Saturday, January 8, 2022

Partials for Strength -- Bud Jeffries


How to Make Partials Pay Off for Big Lifts

Many of the modern lifting "experts" have come out against the use of partial movements. They have claimed they only give you partial results if you get any. They have claimed they are dangerous and will hurt you. Well, everyone has an opinion, but that doesn't always make them right.

I believe partials have merit in and of themselves, even if they did not increase your full range lift. I believe the problem most people have encountered is that they have not gone far enough in training with partial reps to learn how to make them carry over to your full range lifts. They have not taken some key factors into account and have not spent the time necessary on them to bring about a big increase in your full range lift. 

You can get some immediate benefit from throwing in partials for six to eight weeks on a training program for a full range lift, but there are too many factors at work to take eight short weeks of an exercise and determine the complete validity of its training system. I believe that I have spent longer and more time and energy training with partials than almost everyone who's doing any kind of writing in the strength world. I believe I have uncovered some of the ways to make them pay off for bigger full range lifts. I wouldn't say I have discovered it, but maybe stumbled on to what some of the great lifters were already using and found a way of adapting it to myself. I would attribute much of my gains in my squats in the last two to three years to partial rep training. I would say that's pretty good proof, because I don't know of anyone else who's truly drug free who is doing a bottom start squat with over 900 pounds using only a belt and closing in on a thousand.

I don't say that to toot my own horn. I say it to point toward the validity of using partial lifts, especially for the drug free athlete. One thing you must remember is to break into partial reps slowly as they are very intense, can be quite tough on your structure and will work the smaller muscles around your joint much harder than a full range lift. Also, I believe I know how to make partials pay off, but you must remember that anything in any type of training MUST BE MADE SPECIFIC TO YOU to get the most benefit out of it.

The beginning benefits of partials and the things that you can realize in the long term gain begin with these: Certainly because of the heavier poundages used your tendons and ligaments get much more work than normal, therefore they must begin to adapt and grow stronger. This is really part of a long term process but you will begin to realize changes after a short period. The real short term benefits are core stability, conquering fear and weight sensitivity, and opening the door for the way your muscles interpret specific poundages. Because of the extremely heavy weight employed, your core muscles, as well as your stabilizing muscles get worked in a way that cannot be duplicated with any other. Your abdominal and back muscles must fire much harder than usual and support much more weight than usual. Stronger abdominals and stabilizers translate directly into heavier full range lifts.

Weight sensitivity refers to how a weight feels when you lift it. Almost universally, if a weight feels heavy to you when you pick it up you will not lift as powerfully or as confidently as if it felt light. If a weight feels light to you your confidence level will go up and your mind will stitch into an aggressive exercise mode instead of a survival exercise mode. This triggers chemical and hormonal responses inside your body that make you lift better. This is related to what I have called "opening the door for the way muscles interpret specific poundages." 

Through using partials you actually increase the speed at which your body adapts to heavier weight and begin to permanently upgrade your structural integrity as well as your ability to gain strength. If you can squat 315 for a single right now, but it feels very heavy, if you consistently lift 500 or more pounds your body will begin to get used to that specific weight. Your confidence and core stability will improve so that you can demonstrate more control and aggressiveness while lifting 315 which in turn leads to lifting more weight for a full range rep. 315 also now does feel heavy while it is sitting across your back, therefore, your performance is improved. 

Most people have an inherent fear of lifting heavy weights once they get to a certain level. By using heavier weight than you would normally attempt in a full range lift, you begin to disassociate any fear you have with your current full range poundage. By simply handling more weight on a regular basis and by the feeling of lightness as he weight is held on you and via the aggressiveness and control you display with your regular full range poundage. Lifting 500 pounds for a full range rep doesn't feel or sound so scary or impossible once you've been doing controlled short range lifts with 800 to 1,000 pounds. You've boosted your own confidence, helped kill some of your own fear and helped your body turn on its ability to add more strength. It starts a strengthening cycle of mind and body in which the body gets used to a poundage and adds to its current physical structure via the use of that poundage. The mind loses its fear of the number and the feeling. New gains are made, as well as opening the door even wider to make more gains. 

