One of the techniques I like to use in to order get most out of strength training exercises is to combine 1.5 reps with partial reps in the strategic way I discuss below.  Out of all the available intensity techniques I use in programming for strength and muscle building, combining 1.5 reps with mechanical partial reps within a set, which I call 1.5MP sets, have become my go-to option for extending a set.

Before we talk shop, I want to remind everyone about a few things.

First off, I’ll be in Sydney, AUS on April 20-22 teaching at the FILEX Convention Convention. Then I head to Singapore to teach a two-day personal training workshop on April 28-29th.

Secondly, my new book, Your Workout PERFECTED comes out on May 4th, 2018. Make sure to preorder your copy HERE on Amazon.

Also, I’m currently accepting select clients for my Next Wave Fit Pro coaching program.

Put simply, if you’re a fitness professional that has great success training clients but you want more for yourself, this coaching program has your name on it!

How to Perform 1.5MP Sets

Put simply, 1.5MP sets begin with performing 1.5 reps and end with performing mechanical partial reps. Hence the name 1.5MP sets.

For example, if you’re doing squats, deadlifts, dumbbell presses or shoulder presses, you go all the way down but come back up only halfway. Then go back down and come all the way up. That’s one rep! Count every 1.5 rep as one. You’d perform, 6 to 8 total 1.5 reps. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partials for another 5 to 8 reps that focus on the top end of the range of motion where you only lower the weight about one third of the way down. That would complete a full 1.5MP set.

I’ve provided my generalized set, rep, rest, etc. recommendations and parameters for using 1.5MP sets later in the article.

Why do 1.5MP Sets

Chest presses and shoulder presses, like squats and deadlifts, are most difficult at the bottom of the range of motion, where the lever arm (i.e., moment arm) is the longest. As you get closer to the top, the lever arm shortens and you gain a mechanical advantage.

With this biomechanical reality in mind, 1.5 reps focus on the most difficult part of the range of motion involved in the exercise – the part where you’ve got the least mechanical advantage, which is why they’re done first in the set. Then, as you fatigue (i.e., lose strength), you perform mechanical partials reps in the less difficult ranges of motion where you have a greater mechanical advantage, allowing you to continue to crank out more reps (without cheating). Hence the name mechanical partials.

In other words, 1.5MP sets are based on drop-set concept. They begin by emphasizing the most difficult part of the range of motion involved in the exercise movement, and progressively “work down” to emphasizing the easiest part of the range of motion. This is a form of accommodating resistance (i.e., gaining a mechanical advantage to accommodate for your fatigue) that allows you to extend the set farther than if you were doing traditional reps or only doing 1.5 reps.

Lastly, if you think that partial reps aren’t beneficial, think again! A recent study compared the results from a group (of experienced lifters) that trained with only 6 sets of full-range-of-motion squats to a group that did 3 sets of full-ROM, and 3 sets of heavy partials focusing on the top-half ROM. Both groups trained twice per week. (1)

At the conclusion of the seven-week study, although both groups improved in their squat strength, the group that did the combination of full- and partial-range-of-motion reps saw superior results.

The reason for theses results is simple. Even though the weight used in the full ROM squat group was great for the weakest part of the movement, which is when your thighs are parallel to the ground, it’s too light to create sufficient muscular overload in the less difficult ranges of motion.

My Top 10 Exercises for Using 1.5MP Sets

The following is a list of the 10 exercises (not already listed above) I most commonly use 1.5MP sets with, along with a description of how to do each.  In the next section I provide my general programing recommendations for using 1.5MP sets with these (and other) exercise movements.

1. Bulgarian Split Squats

Go all the way down but come back up only halfway. Then go back down and come all the way up. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by lowering the weight about one third of the way down.

2. Barbell or Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

Go all the way down but come back up only halfway. Then go back down and come all the way up. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by lowering the weight about one third of the way down.

3. Push-Ups

Go all the way down but come back up only halfway. Then go back down and come all the way up. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by lowering yourself about one third of the way down.

4. Pull-ups/Chin-Ups

Go all the way up but come back down only halfway. Then go back up and come all the way down. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by pulling yourself about one third of the way up.

 5. Lat Pulldowns

Go all the way down but come back up only halfway. Then go back down and come all the way up. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by lowering the weight about one third of the way down.

