Partial reps vs full range of motion

I am not a huge fan of using partial reps, but will use them sparingly with experienced lifters to “through a wrench into their workout”. When I prescribe them they are performed after the client has already reached momentary concentric failure during a set. But, because partial reps place such high demands on the recovery ability of the muscles being worked, I caution against using them more than once every 4 workouts per body part. In reference to this belief, I received an email from an intermediate lifter claiming a study (J Strength Cond Res, 2004, 18(3), 518-521) proved partial reps should be incorporated in his workout instead of full range reps.?

I did a little research, as always, and found the study the gentleman was referencing. This study was conducted over a 10-week period using the bench press as the criterion measurement. Subjects were divided into three groups. Group one trained with full range of motion sets. Group two trained with partial range of motion sets. A partial range of motion was defined as two to five inches from full extension of the elbows. Group three trained with a combination of both partial and full range reps. All groups were pre and post-tested with a full range of motion one rep maximum. No differences were found between the groups. So should we or shouldn’t we use partial reps?

There are several problems I find with this study that are common to many studies trying to illuminate the most efficacious training principles. First, and perhaps most important, inexperienced, recreational subjects were used. Inexperienced subjects can achieve gains in the first few months on just about any program. Second, the length of time the study was conducted was entirely too short. six, eight or, like this study, 10 weeks is just not enough time to show the efficacy of a particular training protocol. And third, the intensity of the exercises or perceived exertion is not mentioned or monitored. Are the subjects going to failure on their sets? Are some subjects pushing themselves harder than others? Are the subjects training in the same manner on exercises other than the bench press? This study like most training studies shows nothing.


KISS for improving soccer performance

These days it?s becoming common practice to start sports earlier and earlier in a child?s life. Soccer is no exception. In the United States the popularity of soccer has exploded along with strength and conditioning camps focusing on sport specific programs. Unfortunately many coaches do not train their players correctly because they do not look at the metabolic demands of the sport.

Research on soccer players has shown, to the surprise of many, anaerobic as well as aerobic power are prerequisites to success. More-over, it?s been reported that 96% of the sprints in a soccer game are shorter than 30m, and 49% are shorter than 10m. It?s becomes obvious that strength and power are important aspects of a player?s development. As soccer becomes more competitive, becoming faster and stronger to get to the ball before your opponent by jumping or sprinting is becoming more important. As a strength coach the question is, how do we develop a player to their optimum ability?

A study by Chelly et al recently reported the effects of a back squat training program on leg power, jump performance, and field performance in junior soccer players. Twenty two male soccer players were divided into two groups a resistance training group (RTG) and a control group (CG). Both groups completed tests before the start of the program and after 2 months of strength training twice per week with heavy loads (80 ? 100% 1RM). The tests included a force velocity test to evaluate power, 3 jump tests, a 40m dash, and a 1 RM back half squat. (J Strength Cond Res 2009;23(8):2241-2249)

No significant changes were noted in leg or thigh muscle volume after the 2 month training period between the 2 groups. However, the RTG showed significant improvement over the CG in leg cycling power, jumping and sprinting. This is another example of the value in sticking to the basics. Too many coaches try to reinvent the wheel while training their athletes. There is no need or value in complicated, high volume strength training programs. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid and train according to the athletes needs


The most underated component of training programs, recovery

We all recover from exercise at different rates. Many people who recover quickly have reached a high level of success performing a high number of sets. Many who recover slowly have also been very successful performing low numbers of sets. Because everybody is unique in their ability to adapt and recover from different programs, the number of sets needs to be individualized.

A very important component of a training program that should be given consideration is training frequency. How often can, or more importantly, should I train per week? Optimum recovery time between training sessions is essential if one is going to continue to make progress. Training frequency, which is determined by ones recovery ability, is often a forgotten part of most training protocols.

Don’t be so concerned with how many training sessions you can handle per week. Be more concerned about the optimal amount. More is not always better. In fact, when somebody comes to me for advice because they’ve stopped making progress, usually I either reduce the workout volume or add days off. There is no reason to go to the gym if you’re not going to make progress.

Does it make sense to keep doing the same routine if gains are not being made? Isn’t the definition of “crazy”, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. If your current program is not working, change it. The number one complaint people have is they’re not making progress or their progress has come to a halt. In both cases, the answer is more recovery time. Understanding the fact our bodies have a finite amount of recovery ability should help explain this concept.

The following is Mike Mentzer’s explanation of overtraining and recovery. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.

In bodybuilding, the idea is to impose a training stress onto the body that will serve to induce the biochemical changes which result in muscular hypertrophy. Applying any more of the training stress (high-intensity) than is required by nature will result in the equivalent of over-dosing on a medicine; or, as we say typically in bodybuilding – overtraining.
A person exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays at the equator in summer would not have the slightest concern whether the intensity of the sunlight stress is high enough to disturb the physiology sufficiently to induce an adaptive response, i.e., the buildup of a suntan. His only concern, his overriding consideration, would be to properly regulate the volume (or duration) and frequency of exposure time so as not to overdose on the stress/stimulus; and, thereby, incur a sunburn or, in extreme cases, death. A person seeking to develop a suntan at the equator, or wherever the intensity of the sunlight is high has no concern that he will develop a suntan; but only if he doesn’t overexpose. (Note that bodybuilding science is largely based on the medical discipline of stress physiology. Also, that the end result of the healing of a sunburn is not a suntan, just as the end result of the healing of overtraining is not greater strength or added muscle.)
As the stresses grow progressively greater, they will eventually reach a critical point such that they constitute overtraining. The first symptom will be a slow down in progress; and if the individual continues with the same volume and frequency protocol, the stresses will continue to increase until there is a complete cessation of progress, typically referred to as a “sticking point.” One need not ever experience a slow down in progress, let alone a sticking point, if he bears in mind all the while that as the weights grow progressively greater so do the stresses; and he must do certain specific things to compensate for them.


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