How to Make Partials Pay Off for Big Lifts II

Recovery is another issue that needs to be addressed in your use of partials. Dependent on the way that you pursue them they may increase your recovery time significantly. This may be dependent on how heavy you're working, your particular structure, and what type of reps you're using. \

Generally, partials will fatigue the small muscles around the joints to such a degree that it is the recovery of those muscles which will dictate when your next training session should be. You'll have to gauge this with some experimentation and experience, but I have found when working very heavy, a little more rest never hurts.

The large muscles of your quadriceps and hamstrings may be recovered, but the little ones between your vertebrae and around your hip and knee joints may take a bit more time. You have a lifetime to lift, so go when you feel ready and don't be afraid to add a day to your recovery time. The body doesn't necessarily work on a pre-set schedule just because it looks pretty on paper. 

You should have some conditioning under your belt when you begin to work truly heavy partials. For most people they never get to a level where this could be a factor, but if you work into the extremes it is probably best for you to have some efficiency in the heart and lungs and their ability to pump blood and handle pressure. If you already have severe high blood pressure I would suggest you be very, very careful and use more moderate poundages. I have recently quarter squatted 1,800 pounds and took an attempt at 2,000, which I moved, but couldn't lock out. Granted, this is not normal. However, lifting a weight this heavy does create serious pressure and challenges within the body. 

Your abdominal muscles need to be strong to prevent injury, and you certainly must work up to things like this. I get what's called pin point petechia, small capillaries that run along the top of the skin that burst under pressure, leaving little red spots on my face, neck and upper torso. It doesn't take that kind of pressure to produce this, however, it is an indication that there is a significant amount of pressure being produced. 

You also want to breathe just like a regular rep when using partials, in that you begin with taking a big breath, holding it and forcing it into the abdominals and then blowing it out at the top.

I also train partials just like I train full range lifts regarding the use of a belt. I try to hit new maxes without a belt every time I train before I put the belt on and work even heavier. Footwear and everything else should be exactly the same as you would use in your full range lift. For upper body partials some wrist wraps may become necessary for some people. Of course the best place to do any of this is in a very sturdy power rack and using a very sturdy bar. Don't use junk bars . . . they WILL bend and stay bent. Trust me, I've bent more than my fair share! 

ROUTINE  1 -- Basic Addition of a Partial to Your Routine

In version one, the simplest way, you add a few sets of a short range lift immediately after you've completed your regular work in the full range of the same lift, i.e., you've just finished your full range squats and then you simply add three sets of quarter squats at the end. That's how I started using partials. 

In version 2 you take  advantage of the confidence building and nerve awakening effect and do them before your full range lift. Start with 3-5 sets of the partial movement. Working up to about 10% or so above your planned max full range movement for the day. You then go to your full range movement, which will feel light and move confidently by comparison.

In version 3 you separate the partial movement to a different day and perform the full range movements on a separate day.

Written out . . . 

Version 1
Warm up. Full squat 5 progressively heavier singles to a max for the day. Then quarter squat to 4 progressively heavier singles to a max for the day. 

Version 2
Warm up. Partial deadlift from just above the knees. 5 x 1 to a max for the day.

Version 3
Warm up. Monday: Full bench press, 5 x 1 to a max for the day.
Thursday: Board press or rack lockout, 5 x 1 to a max for the day.

Note: Exercises are picked simply to illustrate and show possibilities. You choose your own for your own personal goals. 

Routine 2 - Total Body Tendon and Joint Strength

This routine is based on using partials to strengthen every major joint, tendon and ligament of the body. It is set up to use partials exclusively for that purpose. I'll give you a couple of expressions of this routine and you can fit them in the rest of your training schedule with your full range of movement as you will.

