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We’ve all seen the half- or even quarter-squatter in the gym. Maybe you even used to be one of them. And then you may have learned about using a full range of motion, made amends for your sins, and started squatting to parallel (or even ass to grass). Well, what if partial reps actually weren’t so bad after all? What if there was a way to do them that maximized their effectiveness? What if partials could actually be more effective than full ROM training? That’s what I’m talking about in this interview with Dr. Mike Israetel.
In case you’re not familiar with Dr. Mike, he’s a repeat guest on my podcast for good reason. Not only does he have a science background with a PhD in Sport Physiology, but he’s the co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, a successful blog, coaching program, and fitness platform, so he’s worked with thousands of people and definitely knows how to get results.
In our discussion, Mike and I chat about . . .
- What a “full” range of motion is and the pros and cons of partial reps
- The good and bad reasons to do partials
- Why effective partials aren’t the kind you most often see bodybuilders doing
- Stretch-mediated hypertrophy and the proper way to do partial reps
- How to incorporate partial reps in your training and judge their effectiveness
- Which exercises are best for doing partials
- And more . . .
So, if you’re curious about why you might want to try partial reps and how’d you go about trying them and assessing their effectiveness, listen to this podcast and let me know what you think!
0:00 – Try Triumph today! Go to https://buylegion.com/triumph and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!
0:36 – Is it always necessary to use full range of motion?
13:10 – What are some reasons not to use partials?
23:50 – How much volume would be reasonable?
25:27 – Do you find yourself doing partial range of motion on an exercise because the full range of motion is less effective?
40:31 – How do I incorporate partial work into my training?
46:35 – What are your thoughts on duration?
55:17 – Which exercises work well with partials?
1:14:31 – Where can people find you and your work?
Mentioned on the show:
Try Triumph today! Go to https://buylegion.com/triumph and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!
Mike’s Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/renaissanceperiodization
RP Nutrition Coach Certification: https://info.rpstrength.com/rp-cnc-lvl-1-in-session/
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hi there and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to learn about range of motion in strength training because everybody knows that you should always use a full range of motion with every strength training exercise. Every rep. Every set, right? Yeah, that is the rule.
But every rule has exceptions. And let’s remember that exceptions don’t disprove rules. So in the case of range of motion, what are those? Exceptions. Are there exercises that are better with a partial range of motion versus a full range of motion? Or are there certain scenarios that call for changing an exercise that maybe by default is best with a full range of motion, but because of certain circumstances it would be better?
To use a partial range of motion. And so you are going to learn evidence-based answers to those questions and more. In today’s episode, which is an interview with my buddy, Dr. Mike Israetel, who is a repeat guest on my podcast, and he has a solid science background. He has a PhD in sport physiology, and Mike is the co-founder of Renaissance Puritization, which produces a ton of really good evidence based education on how to get more jacked.
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So go to bi legion.com/triumph now. Use the coupon code muscle at checkout and save 20% or get your 6% cash back. Try Triumph, risk free and see what you think. Hello Michael. Michael , thanks for taking the time to come back on my podcast.
Mike Israetel: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be back.
Yeah. I’ve been looking forward to this. I liked our last discussion and I wanted to get you back on to talk about, we’ll see how many things we can get through here, but to talk about at least a few things that I haven’t much written or spoken about myself. And I would say you are more qualified to talk about these things cuz I I think I’m gonna learn some things as well.
So again, thank you for coming on.
Mike Israetel: I’m excited. Let’s do it.
Mike: Let’s start with range of motion on exercises. Obviously most people listening know that generally speaking, a full range of motion is better than a partial range of motion. Your muscles have to do more work. It often is going to help prevent injury through not.
Loading inappropriate amount of weights that your body actually can’t handle, et cetera, et cetera. But is there a place for partial range of motion training in some people’s routines?
Mike Israetel: So to zoom out really quick and take the big picture intellectual view, it’s difficult to say that there is technically such a thing as full range of motion, but there are bigger ranges of motion and smaller ranges of motion in a given exercise.
So for example, if you look at the bench press, just the barbell bench press is a simple example that is an exercise that potentially has a very distinct stopping point touching the chest, and a very distinct stopping point in the lockout. And so it is an exercise that has a very distinct range of motion, and you could call it a full range of motion.
Very interestingly enough, Even that doesn’t give us the whole picture because instead of using a regular bar, what if you use dumbbells or a cambered bar, you could actually stretch even deeper into the bottom position. And so the full range of motion for an exercise first point is not always the same thing as the full range of motion for a muscle that we’re targeting with that exercise.
But for any given exercise we do for a muscle, there is doing that exercise with a more complete range of motion and a less complete range of motion. And so partials are generally when you have an opportunity. To use a larger range of motion that could still potentially be effective with that exercise.
But you choose not to take it, you choose to do some fraction of that. So on a bench press, this would be, there’s nothing stopping you from touching your chest. There’s nothing stopping you from locking out, but maybe you choose not to lock out or you choose not to touch your chest. And the margins by which you choose to do so be they half reps or third reps or 10th reps.
That’s a bit more of a detail. And the big picture is just understand that intellectual landscape of, there’s no crazy absolutes here. It’s just a discussion of Oh, this particular case is more age of motion, better or worse. And then to really intellectually begin to answer your question of are partials ever a good idea?
I will say this, and this is, I was gonna say mental trick. It’s not much of a trick. This is a way of seeing the world. That I think is beneficial in many other ways. And if somebody asks, Hey, is XYZ strategy potentially good? What I like to do is turn it back and ask why would it be good? What about it can you think would be good?
And if you’re asking from a purely ignorant place of, But shit, you’re the expert, Dr. Mike, I have no idea. That’s why I asked you dummy. Then I can of course expound on that. But what I’m going to expound, or the way I’m going to expound on that is I’m going to take the alternate position of essentially trying to be like a lawyer or advocate.
This is something I got for Meadow Heman I thought was a fine thing for the other side. If I was to make the biggest steelman case for partials, how would I do it? And in that process of making a Steelman case for partials, We get some interesting theoretical inklings of, Oh, this is a way in which partials could actually be really good.
But what we also run into are problem areas. That are sometimes at least difficult. They make rationalizing partials really difficult. It’s saying, what’s the upside of traveling to Thailand to eat at this one lady’s, pad tie shop. It’s the Michelin Star best rated pad tie in the world.
Clearly the good thing about going to Thailand to eat this pad Thai is the pad tie is just amazing. But on the downside, it’s like a $4,000 plane ticket. So if someone says, if I post a picture of pad Thai that I got locally in metropolitan Detroit, it’s probably not that good. Then someone says, Dr.
Mike, why don’t you just go to Bangkok and get this, five star pad tie? At least my first response would be like, not made a $4,000 bill or 23 hours of travel one way. So there’s distinct downsides and I think a lot of people who try. To reason about partials end up just listing the upsides and never listing the downsides.
So if you’d I can go through some of the upsides and some of the downsides. Yeah, I’d love to hear it. Super. So there are generally two upsides with partials that I can think of, at least off the top of my head. And if anyone’s curious about more of this stuff, we have on the RP strength, renaissance prioritization, YouTube, we have whole videos of partials versus full rob, huge intellectual breakdowns.
So the first is, there is this concept called stretch mediated hypertrophy and some really good research to, to support it. And it shows that when you are loading a muscle at a pretty deep stretch, it probably attends on average, not in all cases to maybe grow a bit more muscle than if you were just loading it at nowhere near its stretch position.
So if we separate the bench press into two parts, the half. Closer to lockout and the half, closer to the bottom part, we could probably surmise that the half closer to the bottom part, for every centimeter of pressing you do probably generates predictably more hypertrophy in the pecs, just maybe by a small margin than the part where you are closer to lockout.
So if we take that and say interesting. So if we don’t lock out, maybe the average hypertrophy yield for every repetition per repetition will go up. So the one thing is stretch media hypertrophy tells us at the bottom end range of many exercises, for example, the bench press maybe compellingly more hypertrophic by a small margin for every rep that you do than the top end range.
