The Partial Reps Workout

One of the first things you learn when you start lifting weights is how important it is to use a full range of motion on exercises. That’s how you work the entire muscle and avoid developing imbalances that can reduce your flexibility and cause injuries later on. This advice remains sound, and if you’re a relative beginner to resistance training, you should follow that rule. But if you’ve been lifting for a few years, it may be time to break it.

SEE ALSO: 100 Reps: The Forgotten Plateau Buster


Part of getting bigger means getting stronger, and after you’ve milked the quick gains every beginner enjoys, it gets harder to add weight to the bar. Performing only part of a rep—usually the top-quarter range of motion—allows you to break this plateau. It’s easier to handle heavier weight when you’re doing only the first quarter of a rep, such as coming down just a few inches on the squat. Called a “partial rep,” this isn’t necessarily cheating. When you use very heavy weights for a partial, you stimulate your central nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers. This then “convinces” your body that you’re actually stronger, and you’ll find that you can handle heavier weights when you go back to using a full range of motion.

The workouts that follow take advantage of this trick, alternating heavy partial-rep sets with heavy full-range ones for big gains in strength and the muscle growth that will inevitably follow.


Perform each workout (Day I, II, and III) once per week, resting at least a day between each session. Exercises marked “A” and “B” are paired and alternated. So, you’ll do one set of A, rest, then one set of B, rest, and repeat until all sets are complete. Then go on to the next pair.

Dan Trink is the co-founder of Fortitude Strength Club in New York City.

Photographs By James Michelfelder & Therese Sommerseth

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