Three Days a Week

Monday -- Warm up. Then quarter squats for 5 sets of 1 up to a max for the day. We will use a "chain" style in this workout . . . do one rep for each variation of the quarter squat . . . wide stance, close stance, staggered stance, front squat, and bar on one shoulder . . . then add weight on each cycle and repeat the stances for your 5 total sets. Set up so that you are moving the bar four inches or so. Another option is to also add in the Zercher quarter squat and do 5 sets of 1 rep.

Wednesday -- Warm up. Begin with the bar set to do standing overhead quarter lockout presses. From there use the same style as Monday. 5 x 1 on each of: six inch grip French press lockouts, regular press lockouts, reverse grip lockouts, explosive leg and arm together lockouts, and overhead support lockouts. From there bring the bar down to the regular start position of a standing press and do explosive in front of and behind the head partials trying to move the bar to the top of the head for 5 x 1. An option to include on this day is bench press or incline press lockouts using the same alternate grip style. Six inch grip, medium grip, reverse grip, etc.

Friday -- Warm up. Begin with a bar set to do a top quarter lockout deadlift. Same style as before, for 5 x 1. Work through conventional stance, sumo, staggered stance, and optionally one arm deadlift lockouts, behind the back deadlift lockouts, and one or two handed suitcase style lockouts. From there drop the bar to the floor and do partial bentover rows for 5 x 1, alternating grips. Six inch, medium, wide, reverse, and split grip.

Version 2 -- One Day a Week 

In this routine devote one day a week completely to tendon strengthening style lockouts. You may follow the chain pattern of multiple stances and grips if you wish, or just pick one style from each of the groups . . . squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses.

After a warmup do them for 5 x 1. You might do wide stance quarter squats, standing overhead lockouts, conventional deadlift lockouts, and medium grip partial bentover rows. 

Another way to attack this would be to alternate different partials every other week, for example:

Week 1 -- do squat, bench press, and partial bentover row partials. 

Week 2 -- do deadlift, standing overhead press, and DB bentover row partials. 

This would be excellent for those who wish to work more variety in, but need more recovery from the heavy overload work. 

Routine 3 -- Big Jump Progressive Distance

This is the original routine I got started training with for partials and progressive distance work. It worked very well for me, and is easy to implement. 

One important thing you need to remember is that if you go very heave on partial lifts you will need significant recovery time. If you go only moderately heavy, you can recover significantly faster. That should just be common sense, but it becomes important when you get deeply into this training.

For the big jump progression I like to divide my lifts into four parts: 

Top Quarter
Top Half
Three Quarter 
Full Lift

The same style of use applies from Routine 1. You can do them before or after your regular full range lift, and you can do them on separate days from your full range lift in the same training week, or keep them completely separate and work only on the partial leading up to the full range lift. You can do a moderate partial with any of these styles. 

I had a great deal of success with the max partial. You can them be working for a new max at each position once a week, then dropping to the next position, working for a new max there, and so on until you get to the bottom. Of you can stretch it out and set a goal weight to achieve at each position that takes you say, three weeks. So, the first three weeks you do quarter lifts, working to achieving your new max goal on your third week, then drop to half lifts for the next three weeks, hit your new new goal there, etc., then the thrree quarters for the next three weeks, then the full range lift for the three more weeks. If you do a short cycle of this, say for four weeks, you will probably be fine without doing a full range lift. However, if I went more than six weeks i would add in at least some moderate full range work to stay in touch with the full range lift. 

How heavily you're training the partial reps will dictate how much recovery you need between sessions. If you're hitting true maxes or very close to them at points in the lift then I suggest seven or more days between the max sessions. If you wish to increase your frequency or are using moderate partials, for example, 50 to 100 pounds more than your regular full range lift in a squat or deadlift, or 50 or less pounds more in an upper body lift, you can go significantly more often. I have done them up to four to five days a week, specifically to increase my body's ability to recover and endure from frequent training and to force my body to get comfortable and adapt to moving a particular weight.

These might be expressed like this: 

Version 1

Week 1 - Full squat, 5 x 1, Quarter squat, 3 x 1
Week 2 - Full squat, 5 x 1, Half squat, 3 x 1
Week 3 - Full squat, 5 x 1, Three quarter squat, 3 x 1
Week 4 - Full squat, 5 x 1, try for a new max.