And if you can say maybe if we just skip the lockout entirely, maybe stop two or three inches shy of lockout, we could just make every rep more hypertrophic because we’re in that golden zone a bit more often and that’s very interesting and they have something to it. Another reason is for a variety of mechanisms, probably too numerous to.
What we term the stimulus to fatigue ratio of an exercise may be enhanced in a more partial range of motion than in a more full range of motion. For example, if you are doing bicep curls, you may notice that if you maybe don’t go all the way down and if you don’t come all the way up or in skull crushers, try some extensions.
If you skip the lock out and you skip the peak contraction entirely, every single rep gives you a much bigger pump, much bigger perception of tension, much bigger perception of burn. There’s no opportunity to reduce the leverage a lot and rest. So what ends up happening is the, there’s a huge upside there that every single rep is just better quality if you get to the most hypertrophic part of the rep, the most challenging part, and stay.
Which you end up saying to yourself afterwards is, Look, anytime I do curls with a slightly restricted range of motion with a partial, I end up having a bigger pump. I feel bigger tension in my biceps, I feel a bigger burn. And higher reps, I get a more intense set per se, perturbation, which means like three sets of these kind of curls and my arms are shaking five sets of regular curls and my arms still feel fine.
Like I can keep training. And also it doesn’t hurt my elbow joints or shoulder joints as much if I don’t lock up fully. Whereas if I lock out fully, yeah, okay, I’m getting full rom great joint team, full rom or whatever, but I’m getting some elbow pain, some shoulder pain. So on that balance, the stimulus proxies, like how much of a pump you get perturbation, how much tension you feel are better when the fatigue proxies, most notably the joint.
And connective tissue fatigue could be lower. And if that’s the case with partials, then there is a compelling reason to maybe use partials in that situation. And those are really the two benefits. So when folks say, Hey, should I be using partials, my number one? Answer is if your stimulus to fatigue ratio with a partial variant is clearly better than with the full range of motion variant, I would give it some thought.
The other thing I would say is if you have a way of doing partials that you can make sure not to get into that shortened range for the muscle as often, and they’ll stay more in the lengthened range. And you also have better stimulus proxies. But because oftentimes getting into that stretch media hypertrophy makes your pumps completely insane and perturbs the muscle like crazy.
So you know, like the super deep stretch of the packs, you do a couple sets of that, your packs on fire, which if you just do partial benches for the top half, someone’s Hey, I, how are your packs? They’re like, I don’t know. They’re fine. It’s not really compelling. And so if those two reasons are there, then I would say like we are now in the conversation.
Where partials may be an alternative to full run, that is good. Notice they didn’t say I approve of them because just getting in the conversation means now we need to talk about the downsides potentially of partials. But I will say that if you cannot even muster the conversation of benefits, then I know where you’re coming from.
And most people when they’re asking about partials, they’re coming from a perspective of one of two places and they’re both completely invalid. One is, I want to use partials. And even though I don’t admit it, it’s just so I can use more weight. That’s stupid because you’re trying to get muscles to grow or you’re trying to become stronger.
Doesn’t matter how much weight you use, it matters. Are you getting the effect that you want? You can do an eighth range of motion with a bench press and we could all be benching 500 pounds tomorrow, but I don’t really know what that does other than just destroy your joints and cause autonomous systemic.
The other reason is that sometimes going into a deep range of motion, he’s just profoundly uncomfortable. Not in a in a deleterious and luxurious way. Just in a way for what the, to quote, one of my friends Michaels andich, when he was at, when he was joking about the squat, he goes, why do people squat so deep?
What is it down there that I’m interested in so much , because like after I break halfway down in pain, Pain exactly. And discomfort. And when you take that pain and discomfort of going deep in an exercise and you multiply it by the ego hit you’re taking for now using a half of the weight, Oh, that sucks.
But neither, neither the discomfort. The ability to use less weight are very good reasons for saying no, I’m gonna do partials cuz I don’t wanna be uncomfortable and I wanna be able to use more weight. No, those are not compelling reasons. The stimulus to fatigue ratio is potentially compelling.
The stretch media and hypertrophy is potentially compelling, but that should really comport very well with the stimulus to fatigue ratio, which is to say if the stretch media hypertrophy is something that’s working in a partial, you should also be able to feel it in it Generating tons more muscle soreness, tons more of a pump, tons more perceived tension, tons more perturbation, and it shouldn’t make your joints feel any worse.
So if you’re checking those good green boxes, then it’s time to look at the nasty red Xs and see how partial range of motion checks or doesn’t check those.
Mike: In the case of the squat ironically, I guess if you were gonna do partials in line with some of what you just explained, you would not do the normal quarter reps that, I remember when I used to do this many years ago it wasn’t because I was trying to be cool or ego lift, I actually just didn’t know.
Same here, how to squat, how to properly. Yep. And I remember, I’ve shared this on the podcast, so I got up to, I think it was four plates on the bar for like quarter, maybe one third reps if I’m being generous. And then I came across, it might have been something from Mark ripe to just some basic barbell training many years ago.
And I, and it made sense. I was like, Oh I should be squatting at least down to parallel. That makes sense. Wasn’t thinking about the weight and got to the bottom and luckily bailed without getting hurt. But there was absolutely no way I had to go all the way down to, if I remember correctly, 180 5 to 1 95 for sets of six to eight.
Mike Israetel: Yes. How embarrassing. Used to be that guy. A 400. Yeah. What happened? Yeah, what happened Just overnight.
Mike: But ironically, I guess if you were gonna do partials on the squat in a more productive way, you’d have to do it the other way around. You, because you’d wanna get down into that deep, stretched position and do, if you’re gonna do half squats, for example, it might be productive in a scenario to do the opposite of what the average half squad is to get down to the bottom now and get up to a what might normally be a half squad position back down.
But nobody does that, of course. .
Mike Israetel: Yes. So John Meadows, rest in peace. Was a big fan and proponent of on occasion in the hack squad with the leg press and some other exercises, doing one and a half reps, which means you go down all the way to the very uncomfortable dark place. You come halfway up, then you go all the way back down, then you come all the way up.
Take a quick breath and then go and do that same thing over that multiplies by two, the amount of time you spend in that deep stretch position. Nobody in the world had time for that shit except for John Meadows and a few of the people that followed him because it was awful in the sense that it grew a ton of muscle, a super effective way to train, but it’s so egotistically offensive and also it hurts image.
Your quads hurt like crazy, having to do that one and a half for f bs. Nobody wants that in a million years. So the funny thing is you bring that up, is if partials are a good idea, they’re a better idea in the bottom range in most cases. Every now and again when we say, full range of motions, best people will say all these big pro bodybuilders do partials.
How come? And maybe there’s something to it. And our response to that is if they were doing partials intelligently, they would be doing them in the very opposite way that they are doing them. And I can tell you why they’re doing them. It’s because they’re giant men full of steroids that have enormous egos.
They wanna lift heavy, and that’s what lets them do that. That’s it. Like it’s not a mystery. It’s like somebody telling you, Hey, did you know like very many models and Instagram girls are really conceded? You’d be like, No, they’re self obsessed. How is that possible? So when giant steroid filled men are ego driven and not overly concerned with the nuances of sport, Oh my God.
Mike: Or health and function or anything.
Mike Israetel: Yeah. It’s like when people find out their favorite MMA fighters, like not a very good person, I’m always like, his job is just punch people in the face. That’s actually the only thing he’s ever rated on. And if he could just barely stay out of jail, he’s the best fighter in the world.
And I, Oh, how could he? So a lot of times people ascribe to bodybuilders and other jack people a lot more intent and through you follow through on their intellect than is due to them in the real world, but at the end of the day, yeah, so true partial lifting could be even more egoistically embarrassing then full range of motion lifting because at least you get to rest at the top of that full range motion.
Lock it out, take a few breaths. So the kind of partial lifting we’re gonna be talking about for the most part, and the rest of this podcast is not the kind you’ll see in pretty much any gyms. If you start this podcast and you click on one of the, subpoints or something, I don’t know if you guys do the whole yeah.
