I see it all the time in the gym; someone piles on as many 45 lb. plates that will fit on the leg press machine, sets their feet in place, takes a deep breath then pumps out 12 grueling reps with a ton of weight. That’s a pretty impressive feat (no pun intended!) of strength. The only problem is they only lowered the weight a few inches. Leg press is a prime example because particularly on leg press, many don’t even go parallel. These are called half reps, at best. I refer to this as ‘ego lifting.’ I hate to admit it but I myself have been guilty of this at times in the past. I think at some point, we all have. Let’s be honest, it feels good to throw up a massive amount of weight no matter what means we use to lift it.
Don’t get me wrong as I am a firm believer in lifting heavy weights. Using heavy weight overloads the muscle thus forcing it to grow (this is only if you’re training with high intensity; training until muscle failure). You’ll notice this on many compound exercises such as bench press, squats, etc. as these multi-joint movements allow you to lift the most weight. It’s easy to let your ego take over on these powerful lifts. However, ego lifting is not limited to these exercises because I see it on targeted exercises as well like dumbbell curls, tricep pushdowns, and even on machines. When you perform half reps you’re cheating yourself out of your maximum potential for gaining muscle. And if your form is sloppy which half reps and bad form seem to go hand in hand, you’re setting yourself up for injury.
Using full range of motion works more muscle fibers. This obviously leads to more muscle growth and this also shapes your muscles. The same can be said for using proper form. If your form sucks then you’re not working the actual muscle to the fullest. At this point the intended muscle is only assisting in the lift rather than being the primary component of that lift. You have to approach bodybuilding and weight training with the mindset that you’re in there for a purpose and that sole purpose is to build and define your muscles. You’re not showing up to the gym to merely lift weights.
There is indeed a time and place for everything and this even goes for half reps. However, this is something you have to use strategically and proper form is even more important when using this technique. Half or what many refer to as partial reps are sometimes performed to increase strength on certain lifts. But you have to use this as a technique; in other words you shouldn’t shy away from full range of motion on every single set you perform. For example, you may start out with bench press using full range of motion followed by a couple sets of half reps or lock outs on the Smith Machine for bench press. Again, this weightlifting technique is used if your goal is to gain strength on a certain lift. For your regular workouts you should always be using full range of motion and always use proper form.
My ending point here is if you’re only doing half reps and/or using bad form you’re not really working the muscle as intended. Sloppy form can result in serious injuries which could potentially put you out of the gym for weeks and even worse. An example is using improper form with doing deadlifts such as rounding your back. Do this and you’ll be crawling to the bathroom for the next several days not to mention the chance of permanent injury. As for using half reps, well, you can only expect to build half the muscle. Again, there’s a time and place for partial reps for strength training.
The key is to let your muscles do the lifting. If you’re doing bicep curls you need to focus on your biceps moving the weight and not jerking the weight up as seen all too often. If you’re doing leg presses, go all the way down or at least go parallel (I personally suggest going as far down as you can). Otherwise you’re missing out on working the majority of your leg muscles. I could keep going here, but you get the point. There’s a lot of truth to the muscle and mind connection as you really have to hone in on working the muscle, not just throwing up a bunch of weight. That being said, drop the ego and start building some real muscle.
Train with Passion,