Version 2

Weeks 1 through 3 - Quarter deadlift, 5 x 1, Full deadlift, 3 x 1
Weeks 4 through 6 - Half deadlift, 5 x 1, Full deadlift, 3 x 1
Weeks 7 through 9 - Three quarter deadlift, 5 x 1, Full deadlift, 3 x 1
Weeks 10 through 12 - Full deadlift, 5 x 1, new max.

Version 3

Week 1 - Mon/Wed/Fri, Quarter squat up to 100 lbs over current full range max
Week 2 - Mon/Wed/Fri, Half squat up to 100 lbs over
Week 3 - Mon/Thurs, Three quarter squat up to 50 lbs over
Week 4 - Wednesday, 5 x 1, up to new full range max.

Routine 4: Moderate Jump Progressive Distance

This routine fleshes out in all the ways similar to Routine 3, except you use smaller jumps and I'll write it out to demonstrate different styles of its use. For me the big jump progressive distance ends up being four inch jumps. Moderate jump progressive distance would be two inch increases in the distance you are moving the weight. So, there are more positions to train at along the way to your full range lift.

I found that you're more likely to get a more thorough carryover with more positions, but it just takes a little more time. It's still faster than traditional progression, just a different style.

Version 1

Monday - Full squat, 5 x 1 to a moderate max for the day. This workout stays the saame through the entire cycle. You should be concentrating on easily handling something close to your full range max, but not so close that you break down from the effort.

Thursday - Quarter squat up to a max for a single rep. Every week on Thursday you will drop the setting on the rack two inches and try to hit a new max at each position along the way. When you get down to two inches above your bottom position and hit a new max there, take the next Monday off and come in on Thursday and try for a new full range lift. 

Version 2

Day 1 - Quarter deadlift up to 50 or 100 lbs above full range max.

Day 2 - Take four days off after Day 1. Same as Day 1. You can do other lifting on these days, just not this lift. Repeat these two days every four days, adding two inches to the distance and staying 50 to 100 lbs above your full range max. This should be fairly easy to do until you get down to your critical leverage point which is usually around the three quarter position for most people. From there just do the lift one day, take four days, go to the next position, then take four to six days and hit a  new max from the bottom. 

Version 3

Begin with the quarter squat, do 50 to 100 lbs above your full range max. Add two inches to the distance, full range max, do single every other day till you get down to the 3/4 or two inches from the bottom. Then take off five days, come in, and hit a new max. This routine is excellent for getting in shape very quickly once you have gotten used to this style of training. It can also be used on a continual revolving basis.

Routine 5 -- Small Jump Progressive Distance

This routine took me from 900 to 1,000 lbs in th squat and it also helped me to accustom my body to very frequent training. It will make you supremely confident in handling a particular weight. Generally, I classify small jumps as increases in distance from one to one-and-a-half inch. However, others have used even smaller increments such as quarter inch boards and some classic routines by William Boone, Bob Peoples, and Paul Anderson. Generally, it's best to pick a goal weight, 50 to 100 lbs over your max and stay with that. 

You can alternate occasional sets with heavier weight. They may be helpful to keep you feeling "light" and confident with your goal weight. You may also include longer range lifts on an intermittent basis to stay in touch with your regular full range lift. 

An important point that is not particularly related to this, but it is important to discuss that I do basically all of my partial work starting from a dead stop in the bottom position. It's perfectly legitimate to start your partials at the top, come down to the position and go back up, and some lifts, particularly the bench press, lend themselves much more to that style.

If you want to have this training create the most carryover to a competition style lift you need to regularly practice your lift in the competition style. Doing these together will help keep you in the groove and help mold the strength that you're building in this training for greater carryover for your competition.

The idea with small jump training is that the increases in distance are so small that you barely feel them and they add up over time. I still tend to do these routines fairly quickly, but this is where the term "slow cooking" as Paul Anderson used it, came about in reference to this type of training, because some of the lifters who pioneered and used this over a really long cycle. I personally don't love the idea of a super long cycle, but you can use a revolving variation of this indefinitely in your training.