On YouTube list of topics and you click the, which one? If for those who just click through, I’m sorry, but everything else you’re saying about partials does not really apply to the BS partials where you’re just using the easiest part of the lift. We’re talking about partials for the hardest part of the lift, the one at the very deep stretch.
Mike: The bench press is another good example, right? You already gave that example of if you’re doing half reps, that’s gonna be from your chest to the half position. Back down the worst part. Produ, whether it’s productive or not, but difficult.
Mike Israetel: Definitely. Absolutely. So that we can maybe talk about some of the rationale that goes against partials even in those considerations.
And there’s a couple of them. One. You may not get full motor unit recruitment, full recruitment of the muscles being used unless full stimulation across the whole muscle belly until, and unless you take that muscle through, at least close to its normal anatomical and physiological range of motion. So if there’s a, if you never lock out any of your squats, you, it will even come close.
If all of your squats are bottom end half squats, they might actually produce robust hypertrophy, but there’s at least a theoretical chance that the parts of your quads, the minute microscopic motor units, the muscle fibers and the nerves that innovate them, that are more active in the lockout portion that just don’t get trained hardly at all or much.
And then you end up not having a full development even though other components of your quads tend to grow.
Mike: That feels right? If you just think about how the squat feels coming out of the hole versus locking out. If you can pay attention to your quads, they’re working differently in those two phases.
Mike Israetel: Totally. And in the leg extension is even more apt. Example, bottom end leg extensions have actually been shown in the scientific literature, at least in one study, to work better than full range leg extensions and way better than top end partials. But that’s not measuring the entire muscle over the whole history of its potential hypertrophy.
That’s just like a 12 week study. Maybe if we combine those partials with some full range of motion lifting where a leg extension, you lock out the knee and some different stuff feels like it’s being activated then. And a lot of the stuff you can’t even feel. But if you can feel like I’m getting something outta my triceps when I do these rope extensions lockout that I’m just not getting when I’m doing the partials, there may be a compelling case to say, at least say don’t always and only do partials.
Make sure you’re hitting that full range of motion at some points. Another consideration for partials, it’s actually very big one and very realistic, is tracking. How do you track your performance and execution over time? Where do you stop when people say, I stop halfway up, coming up from the bench press.
I feel that you got like a goniometer on each one of your elbows that measures the degrees and beeps when you’ve gotta come down. Go. So how do you know where you’re stopping? How do you know you did, 300 pounds for 10 last week? Halfway up? Quote unquote, This week you did 305 pounds for nine reps.
Did you get weaker? Or maybe you just went up a little higher each time. On average, unless you have some kind of tracking device on the barbell, which you could measure total work in a set, it becomes very difficult to ascertain what a partial is. One of the beautiful things about, in many exercises, what we could term full range of motion, for example, on the bench press, touching the chest, and then locking out every single time, there is absolutely zero degrees of freedom in uncertainty about what it is that you’re doing.
So if you get 300 for 10 this time, a 305 for 10, next time, you definitely hit a pr. Yes, how long you paused in a chest is another variable in the equation. But that’s the same variable in partials except in partials there’s that additional variable of how high did you really go? How partial is the partial?
And that ends up being a bit confusing for a few things. One is how to program and overload. How do you know you’re doing more stuff if you don’t even measure? If you can’t measure how much stuff you’re doing, very precisely, am I getting a better stimulus than last week in accordance with progressive overload or did I just sandbag it, but not really.
I subconsciously didn’t go up as high as I normally do. So I’m hit a pr, but it’s really not. And I know in the back of my head it’s not. That’s nothing you have to really wonder about with a full range of motion. You know what you earned. And the other thing is performance tracking for the purposes of determining when you’re not making gains anymore.
So the maximum recoverable volume is something you hit eventually is that’s, where in the fatigue seeds, your ability to recover and you actually plateau and strength and start to get weaker. The way you figure that out is your repetition performance. Begins to degrade. Normally you’re doing 300 for sets of 10.
After a few weeks you’re doing 315 pounds for sets of 10. A few weeks later you’re really starting to get fatigued. So now it’s three 15 for sets of nine and eight, and as soon as you hit that for single week, assuming it’s not some weird situation where you weigh under slapped or had 10 trillion fights with your girlfriend and she’s stabbed you in the texts, there’s probably an indicator that you are doing too much training volume for too long and it’s time to take a deload.
But if you don’t have a reliable measurement because you’re using partials of performance, cuz it could be that you’re getting weaker, could be that you’re just using a slightly longer range of motion. This time could, because of that sort of stochastic random element of how high or how low you’re pushing the barb, the machine, you don’t actually know if you’ve really hit your maximum recoverable volume.
Whereas with a full range of motion, it’s much more certain. So that whole situation of consistency and the situation of full motor unit recruitment pushed the onus back onto partials and in my view, It does not an absolute argument against them, but it buttresses the relative argument against them later such that they have to be much more compelling of a benefit to your stimulus, to fatigue ratio, then they normally would be in order to say, Okay, it’s still worth it.
So if you’re really only into dating blonde, And someone sets you up with a brunette, like it’s a no-go unless she’s really awesome. But you’re, you tell your buddy, you’re like, Look, how awesome is she? He’s Yeah, she’s cool. You’re like, blonde. Only you know this. But if he’s like, Dude, she’s like an MIT graduate and also a Ford model, you’re not gonna be like, Nah, not blonde only.
You’re gonna be like, Oh, okay. People can always dye their hair later, right? So then it just raises the bar. So that’s my holistic perception of the whole landscape that I just described, that if, because of those negatives of partials, the tracking problem, again, it is not an absolute problem.
It’s a relative problem. I’m okay with a bit of a tracking problem. If every time I do partials, they just nuke the living crap out of my chest or my quads, like full range, never did then it’s worth it, but it has to. Significant. So if I ask someone, Hey, someone’s Hey, should I do partials on this? And I go, Have you tried ’em before?
And they’re like, Yeah. I’m like, What did you think? They’re like eh. I’m like, Then no. Then the answer is probably not. But if they’re like, I tried ’em and bro, it’s night and day, then I’m like, Okay, that convinces me, as long as there are other exercises you use, or a similar exercise for other sets in the program, which may be at least for a set or two, take the muscle through, its more full range of motion.
Plenty of partials is totally good to go, but there has to be that compelling case built for them.
Mike: Now, when you say plenty, what do you mean? How much volume maybe viewed as a percentage of total volume would be reasonable? So let’s say you’re talking to somebody who responds well to partials on one exercise or another and they want to incorporate them more officially in their training.
Mike Israetel: It’s a very good question, knowing nothing else about them or their situation, what I would probably recommend is for them to begin doing roughly half of their work as partials and the rest of the work as conventional for range of motion, and then have them do that stimulus to fatigue ratio feedback and seeing which one is really better, which one’s really just not cutting it.
And in addition to that, I would have them track longitudinal signs of muscle growth, strength for repetitions. How big you’re looking in the gym, how your body weight’s doing, how you, how big you’re looking when you’re leaner, potentially measurements and say, Okay, this 50% business is really much better than doing 0% partials.
But honestly, every time I’m doing the full range work, I just feel like it’s stimulus to fatigue. Ratio sucks. And I know I’m supposed to be doing 50%, but things would be better if I was doing 0% and then we try going 75% partials, 25% full rom work. And if they’re like, Look, this full ROM business is just like wasting my time, then yes, a hundred percent partials un until, and unless you think, Oh, maybe I’m missing something, then a few years later you can go back to doing some full ROM stuff.
And if you’re like, Nope, still sucks, like ever, Still hurts the joint. Still doesn’t seem to get me any. Above and beyond where partials then never do full range of motion again. But if you’re like, Oh yeah, a bit of full run work is great.
Mike: Practically speaking, have you worked with people or maybe experienced it yourself where you are mostly, or maybe wholly doing partial ranges of motion on an exercise or a muscle group?
Because the full range of motion is just less effective.
Mike Israetel: Yes, a very small number of cases, but for myself, definitely. An example is behind the back free motion cable curls. You two handles back and you lean forward away from the machine and you curl up like this. So for me, I used to curl all the way up and all the way back, but I realized that if I just stop at.
