. If you have a Monolift, it might work, but if you have to walk out of a regular rack, not sure how that would work.

If you're using light weights, might not be a problem, but if you're a beginner, then almost any program will get you results.

Squatting to a box is probably the most foolproof way of getting depth. Some people set the power rack pins so the bar touches them at the right height.


tony (da charming albino) has written an article or 2 (for another site) on using partials to get strong, if you go over to his thread and ask, he will prolly tell you where to find it. i do recall it being a good article, i just don't remember where it was...


Sadly, that site has been taken down.

Paul Anderson reportedly trained that way, starting with partial lifts and increasing the range of motion. Maybe it works, but I've never met anyone, including myself, that has had the patience to stay at the same weight for that length of time until full ROM is attained. Something that has worked really well for me and others is to do partial range and full range alternated each session. Repping the partials seems to help build full range strength, but you have to back the weight of from a max single or burnout occurs PDQ.

I'm just a guy who experimented on himself. This stuff worked for me, but we have really strong people on the forum who for sure know more about how to get strong than I do. Might drop a line on their threads and get some advice.


speak of the devil, and up pops a reasonable facsimile


And knee pain takes a win. I tried a second round and while I didn't get anywhere near the progress I'd hoped in the days after I felt great. Better than I have in a while, that is until the knee pain kicked in. W/O was Deadlift and Bench. Looked like this... (don't laugh at my numbers.)

Bench Press
Set 1: 165x6 Bar was 18 inches from my chest. That was my start and end point.
Set 2: 165x6 - (minus).75in
Set 3: 165x6 -1.5in
Set 4: 165x6 -3.25in (Also used a slightly wider grip here. Had to because of the confines of my bench.)
Set 5: 165x3 -5in (still using wider grip)
Set 6: 165x3 -5.5in
Set 7: 165x3 -5.5in (I think I probably should have stopped here but I had really hoped to get all the way to full ROM and I had the idea of failed reps being a bad idea to end on floating around in my head so I continued.)
Set 8: 165x3 -5
Set 9: 165x3 -3.25
Set 10: 165x3 -3.25
Set 11: 165x5 -1.5
Set 12: 165x5 -.75
Set 13: 165x5
Plyo Pushups: 12, 10, 8
I should also note, I start flat but am gradually inclining my bench. It's the safest way for me to get closer to the bar. I am hoping that this is why I didn't get as far into ROM as I had hoped I was going to. I am going to get some plywood strips that I can use to raise my bench.

Set 1: 225x6 lifted from 22 inches above floor (That was the position of the bar. Put my starting point just above my knee. These increments are in aggregate. In other words the first set was 22 from floor the second subtracted .75 from that, the third subtracted .75 from that, etc.)
Set 2: 225x6 - (minus).75in
Set 3: 225x6 - 1.5in
Set 4: 225x6 - 3in
Set 5: 225x6 - 3.75in
Set 6: 225x6 - 4.5
Set 7: 225x6 - 5
Set 8: 225x6 - 6
Set 9: 225x6 - 6.5 And at this point my grip gave out.
Broad Jumps: 3x8
I know that these aren't the kinds of weights most of you are moving but hey, I guess we all start somewhere.
I felt washed but good after the W/O, which was on Tuesday. Sore as all get out on Wednesday, tired too, but felt good other than that. Thursday morning is when the knee pain started. Hurts right at the top of the tibia, either behind or right at the bottom of whatever the kneecap ligament is called. It's not bad by any stretch but I dont want it to get bad. Unfortunately most of my day is spent on my feet moving pallets so I havent been able to take it too easy on it. It hasnt gotten worse though and I guess thats something but I just did a couple of prisoner squat (no weight) and there's enough pain to make me cautious. Interestingly, I use kind of a wide stance for Squat and and my feet tend to point out, I found that if I forced my self to point my feet forward there was far less pain, to the point of really not registering. But feet forward is not a natural stance for me. The shame of it is everything else feels great and I really want to get out in the garage. My next W/O was supposed to be Squat and Military Press, I may still go out and hit the press.

Hopefully this is not an indicator that I am going way too heavy and/or hitting way too many sets.


Sorry to hear about the pain. Are you sure there isn't a injury?

Kind of surprising, actually, if you do manual labor for a living, you should be in pretty good shape.

If those weights are giving you such problems, maybe you should adopt a beginner's program. Take the weight down a tad and pile on lots of reps to build up ligaments & tendons.

I used to be way punier than you, and looked for all sorts of secrets to getting stronger. You wouldn't believe the oddball stuff I tried, including ROM stuff. Finally realized I needed to eat protein, do barbell exercises full range, get good sleep.


As a sort of update I should say this is working for me. I've gone past 105 on the military press, 205 on the bench, 255 on the squat. I'm stalled at 295 on the dead, constant grip failure. I'm currently training 135 press, 250 bench, 300 squat (out of room on the bar.)

I've had to change things a lot but the basics are still the same, start at close to full extension and work my way closer to the bar with each set. When bar hits chest... or butt hits ground... or whatever applies, I work that weight full ROM for a week or two then add weight and go back to square one.

I'm sure there's 1001 different reasons this is working, maybe it's cheating, I'm not sure. I can say that it is working for me... so far anyway.


No matter what if it work, it works.

I also do partials and feel they help out.

Paul Anderson called them " Progressive Movement".