6. Rows (Barbell, Dumbbell or Machine)

Go all the way up but come back down only halfway. Then go back up and come all the way down. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by pulling the weight about one third of the way up.

7. Suspension Rows

Go all the way up but come back down only halfway. Then go back up and come all the way down. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by pulling yourself about one third of the way up.

8. Dumbbell Shoulder Raises (Front or Side)

Go all the way up but come back down only halfway. Then go back up and come all the way down. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by pulling the weight about one third of the way up.

9. Biceps Curls (Dumbbell, Barbell, EZ-Bar or Machine)

Go all the way up but come back down only halfway. Then go back up and come all the way down. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by pulling the weight about one third of the way up.

10. Dumbbell Skull Crusher

Go all the way down but come back up only halfway. Then go back down and come all the way up. Then you continue the set by performing mechanical partial reps by lowering the weight about one third of the way down.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the available exercises you could perform 1.5MP sets of.  It’s simply a list of my top 10 most used movements for variety of muscle groups in order to help you get a better idea of how to apply 1.5MP sets to different exercises. The beauty of 1.5MP sets is that you could use them effectively for almost any strength training exercise.

General Programming Recommendations for Using 1.5MP Sets

The following are the generalized programming parameters – not rules, just general guidelines – for how I use 1.5MP sets with any strength training exercise.

Reps: I usually do 6-10 reps of the 1.5s, then do another 4-15 reps of mechanical partials, depending on the exercise. For example, I’ve found that most people can perform far more partial reps of rowing exercises than they can with pressing exercises.

Load: Use a weight load that leaves you unable to perform any more 1.5 reps than indicated above while maintaining proper control and technique. 
Then perform the partials to or near failure. I usually stop (1 to 2 partial reps) before failure on the earlier sets, and got to full failure on the last set.

Tempo: Maintain strict form, without cheating by using additional movements or momentum. Mentally focus on the working muscles in each exercise. 
Do the concentric (lifting) portion of each rep at a normal tempo and maintain control during the eccentric (lowering) portion.

Sets: 3 to 4 total sets

Rest: Take 3 to 4 minutes between sets of the same exercise. So, if I’m pairing up two different strength training exercises, like Barbell RDLs and Push-ups, for example; I’ll make sure it takes them at least three minutes before coming back to either exercise. Of course, some of the rest time between returning to the first exercise is active because you’re performing the other exercise, and vice versa.

Note: Research show that paired set training may be more effective than traditional set training in terms of volume-load maintenance and more efficient, but the researchers of this study suggested that individuals wishing to maximize work completed per unit of time may be well advised to consider paired-set training. (2)

Don’t get it twisted! This doesn’t mean you should never do traditional sets in your workouts – especially if you prefer it – or that traditional set training is somehow ineffective. It simply means that paired-sets are an efficient method of resistance training.

 

Nick’s Upcoming Live Events in 2018

In Sydney, AUS on April 20-22 teaching at the 2018 FILEX Convention.

In Singapore on April 28-29th teaching a two-day personal training workshop.

In Irmo, South Carolina on May 18-20 attending and hanging out at Sorinex Summer Strong.

In Melbourne, AUS on June 22-24 teaching at the Ultimate Evidence Based Fitness Conference.

In the UK at the end of June/early July teaching several one-day workshops. Dates and Locations coming soon.

In Queretaro, Mexico on July 28-29 teaching at the ONE Fitness Weekend congress and expo.

In Indianapolis, IN on Sept 14-15 teaching at the Elite Fitness and Performance Summit.

In Istanbul, Turkey on Sept 22-23 teaching a two-day Strength Training for Fat Loss and Conditioning course. More info coming soon.

In Baltimore, MD on Oct 5-7 teaching at the NSCA Personal Trainer’s Conference.

In Winnipeg, CAN on Oct 21 teaching at the Manitoba Fitness Council Conference.

More dates being added

 

References:

  1. Bazyler, C. D., Sato, K., Wassinger, C. A., Lamont, H. S., & Stone, M. H. (2014). The efficacy of incorporating partial squats in maximal strength training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(11), 3024-3032.
  2. Robbins DW, Young WB and Behm DG. The effect of an upper-body agonist-antagonist resistance training protocol on volume load and efficiency. J Strength Cond Res, 2010 Oct;24(10):2632-40.