This height instead of going through, cuz biceps also engage in shoulder reflections, might, may be beneficial to do that. What I realized was that’s just not giving me absolutely any additional stimulus that is coming seemingly only at the expense of fatigue. And I know that through a variety of my pressing work and shoulder pressing and things like that and other bicep exercises, I still get that range of motion.
So for that exercise, I just always do what you could technically consider a partial, which is the bottom three quarters of movement essentially. And I don’t do that bottom quarter ever because every time I try to do it, I’m like, If you were being objective, would you do this? No. Do you subscribe to some kind of weird religion where you have to do everything with a full range of motion?
No. Ostensibly you have a situation in which partial range of motion beats full range of motion on the stimulus of fatigue ratio. And people will tell me, Listen, when I do partials, I get better pumps. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I have all the time in the world for claims like that, except I also have all the time in the world to vet claims like that.
And in my experience and been training people a long time and training myself a long time, we now regularly get tons of bodybuilders, including professional bodybuilders to come train for our YouTube channel. We push them through workouts, oftentimes making them do the full range of motion they never wanted to do.
Very rarely see a situation in which someone actually gets a better stimulus to fatigue ratio with a partial than with a full range of motion exercise. And when we make them do the full range, they do like a set or two, and they look at us with this face like holy. What the hell did I get myself into?
My back is gonna pop off of my body. I’m just gonna lose it forever. Cause the pump is so intense. And they were saying before Oh, like I just stay in the midrange to get the pump. Now that we do the full range of motion with a super slow, E centric deep stretch coming all the way up for that crunch in the lots at the bottom, they’re like, Okay, this is just better.
So in most exercises, the full range of motion just has a seeming better stimulus to fatigue ratio than a partial. And in some cases the partial does have a better stimulus to fatigue ratio, but it’s not as often as you would think. So a lot of times when people say, actually partials help me get a pump and a full range of motion bicep curls, don’t they come train with us, We put them through a protocol where they do full range of motion bicep curls and they’re like, Okay I was clearly mixed up.
I don’t know what I was doing with the full round before, but this messed me up in a way that I can’t explain and I’ve never gotten this with partials. And there’s some good reasons for this, right? One of them is interestingly enough, If you have a part of an exercise that is just the hardest part and maybe even the more stimulative part, it’s totally fine to just do that part.
But if you have a part of the exercise that’s a little easier and a part that’s a little harder, the little easier part, including maybe the bottom part of a curl or the lockout and a bench could give you an opportunity to rest for a second and thus it could increase the number of reps that you get in that exercise more specifically because it lets you rest between reps that are closer to failure.
It widens the ban of how many of your reps are very close to failure. You can essentially flirt with failure for five or six repetitions versus flirting in a full range of motion thing. We’re part of the movement as a little bit of a break versus flirting with failure in each set for just two or three repetitions and then you fail cuz there’s mechanical disadvantage hits and there’s no way to rest That ability to take every working set and milk, five or six close to failure reps.
Is something that’s really awesome because once you un rack, it’s psychologically set up for a set and you’ll unwrap the weight. It behooves you to try to get as much out of that set as possible to a certain extent, as long as the fatigue isn’t excessive it. Once you’re unwrapped and leg press something like my erupts for example, where you do a bunch of leg processes, then rest for three or five seconds without racking the weight, do a bunch rest, do a bunch rest, can magnify how big of a fraction of that set takes you close to muscular failure and keeps you there.
Since we have good reason to believe scientifically that is the area that gives you a slightly disproportion. Higher amount of growth. So if you can expand that fraction of a set that keeps you close to failure, that’s a huge upside. And so even if the partials are really good on their own, intellectually, you have to maybe do more sets of those partials than you would if you just did a full range of motion.
The full range of motion may make, break it up into mini sets where it’s, the partial gets hit, but you also rest a little bit with each rub so you can hit more stuff sometimes on the net balance that actually plays out to be a bigger advantage. It’s a situation in which. The net benefit is very high.
A sort of, potentially a shady analogy here is you’re in a plane and it goes up and it does this thing where it starts to free fall. You get like 10 seconds of zero gravity. In order to replicate that, you have to do, the plane has to come back down and give you another 10 seconds of zero gravity. You can’t just stay up there and get zero gravity.
At some point you fall back down using a four range of motion in some cases may take you close to failure and then give you that rebound where the plane comes back up. So you can do it multiple times. So every time the plane takes. It does five 50 total seconds of zero gravity before it lands.
Whereas if you just did it once, it would be 10 great seconds of zero gravity and really not much of anything else, but it’s just 10 seconds. So at the end of the day, that’s one of the ways to explain why full range of motion often has a better stimulus to fatigue ratio even than theoretically beneficial partials because you can approach failure more times in one set.
With those little mini breaks, I get a lot crap for locking out my legs completely on many of the repetitions I do, for example, on a leg press, and they say you’d be able to do constant tension if you didn’t lock out. I agree with you, but because I lock out, I get an extra second of rest, I can do more repetitions that are closer to failure in that set.
So every time you do a set of 10, the last three reps for you are close to fail. Every time I do a set of 10, the last six reps for me are close to fail. Who’s winning that one? Now it’s less clear. So before we run off to the races and start doing everything with partial ROMs, even in the bottom position, we have to ask ourselves and do the due diligence of trying really good, highly technical, full range of motion with those little rest breaks.
Again, comparing it to the best possible way to set up partial ranges, and then we get a perception. Once we get that, what I have found is that on paper, 90% of the partial lifting stuff disappears as a really good advantage. Here’s another really quick thing I’ll mention. You only have so much cognitive bandwidth, especially when you’re under hundreds of pounds and fighting for your life.
In a machine press, for example, if you have to think about, Ooh, where am I stopping this? Am I. Going up halfway, or is it 55%? Is it 45%? That’s energy mentally that you’re expending, that isn’t being expended on what you should be ideally expending in, which is like childhood trauma, relived rage of just getting the work done and pushing yourself as hard as possible.
Now, if you have a task of getting to a four range motion, I tell lifters, look, when the machine clanks at the bottom, you go back up. When your elbows are fully extended, you go back down. There’s no thought required. Now I can plug in and just go, and less of my mental bandwidth is spent calculating trajectories, and more of it is spent just gro drastically abusing the muscle.
That’s the part that causes growth. So when people get really fancy with exercises and do ha, A three quarter up, I say, Okay, how much of your mental bandwidth are you taking up with a three quarter thing? And it’s not to say that it’s not. What I’m asking is it worth it? And the answer may be yes, but it has to be compelling.
The answer may be no. It’s another stupid dating analogy. If a girl says look, I gotta do my makeup for an hour before I go out to really present my best look to this potential date that I’m gonna be on. And then she says look actually, if I have two hours, it’d be much better.
I say, Okay, if you get two hours, you get one hour less with that guy to get to know him, How much better are you gonna look to yourself with an hour extra of makeup after you have an hour? And she’d be like, 3%. And is the guy gonna notice? She’s Realistically, absolutely not guys.
Never noticed that kind of stuff. Okay. So it still worth an hour of hanging out with him for you to do that 3% enhancement to your appearance? Sometimes, yes. Like I’m dating a very materialistic idiot. I have nothing to talk to him about. I just want his money. And then he absolutely is, you less time spent with him is great and is.
Just, that’s it. Just get ’em all out. Let’s just get this over, right? But on the other hand, if it’s like, a different kind of interaction, the answer may be absolutely not. It’s not worth it. So I just want folks to consider these things as a matter of tradeoffs and not as a matter of absolutes.
It’s not as full, full range motion, better or partial range better. It is, what are the trade offs? And in many situations the landscape gets a bit complex and some real thought is,
Mike: Hey there. If you are hearing this, you are still listening, which is awesome. Thank you. And if you are enjoying this podcast, or if you just like my podcast in general and you are getting at least something out of it, would you mind sharing it with a friend or a loved one or a not so loved one even who might want to learn something new?
