Posted on 03 Nov 2015
4 min read
We all know him, every gym has one.
The guy who steps into the squat rack, loads up far too many plates and proceeds to do what can only be described as, at best, half reps.
He’ll re-rack and then walk away looking proud of himself, secure in the knowledge that he is now, in his mind, king of the gym.
A bit like this chief:
Now let’s be clear…
I’m not going to ask you to start performing reps like this and claim you’re going to make some crazy gains, but I am going to let you into a few half-repping tricks that could help you build some extra muscle and bust through some training plateaus.
However I’m not going to be talking about just half reps here.
The real deal variation on this is one-and-a-half reps.
One-and-half reps are a really nice way to change a fairly pedestrian exercise into a gut-busting, burn-inducing movement.
The reason they work so well, particularly for muscle growth, is that they increase the amount of time the target muscle is under tension.
This reduces the blood flow to the muscle slightly while metabolic waste products like lactic acid build up.
The build up of metabolic waste is one signaling pathway the body has to prompt muscle growth.
So let’s crack on with a simple example for most of the major muscle groups!
Just remember, for these exercises pick a weight that will allow you to do about 12 reps comfortably.
Just like a normal incline press but as you bring the dumbbells to the bottom of the rep, close to your chest, reverse the direction back up only halfway.
Come back down to the very bottom and press all the way to complete a full rep.
That’s one, now push on for seven more and do three sets.
The idea here is to keep the lats fully contracted for more time than with standard reps (especially if you’re a swinger, and I’m not talking about car keys in a bowl).
I like to lean back slightly; 30-45 degrees will do, and pull the bar just under the chin.
Release the bar only about half way up and pull it down tight again.
Your lats should be engaged throughout.
Now you can let the bar come all the way up to complete the one-and-a-half reps.
As with the previous exercise, 3 sets of 8 will do you.
Your usual close grip bench set up will do here.
Let the bar come down to your chest and press it back up for the full rep first, now drop the bar to about halfway down the full rep range, pause briefly, and finish off the one-and-a-half.
This one BURNS!
You’re going to get a crazy pump in your triceps if done correctly, and for that reason I find something like a set of 12, a set of 10, and a set of 8 reps will do fine here.
You’re getting the idea now…
You can’t even go wrong on the leg press as well so you should know the drill.
All the way down, drive up to halfway, back down again and press it up to just off lock-out.
To really increase the emphasis on the quads use a slightly narrow stance and don’t lock out your knees to rest.
Three eights will do again nicely.
Something a little different here, but still one-and-a-half reps.
Curl the weight up to your butt using both legs, now relax and ideally drop down one leg and slowly release the weight using just the one leg only.
The great thing about this variation is that not only will you experience more time under tension but you can also overload the individual limb by using more weight than you could typically leg curl with just the one leg.
Again, this one can be a burner so let’s do a set of 12, a set of 10, and a set of 8.
Feel the burn!
So there you have a few examples – feel free to throw them into your training programme to add some variation to your workouts.
You can do one-and-a-halfs with almost any exercise to be honest but these are just a few I’ve found to really hammer the target muscle and achieve the desired effect.
You wouldn’t, for example, want to do one-and-a-half deadlifts (for fear of snapping your shit up) or use them on other strength-focused movements like squat and bench press as you’d be better off focusing on normal reps and maximising the weight used.
But as far a hypertrophy-based accessory work goes you can absolutely throw some half reps around!
But beware, half rep responsibly and don’t look like an idiot.
Any exercises you enjoy doing half reps on?
Any suggestions on how you utilise this technique?
Let us know in the comments below and, as always, get back to lifting!
Who would have though that half-reps create such difference in muscle building?
Partial reps are not always considered poor form.
Many powerlifters, for example, will use partial reps to strengthen a portion of one of their competition lifts, especially where their sticking point is.
Great info… never tried one-and-a-halfs.
I’m going to try them on my next workout day.
The half-reps has always given me lots of pump and “mental workout satisfaction”.
If muscle build is your “case” then you certainly need to try this training approach.
Thanks for this great article and the value you’ve provided.