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Now I am new to the gym (well, returning after a 10 year break) and unsurprisingly have lost a lot of strength and endurance over the years. After about a month of weight lifting, I've noticed that my shoulders and biceps can only do a set of ~10 reps with full range of motion. Subsequent sets have about 4 reps of full ROM then the rest are half reps. (I do hold the weights at the max for a couple of seconds when I can't complete the rep; almost like doing isometric training.)

My trainer says that partial reps are okay in this stage. However, consensus is good. Assuming good form is maintained and full exertion, are partial reps good? The primary goals are muscle strength and maybe endurance since endurance seems to be lacking.

  • How long do you rest between sets? That's something I experienced as well at the beginning. I don't want to write an answer here, but long story short: with time, focus on the important compound lifts, sufficient time to rest and I guess adaptation, the problem disappeared. You will learn to get a better feeling for what you can take. The only bad way to do bicep curls or whatever is the one that gets you injured. Do what you can. You could also try e.g. an isometric hold/partial reps to target the weakness you might have on the point where your curl fails, but that's too much for a comment – Raditz_35 May 17 at 17:33
  • @Raditz_35 I rest at minimum 30 seconds on easy sets and about a minute on sets with exertion. – Lux Claridge May 17 at 17:44
  • @Raditz_35 you got a good foundation for an answer and I am intrigued by your last sentence, so if you feel like writing one that would be awesome. :) – Lux Claridge May 17 at 17:45
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I would agree with your trainer. Partial reps are a tool, and every tool has it's pros and cons.

The pros of partial reps include the fact that you can carry on with an exercise when you can no longer do full ROM with good form, and you still want to push it a bit further to exert a smaller subset of the muscle group more.

You should of course not be replacing full ROM reps with partial reps all together, because full ROM allows greater hypertrophy and exertion, and will work the muscles more in tandem, which they respond to to a greater extent than partial reps. But from what you wrote, I doubt there's any danger of you going so far as to replace full ROM movements.

On a personal note, I like to do partial reps on chinups after I've finished what I can using full ROM. By repeating the middle ~30% of the rep until complete failure, I get a more profound pump in my biceps, and I feel the effects for days.

It's good to pinpoint exactly where in the ROM you're at your biggest weakness lies, and do partial reps there to improve it. For me, it would be the bottom portion of a bench press, and the top portion of a pullup, for example. It helps you analyze which muscle is the "bottle neck" keeping your performance down, and by making note of this, you can focus your auxiliary work (such as partial reps) to getting them up to speed.

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