Word of mouth helps really bigly in growing the show. So if you think of someone who might like this episode or another one, please do tell them about it. This makes me think of 20 ones for biceps. Remember those? 7, 7, 7. It was like seven reps in the bottom. One third range of motion, seven in the top, one third, seven, four reps, something like that.
Mike Israetel: So 20 ones, big problem with 20 ones is twofold. One, there’s not really a clear logic behind them that I’m aware of. It’s just a quirky thing that’s tough. And two, when you’re working with very different ranges of motion, just 20 ones are, bottom half, top half and full, really what you want us to adjust the loads significantly.
Like what you can move in the bottom half is gonna be much heavier than what you could move for full range. If you’re doing the same number of repetitions for all of those divisions, what you’re gonna have is a lot of what’s term junk volume. Like some of those reps are just gonna be really easy and some of those reps are gonna be super difficult and stimulative.
But the very easy ones are like, why don’t we just do more of the difficult and stimulative ones? So being that to 20 ones we’re taken for granted that it’s a single weight, there’s probably couple ways to do them. I would say that probably the most logical if you’re pinned to the weight or one of a good logical options is to do the top half first of those reps.
So the easiest part, Yeah, the thing is that and is up acting like a warmup for the rest of it. The problem is that if you do the harder stuff first, they can’t even get up to the top half anymore and that gets to be really tough. So what you could do is the top half first, there’s two alternatives I’ll described top half first.
Then you do the full range of motion reps very close to failure. You pre-ex exhausted with the top half. Full range of motion reps are very close to failure. That last seventh rep is really tough. And then you can’t do full reps anymore and that’s when you do the bottom seven, which aren’t as hard because it’s just the bottom.
And then that bottom seven and that full range of motion middle seven is all super close to failure. The other way you could do it is do the full seven reps first, and you’ll actually need to select a load that is very close to being close to failure with those seven reps. And most people don’t do that, right?
They select a load they could do for 20 reps, which is an accurate, because it’s not 21 full rep. So you do the full range of motion reps first, then you do the top half reps, which are the next hardest, and you do probably seven of those. And then you come down to the top half and it just breaks you down.
You can’t even do the top half. Then you do the seven bottom half reps, and you might have to do some rest pauses to get those done. And. That is an effective strategy. There’s also another way you could do it as the seven full reps first, then the seven bottom half reps, and then somehow you have to heav ho it up.
Gotta get a buddy to do the top half reps. Yeah. It would depend on which range you’re stronger on bottom half or top Half of it’s gonna be different for different people, different based on the execution. But my general take on 20 ones is that if we have to think so hard about how to make that exercise optimum, it’s like you take like a Ford escort from back in the day, back in the nineties and you say How do we turn this into a really good rally car?
Geez man, that’s just a lot of modification that the cars does not built to be a rally car. It’s, we’re starting out sucking. It’s the best way to do 21. You don’t have to do 20 ones, you could just not do them. And I would say a second best way to do is just to do like I set of, seven to 10 or whatever hard full range of motion repetitions.
And then when you can’t do those anymore, then do as many partials from the bottom position only as you can. And that will really check mark the drop set effect. And it will also check mark the idea that the bottom range closer to the stretch may be marginally more hypertrophic. And so when we’re no longer able to do the entire thing, cause the backwards wouldn’t work, right?
Cause if you did the first, seven reps bottom half and you went close to failure, one does not simply do seven full range of motion wraps after that because they’re way harder. How many reps in reserve did you have for the first seven? Like an infinity? That, that means it’s not even, It’s all just weird lead in work.
So I would. Generally going from harder to easier makes more sense in any kind of drop set or downset situation than going from easier to harder. And the only reason for that is if you’re going from easier to harder. All the easy stuff essentially functions as like an extended way too long of a warmup, and then there’s nothing to do about that.
Mike: That’s a good segue to the next question I wanted to ask you, and this is to the point of practical applications. So people listening who are thinking, I would like to try incorporating some partial work into my training based on what I’ve learned here in this interview. Earlier you had mentioned that person might want to consider doing something like half, like half of their volume, partial, half of their volume, traditional quote unquote full range of motion.
That just threw up a flag in my mind cause I wanted to follow up and ask you, is that not too much quote unquote to just try it out and see, or am I missing some context or am I just wrong? My, the, No, it’s not too much. And that is a good way to just, to see how your body.
Mike Israetel: Yeah, no, Mike, that’s a really good question.
It should throw up a flag. So I’ll say this, first of all, the caveat that I should mention is I would just try this for one or two muscle groups at a time. I wouldn’t take your whole body and try to do half of it with partials and half with fold. That’s overkill. It’s overkill for the following reason.
We already know full range of motion works at least very well. And just like you wouldn’t take your entire stock portfolio and just put it all in on Tesla or something like that, I know somebody who did do that, but by man , there’s ups and downs. Hey, see if he’s long Tesla. He might be a trillionaire.
Mike: Long Tesla, long Bitcoin he went hard into Celsius. He don’t even know what that is. He’s handler Uhoh. Oh. One one of these crypto, oh, I see. Actually, I actually don’t even know the term, but they were returning, I don’t know, double digit yields. Sure. Until it all collapsed.
Mike Israetel: You lost speculation market. Sure. So again, if you talk to a financial advisor that was decent, they say, Look, Rick, it’s totally fine to take some high risks or to take risks at all, but it’s save a good fraction of your stuff for normal. So when I do say 50%, 50% of one or two muscle groups and you may have eight to 12 muscle groups that you’re counting.
So it really is five to 10% of your total training volume. But 50% per muscle group still sounds like a lot. Cause it’s holy crap, there’s half of the muscle group. Half my quad training is now with this partial, and that is actually for one very specific reason. It is to get enough of a signal to get away from the signal to noise ratio part of the spectrum and get a distinct.
Advantage or disadvantage demonstrated because for example, if you gain at roughly, let’s say you gain 10 pounds of strength every two months, so you know that’s pretty good. And let, yeah, let’s just say that’s your situation. And rep strength is how you gauge muscle gain is one of the best ways to do it.
If you take one exercise out of the fifth, you do per week for quads, and you do partial ranges of. , maybe you’ll get one six of your volume turns into the effect of, two, six, it’s double as effective. Like you end up being like, that’s like what 12 pounds of strength gained. Gee whi a bad day and you don’t even detect that a good day.
You can barely detect that I don’t have any two pound increments at my gym. What I wanna do, if folks are really interested in experimenting to see, because there’s a very big difference between experimenting to see if something works on a principal’s level, it does this actually work versus actually deploying it in real life at scale.
Cuz that scale can be much bigger or it can be much smaller. So for example, if you do like nuclear weapons testing, You don’t test all 10,000 of your nukes nuts. The world is gonna come to an end. You just test one or two and they’re all built basically the same. It’s good enough, right? And just the same way.
There’s no signal to noise. Problem with the nuclear weapon. It’s very obvious when the test works. It’s very obvious when the test did not work, hit the red button. Nope, still looks good there. Just walk over and then it blows up. So the thing with partial rom testing, since we’re looking at such small margins of growth anyway, we wanna do like a real big hit to see Oh wow, 50% of my volume is now cutting from partials.
And I have to say that from a stimulus to fatigue ratio perspective, my pumps are better. I’m getting more sore, I’m getting less joint pain, my weights are moving up, my muscles feel fuller. You check all those boxes and you’re like, man, I gotta say it’s probably the partial lifting cause it’s the only real major thing that’s changed.
And if you 50%, it works much better. Now you go and clean the slate and then you ask. Okay, How much of this should I deploy in my real training now that I know it is effective? At least if I do 50% of it, maybe Oh, it’s a bit too much. It’s overkill and I’m missing out some other stuff. So maybe I’m gonna reduce it to 25%.
You to one of every four exercises is a partial, Maybe I’m gonna go to a hundred percent partials. Who knows? That’s a different decision that, but there’s a very big difference between testing and actual extrapolation. It’s once one nuclear missile has been demonstrated to hit the target, you say, Okay, now we can buy 5,000 of them.
