T Nation

Partials and "The Groove"

I’m currently working through a range-of-motion progression routine, and I’ve been digging for information on how effective other people have found using partials to work on the full lift.

One of the main complaints is that partials don’t transfer well because you can position yourself to move the weight from a partial, but it’s not the same position as you’d use in the full lift. And because of that, you don’t really end up getting better at the full lift.

However, I’ve also heard the opposite argument: that you’re training your body to learn the strongest positions for the lift in a given ROM. That these “new” positions are actually the “right” positions you should be using in the full ROM lift. And especially as you progress toward the full ROM, that you’re actually developing a proper “groove”.

I was just wondering your take on this, especially with static strength based lifts.

It’s not just a position thing it’s also a “type of strength” thing. Specifically the switching from eccentric to concentric.

I’ll give you my own example. A few years ago when I first developed the layer system used lifts from pins exclusively in the program. I didn’t use a progressive ROM approach though. For the bench press I started the bar from pins about 1" from my chest, so pretty much a full range of motion.

For about 3 or 4 months all my bench pressing was done from pins. I eventually worked up to 425 from pins starting the bar 1" from the chest,

I then decided to test my “real” bench press. I reasoned that since I was using pretty much the full ROM and that I didn’t have the benefit of the stretch reflex, my “real” bench press would be at least equal to my bench from pins, likely more.

Well much to my dismay I actually failed 365… 60lbs less than my bench press from pins.

The problem is that both the eccentric and especially the turnaround from the eccentric to concentric were all over the place. Out of position and weak. And keep in mind that I’ve always been pretty decent on the bench press for many years prior to that.

Lifts from pins do have their place in a training, but if you train exclusively on them the transfer is indeed not direct or easy to “real” lifts.

The deadlift would be less negatively impacted and likely easier to transfer the gains to because in the deadlift there is no switching from eccentric to concentric as the lift starts from the concentric portion. But the issue with the deadlift is that it is easy to use faulty positions to cheat the way up on deadlifts, especially for pin pulls above the knees (people tend to “pry” their knees under the bar to leverage it up).

To be effective the progressive ROM technique needs to be done NOT from pins. You need to include both the eccentric and turnaround phase on each rep if you want the method to transfer to the “real” lifts.

This means lowering the lift as if you were doing the full movement but cutting your range short and switching to the concentric portion.

The problem is that it becomes hard to know where to lower the weight to. Especially if you have to gradually increase the range of motion over the weeks.

You could use the pins in the power rack as a target; lower the bar to the pins then press it up. The issue with that is if you touch the pins it changes the turnaround dynamic because part of the force you have to break then reverse is absorbed by the pins and the bar rebounds up a bit.

The only solution is to use the pins as a target and lower the bar until it’s about half an inch from the pins then reverse the movement and press/squat/pull it up.

You lower the pins when you need to increase the range of motion.

But starting a lift from pins does not transfer well to real lift performance. It’s purpose is when doing overload/partial work to strengthen the muscles and desensitize the Golgi Tendon Organs… but it wont work well to improve full lift performance.

The only people I know who had a good carryover are those who also used similar lifts done “regularly” while training the main lift using the progressive ROM method. For example doing bench press from pins using the progressive ROM method and close-grip bench press with a normal method.

I think that’s really interesting how that didn’t transfer over.

I’m having trouble understanding it, actually.

Was the bar lowered to a different position than from where you were able to press 425? Do you think that if you had lowered it to that same position and paused on your chest, that you would have been able to lift the 365 (effectively mimicking the pin press, but without the pins)?

Currently I’m using it with squats, but I have an apparatus that’s basically a chain yoke. Instead of hitting the pins at the bottom and jarring the movement, the loading pins touch the ground fairly gently and then I go back up. Other than the first rep which is concentric only, subsequent reps are basically full reps with the limited ROM.

I’m using a routine that Paul Anderson supposedly penned, starting with high reps and a short ROM, and as I increase the ROM, drop the number of reps by a few. Per that routine, it basically progresses from 4" of ROM to 22" of ROM, and from 2 sets of 20 reps to sets of 2 reps. Basically for every 1" of ROM, you drop a rep.

At this point, I think the higher reps may actually be an important factor in this kind of training.

I was progressing smoothly until I hit right around 12" of ROM, and then it took several days working there before I finally was able to work up to the prescribed reps. I still have 10" to go though, so I don’t know how that will go. I haven’t done any full ROM training yet to see the impact.

As an aside, have you ever done any instability training yourself or with clients?

Not stability ball or wobble board stuff but more like bamboo bar stuff. Using this chain yoke design has certainly been… interesting. The weights can start swinging quite a bit if you’re not careful.

I don’t think bad positions were my main problem although it still possible that it played a role. I think that the big issue was the lack of eccentric to concentric transition. When the bar rests on pins (or in your case the yoke resting on the floor) the point of transition is not under the same demands as during a “free lift”. Slowing down, braking then reversing the movement is very different than starting it from a static and unloaded point.

Higher reps might actually make the technique a bit better especially if you focus on controlling the eccentric but I’ll have to see your results. I like progressive ROM training BUT by itself it has never led to the results I hoped for.

As for the squat my experience is that progressive ROM works well on the squat if you are built for squatting: short legs/longer torso and long tibia relative to femur. This body type makes the squat a much more linear movement whereas the opposite body type almost has a “two movement/two hinges” technique. The later will not have the same transfer to the full lift because in the early part of the cycle (shorter ROM) a lot of he positions you have o take when squatting are not trained. Whereas someone with good levers pretty much maintain the same body position throughout the squat and IMHO he will have more transfer to the full lift.