WHAT IS IT?
Partials are an intentional reduction in training range-of-motion. As an intensity technique, a set would be taken to failure then without rest, continued beyond by performing less-than-full ROM reps from the most mechanically advantageous position.
HOW TO TRACK PROGRESSION?
Tracking progression here is a bit tricky due to the non-standardized ROM but load used, partials achieved and also time under tension (as measured in seconds) can all be tangible ways to progress Partials.
WHO SHOULD USE IT?
Intermediate and Advanced athletes who have already mastered and exhausted full ROMs can choose to extend sets past mechanical failure using Partials. Trainees who are looking to overload specific aspects of a muscle length or work within a biomechanical range (i.e. to intentionally bias segments of a muscle group or restrict undesirable secondary muscles from kicking in) will be able to utilize Partials with compounding effects.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE IT?
Beginners who are still learning proper movement and motor patterns have no need to use this technique. As a rule of thumb, mastery of the complete ROM is a prerequisite for Partials. Additionally, if someone is prone to accumulating muscle damage (partials from the stretch) and/or is sensitive to increases in metabolic stress, then they should proceed cautiously with partials.
WHEN TO USE IT?
We can implement partials at any point during a training cycle but it’s better suited for the culminating weeks of a mesocycle to add intensity before deloading. Outside of strategic use in overloading phases, training cycles focused on metabolic work are a perfect time to leverage Partials more liberally.
WHEN NOT TO USE IT?
I would highly advise against using Partials during introductory weeks of a new mesocycle especially with novel movements and/or until baselines are established. Any phase of training that is more geared towards recovery from fatigue should also be contraindicated with using Partials.
HOW TO USE IT?
Exercise selection is VERY important here as only specific movements for specific body parts will cater well to Partials. The strength curve of the exercise has to be bell-shaped (i.e. Barbell Biceps Curl), ascending (i.e. DB Flyes) or descending (i.e. DB Lateral Raises) for Partials to be effective within any point of the ROM. In other words, there has to be a section of the ROM that is significantly easier mechanically than another to leverage Partials as an intensity technique.
Because Partials find most of their effectiveness in the accumulation of metabolic stress, moderate-to-high reps are advised (<75% of 1RM) and with movements that can efficiently direct the tension/stimulus towards the intended muscle. Machines with few degrees of freedom are going to be the closest modalities to optimal.
Partials can be used within any portion of the ROM to extend a set beyond failure and does not have to be exclusive to the stretch. The only prerequisite for Partials to be effective as an intensity technique is that the “partial” ROM is mechanically easier than performing a full ROM.
1)Seated DB Laterals- Sets of 15 full ROM then 15 partials from the stretch with ~20RM
2)Lying Leg Curls- Sets to failure with ~15RM then partials from the stretch to failure
3)Machine Preacher Curls- Sets to failure with ~20RM then partials in contraction (top 1/2 of the ROM) to failure
HOW NOT TO USE IT?
Movements that have a flat strength curve (i.e. Banded Leg Press) will not work well with Partials as there is no portion of the ROM to extend once failure (or close to) has been achieved. Some variations will also have specific aspects of the ROM that are mechanically disadvantageous and thus not a good candidate for Partials to be performed within (i.e. the top of the ROM in Leg Extensions).
Additionally, most movements will be disqualified from Partials simply on the nature of their instability and multiple failure points. If pushing beyond failure presents limitations that are anywhere other than the target muscle, Partials should not be used as an intensity technique.
1)Bent Over Barbell Rows- Sets of 10 full ROM then partials in contraction (Ineffective strength curve and too many failure points)
2)Barbell Back Squats- Sets of 10 full ROM then partial in the stretch (Too many failure points and unsafe with axial loading)
3)Standing DB Laterals- Sets to failure with ~20RM then partials in contraction (Ineffective strength curve)
BENEFITS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-A huge metabolic load is placed on the working muscle without adding too much total fatigue or volume
-Temporally and spacially logistical (i.e. easy to transition into and doesn’t take up any additional space)
-Relatively easy to track progress
-Low skill component
-Low risk of injury if done correctly and with applicable movements
DRAWBACKS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-Unintentional joint/soft tissue/nervous system stress can be accumulated if attempting to apply partials to the wrong movements
-Can be used as a crutch and in avoidance of full ROM
-Due to Partials having unstandardized ranges of motion, it can be hard to quantify total work done
-Overuse in the lengthened position (stretch) can lead to excessive muscular damage and fatigue if unaccounted for