It doesn’t mean that you need to test 5,000 and it could be a very different scale from what you’re testing. So the testing needs to be clear and we need to understand the testing is very different from training. Just a, it’s a similar way like. When they test car engines or car chassis, they, they put ’em on a dynamometer and they spin it as fast as possible.
That doesn’t mean you need to be driving your Ford Escort around to 10,000 RPMs all the time, but we have to demonstrate that works and then you scale back and drive it around normally. But we know that has that end limit. So something that really distinctly shows us, that’s why I chose something like 50%.
You don’t wanna do this, but promise this ran is almost over. You don’t wanna do this thing where you throw it in there a little bit and then you get a little bit better results or no results different. And you have to ask yourself a question. And did I get better results because of this partial thing?
But it’s not that much better. So maybe it’s not because of it. Or if you get no different results, you’re like, Okay, is did I get no different results because the partials didn’t have a positive yield? Or is it just I didn’t do enough of ’em? It’s a they used to do all these studies back in the day, I think maybe on purpose, I don’t know, in the early nineties there was a really big anti supplement Sort of consensus in academia where they just didn’t like supplements and all of the research that was being done in colleges, a lot of it would intentionally undergo supplements and to give people like a gram of creatine, auto hydrate per day for 12 days and states no effect on performance.
No shit. They actually, they did that with anabolic steroids too back in the sixties. There’s a few studies where they gave people like two and a half milligrams of ADL or two and a half milligrams of Diana for two weeks. And I said, What’s not no impact on performance? Oh my god, two and a half milligrams.
What are we dealing with children here? That they intentionally leverage the study to prove nothing. You don’t wanna do that to yourself. So if you’re testing out something new, I say wall up that shit to really see Oh wow, it really works, Or, Oh, allow, It really doesn’t. Now say this, if you don’t get any different results and use 50% partial.
Yeah, I think partials are ruled out as likely being effective.
Mike: And as far as determining efficacy, you noticed or you mentioned some intercession stuff to pay attention to. What are your thoughts about session to session or duration saying, All right, I’m gonna take 50% of my volume for a couple muscle groups, and I’m gonna do that for a couple of weeks, a couple of months.
Mike Israetel: A meta cycle, which is a period of four to eight weeks, roughly in most cases of accumulating volumes and intensities as that culminates with a deload to bring down the accumulative fatigue is, I would say, in most cases, The recommended and simultaneously minimum test duration that you can do in order to really see what the effect has.
One of the reasons is that sometimes you can’t tell how much stronger you’ve gotten until the fatigue has dissipated. So people will say, This is really unfortunate. I was training a gentleman back in the day and I gave him a bench press hypertrophy program. What he did was he did the program at the very last day of the program with all the fatigue and all the adaptation to high reps.
He tested his max and his max hadn’t gone up, and he’s It didn’t work. And I’m like, Oh my God. Like of course it didn’t work. You were the most tired. You should have deed it, and then done two strength phases and then that muscle would’ve been something you could.
Mike: I noticed that in my training, by the way, for a couple of years now, I’ve progressed over four month macro cycles, starting higher volume, essentially higher reps, like doing sets of 10 on my squats and benches and deadlifts and overhead press, and then working into all the way down to sets of two with appropriately heavy weights.
And I’ll notice that as I get through that first two months or so, which is pretty high volume for me. Probably might not be high volume for you, but it’s high volume for me. I notice that point of when I start to get more into the strength stuff and I deload every fourth week. So it’s three weeks of intense training, one week deload, but I’ve just noticed.
That volume does accumulate fatigue that makes it look like I’m stagnating or maybe even dipping a little bit in the middle. And then I get through the deload and I get into the strength phase and then end with some rep max testing. And as long as there hasn’t been any like major disruptions, just life stuff consistently I’ll find that where, things are going like this and go in the middle, dip a little bit and then when I get back into the strength, they’re coming back up.
And then when I rep max test pretty consistently, I’m able to beat my previous rep max test by at least a little bit on at least one or two exercises. The big exercises.
Mike Israetel: One thing we advocate for in RP and team full rom is giving due diligence to testing. And method cycle length is this sort of minimum length of due diligence.
Unless something is awful feeling and it hurts and it’s just, it’s not gonna work. If you do 10 sets of something, you have no pump, no perception of tension in the muscle, you’re not even tired, but your elbow hurts. I don’t know what any other side, maybe do it another one time and if you get the same feedback, just get out, pull out.
There’s no reason to do it.
Mike: That’s straight bar curling for me. Just random comment, but I just, that exercise doesn’t do it for me. Dumbbells, great pump, great disruption, just a great exercise for me. I get onto a straight bar and yeah, I get some, but it’s not nearly as much, at least in my perception and it’s just more stress on my.
Mike Israetel: Yeah. There’s so many exercises like that for different exercises for different people, not exercises, are gonna work for you at least in the medium term of months to years. And you can always come back and try them. And sometimes you try old exercises, you tweak the technique, your body’s built differently, and old injuries have healed and you’re like, Wow, this is actually a great exercise.
I love it. But, at some point, you have to abandon ship and say, This is just not working for me. But often when it’s not clear if it’s working or not, and especially if the signs are pretty good, then yeah, a whole me cycle of training is a very good idea. Because one thing, especially about different exercises and techniques, so you may do partials in a certain way that it first feels awkward and you I don’t like this, It feels awkward.
Now, hold on a second. Does it feel awkward because partials are inherently awkward for you, or does it feel awkward because it’s a. and after a few weeks of training partials, you may get into a real good groove where you’re like okay, I like this. This is good. And you would’ve never in a million years found that out if you just quit on the first session.
Unless it’s just obviously terrible, and especially if it’s just hurting your joints and no technique modifications seem. Give it at least a couple sessions, probably a muscle cycle. Now, it doesn’t mean that there’s not other criteria you can go on, like you mentioned, there’s lots of Ines stuff and immediately post session stuff that we could do, and like one of them is, do you perceive tension in the target muscle or if it’s for high repetitions, or are you getting a burn in the target muscle?
If neither one of those is true to a large extent compared to other exercises, maybe other full range of motion exercises. And it could still be effective, but that’s not as likely, set to set. Are you getting big pumps? If you’re getting huge pumps, that’s a sign that a serious disruption or perturbation has occurred.
It’s probably a sign that good things are happening. Are you getting really fatigued and really weak? If you do a new kind of partial for the bicep curl and you try to curl your old regular weight and you’re like, Oh my God, I have a baby’s arms. This is insane. It slumping definitely happened to your biceps.
That probably also stimulated hypertrophy. Then. Then on the back end, what is the, the nature of the perturbation and disruption and perturbation in this case is do your biceps feel weird? Are you trying to trying to brush your teeth and they cramp? You’re like something happened to my bicep.
But if you’re doing pull ups, an hour later and they feel totally normal, you’re like, I don’t think my biceps received any stimulus at all. Unless this is a fatigue free stimulus, which would be news to me. Then on the back, back end, after the workout, you see what kind of disruption you have.
If an exercise, if partials, and let’s say you do pushup partials with the bottom position. Let’s say a day later, your packs are so sore you’re not used to, You’re like, Okay, this is good. But if a day later your packs are just, nah, not sore at all, then it’s nobuo. I remember I used to train mostly with barbells and dips and dumbbells and things like that.
And then our gym at the university, I was at University of Michigan. I was training as undergrad, had whole section of all kinds of fancy machines and I tried a few workouts for my chest just on those machines. It was like, I was a competitive pilot back then, so I could do reps with the entire stack, which feels nice.
It’s, you won’t look around and see if anyone noticed. And I did nine sets of machine stuff and I just didn’t get sore at. And I barely had a pump. I was like, What is it that I’m doing here? I don’t know if this is gonna cause gains. If it’s barely causing a disruption, then somebody can say disruption doesn’t correlate exactly with gains.
That’s true. But if it’s the case that something can cause immense gains without causing a disruption, I don’t know why I would ever touch a barbell again. Why would I get sore at all if I could just get no soreness and the same gains? Unfortunately, it usually works. If you don’t feel a disruption to your system, you probably aren’t getting the gains, which is why you know, the best leg workouts are ones where you waddle away.
