Bradley Steiner, ‘Partials, Rack Work And Isometrics’, POWERLIFTING (1972), 16-17

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In 90% of the training you do the emphasis should be on picture-perfect form AND heavy weights. Cheating is undesirable, and while it SEEMS that you are working harder because you are lifting moreyou are, in fact, working less intensively since the “heavier” work is being distributed over many hefty muscle groups – instead of being placed on the ones that you wish to work.

Sometimes – SOMETIMES – a little cheating is okay. But more often than not when the urge comes to really pile on the workload you are better doing partials. This way you will actually be putting forth the work where it is desired, with no outside assistance. Let me show you what I mean by partials.

Let’s take the deadlift. We’ll say you normally do 4 sets of 5 reps with 300 pounds. Now you arehungry for more strength and power, so one day you may do the following . . . you do the first 3 sets as usual to give your back a good basic workout, and also to insure an adequate warmup. Then, youput 400 pounds on the bar. You know you can’t get a full deadlift with that weight, but you also knowthat a PARTIAL lift, once you’ve thoroughly warmed up, will provide a good stimulus so that perhaps in a few workouts you’ll manage 310 pounds for 5 reps. You go right ahead and deadlift the 400pounds from the floor as best you can. As it turns out you succeed in lifting rep #1 to about kneeheight. After a few breaths, rep #2 is the same. Rep #3 won’t budge after going mid-distance up your shin, and by rep #4 your hands are begging to let go of the bar. But you set your mind as firmly as your muscles and you go foe the final rep. Murder! You eke out an inch-off-the-floor lift, and dropthe bar like it was the end of a Sherman tank. That’s a good set of partials for you!

You will need partners or a power rack to do bench presses and squats as partials. Never try to do this without a high quality power rack or two husky, attentive spotters.

You can make your deltoids feel like they were made of cotton if you press 3 normal sets of 6 reps and then 2 sets of 3- or 4-rep partials with an excess of iron on the bar some day. Try it. Don’t do thisoften, though, since more than one such workout a month or, at the most, every three weeks, is plenty. The same can be done with bench presses, squats, etc. by using different settings in the power rack.

Partials build power and strength in abundance. You can – and I am not exaggerating – sometimesimprove a lift after one workout where you apply partials properly. The trick is to see that you don’tdo them too often and get enough rest between attempts.

With the warning that, again, partial movements are a supplementary aid, not a recommended method of constant training, I commend the technique to you as truly valuable.

I mentioned racks and their use with partial movement workouts. Not only can you use the rack to do partial movements, but you can use them to aid in isometric contractions and in all forms of reallyheavy, borderline lifting. Borderline lifting is when you’re only half-sure that you’ll make the set, orthe rep.

Isometrics were once offered as the final answer to rapid strength and muscle building. This was too bad, because the idiots that did this ruined what could have been a good thing in its own right. Afterall, something doesn’t have to be perfect of be a kind of panacea for it to have genuine value. In its place, isometric contraction exercise is valuable. It is certainly no substitute for vigorous weight training. Not by a long shot. Isometrics CAN keep the muscles toned when weight training facilities are not available. They can also help overcome a sticking point in a particular lift by overloading a specific area of the movement.