Version 1

Bein with quarter squat, 50-100 lbs over current full range max. 5 x 1 singles worked four to five days a week. In the first week stay with the quarter squat. After the first week you should come back after two days rest and the weight should feel very light. 

From there begin taking half-inch jumps in distance every day or every two days as you feel ready. Continuing to train three to five days per week, getting at least a couple of these days in a row. I found that as I worked down to the critical leverage point 3/4 position I felt very confident with the weight. However, as I hit 3/4 position I felt I needed more rest, so from there take six days, come back, drop two inches, try to hit your goal weight again, and then take six more days and come back and hit your bottom position for a new max.

Version 2 - 
The Classic Paul Anderson, Bob Peoples, William Boone Variation

At some point or another on either the squat of the deadlift, all three of these lifters are credited with digging a hole, sitting their barbell or squat apparatus above the hole, then standing in the hole to do their lifts, thus creating a partial movement. From there, they would throw some dirt in the hole every they did it, in effect adding very small increases in the distance they moved the weight over a long period of time. 

Here we see J.C. Hise's setup for doing progressive partial squats.
Photo courtesy of Joe Roark:

I suggest that you also work in intermittently the full range movement when using a routine like this. If you stay a quarter inch or so jumps for long periods of time you tend to lose efficiency in the full range while gaining a ton of it in the partial.

Another version of this would be to work to slow cook partials four days a week or so and on the fifth day hit a new max at a different level partial, and every other week a full range movement. 

Routine 6 -- The Long Range Progressive Distance Partial

This is probably the style that will have the most immediate carryover to your full range training, as in being able to display the strength within a week or two and it lends itself particularly well to the deadlift, as it is easier to approximate the positions for a full range lift when doing these partials. Versions of this routine are famously used by Don Reinhoudt and several other monsters deadlifters. It helped me achieve my best ever full deadlift off the floor and my friend Greg Pickett uses a variation of this that I will outline.

This is excellent for long term training and it's also great if you're feeling a little burned out with the short range movement. 

Version 1 -- The Classic Don Reinhoudt Deadlift

Begin eight weeks away from your goal competition and set up an eight week training period. Set the bar so the plates are eight inches above the floor, pull up to your goal weight for a single every week and add one inch to the movement every week. At the end of eight weeks you should be on the floor and pulling your goal weight. I wouldn't start with more than 25-50 pounds over your current max as a goal weight.

Version 2 -- Greg Pickett's Squat Routine

Greg is the most consistent lifter I know. He does the least routine tinkering of anyone I've ever had the pleasure to deal with. Because of this he is exceptionally consistent and built a ton of long term strength. 

He's closing in on the triple bodyweight full squat starting from the bottom position in the power rack. What Greg does is train constantly from 3/4's down to the bottom position so he consistently doing a squat with weights in the same range every week, mixing up what distance he uses from week to week. He might do a straight progression for four weeks starting at the three quarter position, dropping down an inch every week until he hits the bottom, then he might mix it up, go back to 3/4, then to two inches above, then to the bottom, then back to one inch above, back to three inches above, back down to the bottom, etc.

He also has a set of quarter inch boards that he can effectively use to micro-jump the distances within that set range. He's consistently overloading, but it's close enough to his full range that the carryover is direct, but enough variation to not burn out on the same movement all the time.

Although Louie Simmons system is entirely different, his lifters spend a mountain of time doing box squats in those same ranges.

Version 3

I'm not a big bencher. I think it can be a useful upper body movement, but is surpassed by overhead work in functionality. This is a version of the same type of routine that lead me to my all time best bench press.

Five days a week, three to four singles up to a max for the day, starting light and adding small amounts of weight over six to eight week periods, and cutting down to two inches, trying to hit solid goals but not super maximal weight regularly. In this way you get used to training very often and you achieve a grooved-into-the-lift state as well s receive enough overload to move up in weight.