If someone does a leg workout and they can hop up and down and run to their car, and they’re like, Hey, it’s great. You’re like you need to get back in here and do more work. So you can do that kind of vetting. And if partials really work to that extent and your joints feel great, hey, I think you’re winning and you’re on to the right track, and definitely do the whole meso.
But on the other hand, if you’re doing partials and it just messes with your joint, You don’t seem to be getting out of it. And it’s also very hard, like psychologically it’s awful and it’s, you have to try really hard to get almost nothing as far as pump or soreness or anything. Then you have to really question, is this a good idea?
I would still do it for a couple sessions at least, but if after a couple sessions it just looks like a good faith effort on your part to improve the technique and to make it better isn’t working. Yeah, maybe it’s time to go away. It’s a decent analogy here. It’s like when do you cut off a first date and you meet for drinks and decide if you’re gonna go have a meal?
Like definitely if the first couple of jokes land poorly. My friend and I were actually talking about this yesterday, Joe just abandoned ship. I’ve had tons of jokes land poorly with people. It became my best friends. But if it’s been an hour and everything sucks, man, you know what?
You could just be like, put the credit card down on the bar and be like, It was great meeting you and I honestly wish you the best. And just run as fast as you can, break through the bar windows and just run ’em any direction.
Mike: Last question for you regarding partials not dating. Although we might be able to do a podcast on dating, although I would be listening cuz I, I’ve been with the same woman since I was 17, so I don’t know what’s, Oh, I dunno what to say about dating, but All theory.
Mike Israetel: Yeah, exactly. I’ve never been with any woman, so it’s all real, really all theory on both.
Mike: But last question. We may have touched on this previously, but because of the technical difficulties and now we’re wrapping up what we started, I just wanna make sure that we did, or that I did ask you this.
So in your experience and this training, your personally training people are there a handful of exercises that come to mind, that seem to lend themselves particularly well to partials that you’ve really liked yourself or you’ve seen other people consistently and get results from?
Or is it so all over the place? There’s just not a good answer to that question.
Mike Israetel: It’s pretty all over the place, but I do have some pretty good candidates. One of them is the pull up, especially because the pull up gets harder as you go up. So it’s actually quite easy to do partials also because if you’re used to pulling up and touching your clavicles, you can just turn it into a, in a partial by reaching up and just touching your chin to the bar or even pulling up to something like, eye level.
As soon as you see the bar in front of you, go back down. That’s by definition, a partial. So that works actually pretty well. Exercises like leg presses and hack squats are also very conducive to partials. You have to understand to keep a little bit of a few reps in the tank because you still have to do the full rep out of the bottom to get the situation going.
Some exercises are very unconducive or almost impossible to do partials with. How would you do partials with walking lunges in the bottom? I have no, you have to go through the whole range of motion to get back up. Usually machine exercises because they’re so safe and you can actually go to failure in the partial position or automatically candidates, for example, a chest press of some kind, gee, partial weight.
And when you fail you just put the bar down and you go nowhere. Exercises like squats, again, bottom end partials. You gotta be real good about saving that, for sure. Extra two reps. And cuz if you don. You have to drop the bar. I remember I was at an event once and they did this cool promo thing where two ultra strong power lifters squatted down with I think 4 0 5 to full depth, and they held just below parallel face to see who could hold it longer.
The problem was that the first person who couldn’t do it anymore, like he had to he just stood up really slowly. Then the guy who won couldn’t stand up cuz he was like, Oh wait, hold on. I wasn’t planning on saving that much, so they just had to take the weight off him. And I was like, Ah, okay. There’s a problem there.
So with machines and stuff like that, Oh, he won and some exercise. He did win. And actually he tore both of his patellas and never walked again and he careened outta control and he’s not with us anymore. I’m totally kidding. That’d be really messed up for those of the case .
Mike: I was gonna, I was gonna say, just because I’m a morbid.
Mike Israetel: But Mike, he won. He did win and that’s what his gravestone says. He won a seated, I won squat for time challenge. Yes.
Mike: But anyways, yes on the squat, I personally wouldn’t do it on a squat. I would be okay to do it on a leg press or a hack squat. But as I have gotten older, I think a little bit more about longevity and not getting hurt than maybe 10 years ago.
Mike Israetel: Sure. I think we should be working. Towards longevity and not getting hurt all the time. I think when we’re older, two things happen. One is we have experience with getting hurt and we understand how not fun it is and how stupid it is. And could competently we develop like a decrease in our ego or an increase in our wisdom to ego ratio to where we realized that there’s not really any huge benefit to doing dumb stuff and there’s tons of costs.
And the only real benefit at the end of the day is like I just have a big ego that I have to flex and. When you realize that the best way to flex your ego is to work diligently within the parameters of safety and longevity and the diligence and the amount of diligence you could put to something is the real test of ego.
Cause I don’t care if you like do one crazy people say, Oh my God, this guy trains so hard. He did one crazy squat at so what? Show up 10 years in a row do squats and then you’ll have big quads and you’ll be able to be proud of something that your ego did. So I think that, some, the really reason I’m going on this tangent, Mike, is because I think some people say there’s a time and place to be young and dumb.
And I’m like, No, there isn’t. Young people are just too dumb to figure that out. So whenever I talk to young people to give advice, I’m like no. You don’t have to be doing this stupid stuff. And the less the least of it you can do, the better.
Mike: I totally agree. Fortunately, I didn’t do anything so dumb that I’m still paying for it, but I trained unnecessarily hard.
There, I just did things that were not necessary. Too many. One rep max tests pushing too close to failure, too often on the wrong exercises. Like it’s just not necessary a couple times a month to squat with heavy weight, to absolute failure to having to sit the bar down is just not necessary.
Stuff like that. You th yeah, maybe it’s a little bit fun in some ways, but not necessary. Yeah.
Mike Israetel: Agreed, Agreed, agreed, Agreed.
Mike: But anyways, come back to the exercises. Are there any other exercises that are particularly, that lend themselves to partials that you haven’t mentioned?
Mike Israetel: Basically ju try to pick an exercise in which it’s relatively easy to standardize the height or the distance move.
So you can do roughly the same partial, so pull up some pull downs to here. Makes sense. Bent over rows. Very poorly lended to that because it’s very difficult to determine the distance that’s being moved. You can do a situation where you can take your weightlifting belt and you can jam one of those yoga pads into it and then touch the yoga pad.
It’s like the opposite of a towel bench from the football days. And that actually could work decently. It looked like a clown doing it. But then again, all you need to do is like leverage a little bit higher in the, that row from this angle for your body to this angle and you can actually just replicate that same, similar thing.
It’s creative. I’ll say it’s creative. Yeah. And that way you end up doing the partial anyway and just, things that lend themselves to good measurement, being able to be replicated and exercises that don’t put you into a serious bit of danger. I would say they’re the ones to try.
Extended length partials with, And also after you clear that there’s gonna be some exercises in which you really like to do the extended length partials and they really feel great, and others in which the setup and the nuisance of monitoring if you’re doing the right rom is annoying, and then you just should ch choose the exercises where it just feels like it makes the most sense.
Mike: And I think that’s probably for the best. Makes sense to me. And I’ll add one to the list that I’ve liked, which is just the rack pull as an alternative. It’s a partial ish version of the deadlift, I guess you could say.
Mike Israetel: Sure. You like the rack pull?
Mike: I have liked it as a maybe a, an alternative or even an in addition to just a traditional deadlift.
For what it’s worth. I haven’t done it in some time, but it’s something that I’ve kept on the list of things that. Can be useful. A little bit more back friendly,
Mike Israetel: Interesting. I would say the rack pool is emphasizing the top position, not the bottom, but if you wanted to emphasize the bottom position, you can.
This exercise that I’m gonna talk about is awful. It’s awful to you break your ego down The deficit. Deficit, not just deficit, but the partial deficit to where you set up a deficit platform and you take your power lifting supports and you put them at a predetermined height so that you pull into the supports.
