Why Do Bodybuilders Do Half Reps?

partial rep pull up
December 27, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “why do bodybuilders do half reps?”. Half reps or partial reps are a common practice that are seen in bodybuilding circles.

Some lifters look down on this and wonder why bodybuilders use half reps. This article will serve to provide some insight into this practice. 

Why Do Bodybuilders Do Half Reps?

The main reason why bodybuilders do half reps has to do with time under tension. By employing half or partial reps, you can keep the muscle under tension for longer and induce better hypertrophy.

You can also make solid gains by doing full reps and applying progressive overload over time. In many cases the smart bodybuilders are the ones who see half reps as simply a tool.

They don’t perform half reps all the time and generally use them on certain exercises to get more time under tension. I addition, half reps are less taxing on the joints compared to continually locking out heavy weights over time.

Even Eddie Hall when training for his 500kg deadlift, didn’t lock out at the top purposely at times. This was to reduce his overall systemic fatigue from deadlifting and keep him fresher for when it was time to pull 500kg.

Keep The Muscle Under Tension

One of the big benefits of half or partial reps is that they enable you to keep tension on your targeted muscles for longer during the set. When you lockout a weight on an exercise, you are giving the muscles a chance to rest.

With partial reps, there is no rest and you are making the muscle work hard through a shorter range of motion. Time under tension training in general is very common in bodybuilding.

Bodybuilder’s are not concerned with getting as strong as possible like powerlifters or strongmen. Their primary concern is in making their muscles look bigger and more aesthetic. They are chasing a muscular and lean physique that is well balanced. 

There are some bodybuilders that train in a powerbuilding fashion. These bodybuilders mix powerlifting and bodybuilding training. They like to stay strong on big compound exercises but do lots of isolation exercises as well as a compliment.

Half reps are just a tool in the arsenal that bodybuilders use for hypertrophy purposes. The smart bodybuilders don’t perform half reps all the time, they simply throw them in occasionally into their training.
partial rep pull up

Less Taxing On The Joints

Another benefit of half reps is that they are less taxing on the joints. When you perform exercises through a full range of motion and lockout at the top, you can tax the joints more in the long run. 

This is especially true when you are performing heavy grinding reps over a long period of time. Half reps can be good at ensuring that your joints remain healthier over the long run.

Having said that, it is also possible to use half reps with a heavier load than you can do full reps with. If you are not careful, going too heavy on exercises using half reps can also be injurious. There is a fine line to tread in this regard.

Are Half Reps Necessary?

The answer is no, half reps are not necessary. You can make incredible gains in your physique just by mastering the basics. Getting better at big compound movements combined with doing isolation exercises to balance the physique.

Half reps are merely a tool that can be utilised to increase time under tension in a certain range of motion. For instance on the barbell bench press, doing a half rep from the bottom position to mid range will keep a lot of tension on the chest.

This is actually a really good way of training the chest and increase the time under tension on your pectoral muscles. By only going to the mid range, you will take your triceps out of the equation to some degree.

Half reps can be used to emphasise certain body parts. However, it is important to perform full reps on exercises as well. This is so that you can take advantage of the exercise and work the muscle through the entire range of motion.

If all you ever do is half reps from the bottom on the bench press, then your triceps will be missing out on vital work. That missed work can mean that your triceps are not as strong as they would be if you performed full reps. There are trade offs that are made in this regard. 
partial rep bench

Branch Warren Case Study

Branch Warren is a well known bodybuilder and has won the 2011 and 2012 Arnold Classic competitions. He also came a close 2nd to winning the Mr Olympia in 2009.

Branch often gets stick in some quarter for doing partial reps in training. Is this really justified? Below is a video of Branch training shoulders and triceps. On shoulder presses you can see that he does make use of partial reps to keep tension on the muscles.

However, he also trains other movements through a decent range of motion. In my view the stick that he gets is unjustified. I have watched lots of other footage of Branch Warren training and he has an incredible work ethic.

He is a top level bodybuilder and trains with a lot of intensity. Like many other smart and successful bodybuilders, he uses partial reps as a tool and doesn’t perform every exercise through a partial range of motion.

Final Thoughts

Why do bodybuilders do half reps? I am just going to reiterate the key points from my article. Firstly, that half reps are a useful tool for bodybuilders to keep the tension on their target muscle.

Half reps are also less taxing on the joints. If you are going heavy regularly, doing partial reps can help to keep your joints healthier over the long term. It is important to note that half reps are not necessary to build a great muscular physique.

They are simply a tool that can be used to help and the smart bodybuilders use them exactly in this way. 

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Is It Good To Always Do Supersets?

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