Routine 7 -- Miscellaneous and Repetition Partial Routines

Everything we have expressed so far has been geared towards max lifting, and has been put down using single repetition lifts, but partials are not limited to this type of purely heavy work and may be used for many other situations and for rep work.

Here are some examples of that kind of work: 

Version 1 -- High Rep Partials

Steve Justa is a huge fan of this type of work as it builds a conditioned type of strength and the ability to put out high rates of force for long periods of time. I totally agree with that and believe it's an excellent training style. I have also found it useful for working around injuries, such as a pulled hamstring, which I used the following routine for.

Very simple. Quarter squats x 500 reps. You can set one weight or simply do high rep sets adding weight every set.

Version 2

Repetition partials will also work in the progressive distance model such as 5 x 1 full squats followed by 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps in the half squat, using it for pure overload, or in another variation using the same set and rep scheme, but beginning with quarter squats and working down by large or small jumps every week until you're doing reps with your old max.

Version 3

Bob Peoples used to train with partial movements as a regular part of his training, doing sets of 1 to 10 reps in things like half-squats and -deadlifts. He found it extremely beneficial for his structure s he did not necessarily tolerate the full range lifts that well or make progress by training on them alone. He knew that by achieving a certain standard on his half lifts his full lifts would go up. I have on occasion trained individuals such as one basketball and another football player who, because of structure, could not effectively do full squats. It was perfectly acceptable to use the half to three quarter squat as their major thigh movement.  

Harry Paschall believed you should train deadlifts with the bar up on a six inch block. By doing so you achieve a safer and more anatomically correct position for most people yet still get all the benefits of heavy deadlifts. The college football team I played for also used a variation of the board press for players with shoulder injuries so the full range movement would not irritate the joint further. For a set/rep system using this style I would do a pyramid of 20, 10, 5, 1, working to a good effort on each repetition level one day per week.

Version 4 -- Progressive Repetition Distance

This is one style I've only lightly experimented with, but I think it has tremendous ability for expanding your ability to perform high rep sets such as 20 rep squats. Use any of the progressive distance workouts as listed above, just keep the weights 50-100 lbs above your best 20 rep full range sets. Or, if you prefer, 10 reps sets for upper body exercises, or whatever you would like in higher rep sets. 

Begin with quarter squats, starting with sets of 20-50 reps. Add two inches to the distance every time you train it and work down to a new 20 rep max. 

Paul Anderson also used a repetition style of progressive distance to train for a new max. He would begin with quarter sets of 20 and every session he dropped the pin two to three inches he would cut three reps off the set. By the time he hit the bottom he was down to 3 rep sets and ready for a new max.

Version 7 -- Partials as an Extension to Size Training

Anthony Ditillo used some training similar to this toadd massive amounts of muscular bulk. He would begin with a weight he could use for 3-5 reps in his full range movement and when he hit his limit would cut the distance and squeee out an extra three to five reps with a shorter range to make the set harder. 

If you have a two bar setup you can also use the opposite version of the same style. Begin with a very heavy set of 3-5 reps of any half movement. Then immediately go to your second bar, loaded lighter, and squeeze out 3-5 more reps in the full range movement. These are not exact routines, they ar just variants using his routines. Either one is tremendous for building massive muscular sie.

Version 8 

My friend Steve Weiner uses partials for overload and strength building in his training. He recently hit a 1,200 lb quarter esqquat and has some of the most impressive torso strength I've ever encountered. Steve is judicious in his use so as to create the least damage in his body and create the most full recovery. 

For example, he regularly does squat partials, but only goes to a max on the quarter squat no more than once a month. By doing this he still gets the overload and makes the full range lifts feel light, but gets full structural recovery in between. He also does a great deal of stone lifting and because that involves an extreme range stff legged style dead lift, may pull partial deadlifts in the Paschall style to reap the benefits of deadlifts without that undue back stress. 

Squat one day a week for low reps, then every other week mas out half squats, and once a month quarter squats. Deadlift once a week for low reps, alternting half and three quarter range pulls. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   





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