You can’t even stand up straight. You pull up the bar, hits the supports, and you slowly essentially go back down, touch the ground, touch the supports. It’s awful because you’re like, you know how the best part of a deadlift feeling, it’s locking it out the top and just it unloads you.
Mike: Yeah, that’s, that’s the rack pull. You get the strong lockout, you get the extra weight.
Mike Israetel: Yeah. This is the reverse of that. So you’ll see almost no one doing it. It will probably cause lots of hypertrophy, but so much ego pain. I’m sure as hell not gonna do it like that. I do things that make me feel good. That’s it.
Mike: Maybe that’s why I’ve I just tended to toward the rack bull and not what would probably be more effective actually, ,
Mike Israetel: It’s, you know what, it’s, sometimes you have to do exercises for what Russians call for the soul, and you gotta put a lot of weight on, move it around, feel like a man, and that’s all good and well, as long as you understand the trade offs and don’t do anything super stupid, I think it’s totally fine.
Mike: Sometimes that’s maybe the one thing you look forward to in a training session and that can make a difference.
Mike Israetel: For sure. For sure.
Mike: Hey, this was great. That was everything that I had for you. Is there anything that we haven’t covered regarding parcels? Something I haven’t asked that you would like to tell people before you wrap up?
Mike Israetel: I think yes, just one more thing. I think an easy. If you’re convinced by the literature on partials or at least wanna give it a shot, but you’re like, Damnit, I don’t wanna do all this thing where I have to think about how when to stop and do the bottom end. I think an easy modification to almost every exercise or very many is to just skip the lockout entirely.
Get to the point. It’s a very easy point if you’ve been training for long enough to know when the lockout’s coming. So I don’t know if it works on the camera, don’t do this with your bench presses. Come up to this point and then come back down and it standardizes the motion. Cuz you know right when that lockout approach is coming.
You know when that is and you can just come right back down. What that can do is. Slightly bias the movement to a little bit more of that bottom position without making you overthink the whole insane situation. So if you can just do that for many movements, then I think it’s totally good to go. Even on the bicep curl, there’s a point at which when you bring the dumbbell significantly up over that 90 degree or that horizontal plane, that gets easier.
So you know where that is instinctively you can feel it. So when you’re bringing your dumbbells up, if you wanna accentuate the bottom part, as soon as it starts to remotely feel easier, go. Don’t milk out that easy part. Cause some people curl and go, Oh, that’s hard. All right, and here we go for one more.
If you are not convinced that top range does much, and maybe it’s just too much rest, just stop. Just short of that top position. And for many exercises, that’s a possibility. Another thing real quick, is some people go over the top with full range of motion. And do needless pauses. So for example, in the bent over row, if we really believe that stretch under load is super, super high driver of hypertrophy versus like a peak contraction, we probably shouldn’t do too many variations of barbell bent row where you take the barb and you touch it into your tummy and you hold it for a second.
But this significantly reduces how much load you can get in any rep range. And for what? I’m not sure, like it’s totally cool to have an exercise that you do peak contractions for, but if you’re really interested in doing this kind of slightly more length and bias partial, make sure that when you’re doing your rows touch a tummy, but just the gentle, quickest little touch and go right back down.
That needless super locking out and super touching and holding. I’ve seen people that do pullups and you guys just showing off, but they’ll do pull up and we get to hear and be like, yeah. All right. And I’m going back down and it’s yeah. Is there anything up there that is really that hypertrophic?
No, the answer’s probably no, but it looks really convincing. So maybe if you do less of that stuff, you could experiment with a little bit of a partial and see a benefit. And
Mike: that sounds to me just like a good general kind of training tip. It, think of the bench press, it’s like the bounce, and then that’s even worse, but it’s the unnecessary stop and just letting the weight sit there for a second.
I don’t see a scenario where that’s helping.
Mike Israetel: Sure. Unless you’re training for a power lifting competition where you have to stop and you could, it could be safer to stop, but there’s a difference between stopping and staying tight for a second and then going up and stopping and collapsing and sitting there and then coming back up.
People have asked me often, you know what I think about squats from the bottom position, they’re called pin squats. That’s, I think is another name for them. Anderson Squats maybe. And that’s where you set a squat bar up to just below parallel height and on the pins, right? And then you crawl under it, get into your squat position.
You’re all the way at the bottom. And then slowly the bar comes up and you go up and then back down and you rack it and you walk away. And I’m always.
Mike: Sounds dangerous.
Mike Israetel: Yeah. At that bottom, the little shimmy you’re gonna have to do right with shimming in and stuff like, luckily, you shimmy in with no weight and then you start pushing the weight.
But it’s also like when you’re squatting a full squat, the way you get into the hole is already a very optimized for lean and knee position, because you’re your brain’s neural network to determine where to push your body into is already doing a thousand calculations a second to make sure you’re balanced as you go down.
But if you start from the. The hardest part of the squat is when your brain has no data to go on and you could just push forward, too much, push back. So there’s an inherent instability there. And the other question is, which I always ask people when they ask me, Hey what about these pin squats? I ask them a question back for all of the, to be honest, nuisance.
And it’s okay if it’s worth it, right? For all of the work you’re doing, getting the weight on there, putting all the stuff, be getting the pins set up, getting under the shit, then going up, what is the ostensible benefit? What is even the theoretical benefit? And a lot of times people don’t have an answer to that.
They’ll say it’s really tough. Yeah taking a hammer and bashing your balls is also really tough. I’m not really sure what you get out of it other than, destroyed ball.
Mike: Maybe makes good Instagram reels, both of them. Maybe that’s the point.
Mike Israetel: Also, most both make good Instagram reels.
I think the bashing your balls also is like a finally the kind of message that us privileged males need to send against toxic masculinity. , enough toxic masculinity. Count me out.
Mike: I’m bashing my balls, I’m outta here. I am willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
Mike Israetel: And that makes you good. I think you’ve sufficiently virtue signaled now and you’re a good person.
Mike: I think you’ve just summarized modernity. Actually, that’s a good metaphor for for the world that we live in.
Mike Israetel: Oh, I thought modernity was air conditioning and microchips, but I was wrong. It’s hammer bashing your own balls.
Mike: Welcome to 2022 on Instagram. Don’t forget that point. Of course. Actually think it’s sort now, but whatever.
Mike Israetel: Right? Of course. You old. Look at you old man talking about Instagram. You might as well get your cane and walker around at this point. It’s right over here actually.
Mike: Yeah, but it’s right by me at all times. , I just didn’t want it on camera. But anyway. Hey, this was great, Mike. I appreciate you taking your time and a lot of great information, very practical.
I’m sure people will appreciate it. And why don’t we wrap up with where people can find you, find your work. Anything in particular you want them to know about that if, if they liked this discussion, here’s what else they might like.
Mike Israetel: Mike, thank you so much, man. It’s always a pleasure being on your podcast.
I will say that the best place to find me is on the Renaissance Puritization YouTube. So go on YouTube and just type in Mike is Tell, or Dr. Mike Hypertrophy or Dr. Mike Muscle and it’ll just come up and you can click and subscribe, watch our videos. We put four or five videos out every week and they’re almost always very educational and I try my awful attempt at humor so you can just be sad at how not funny I am while learning.
It’s a great combo. And so that’s probably the best place to find. And we have all sorts of links in the descriptions to get you going everywhere else. We just launched a certification program, a nutrition certification program. Rp, it is technically a certification program, but it’s really like a 45 hour long comprehensive nutrition coaching course.
I think people think cert. They think, Oh, I take a test for two hours and I get a booklet and I never read and I just, I have a cert. That is not the case. So it’s pretty intense, pretty serious. Give that a look if you’re interested to really learn in depth for nutrition and something maybe folks can look into.
Mike: And where can people find that?
Mike Israetel: The certification? Just go to the YouTube and, Okay. Good. Link to the RP website and you’ll find there’s just type in RP certification nutrition, and it’ll come up on Google. Cool. Great.
Mike: Thanks again Mike, and I look forward to doing another one maybe in a couple of months or so and after this one is out.
But always fun to talk to you. Likewise.
Mike Israetel: Thank you so much.
Mike: I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.
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