Half Measures

Going half way on reps can maximize your gains.


Leg extensions are good candidates for half reps and 21s.


Reps of varying lengths can be combined within a set. The best-known way of achieving this is via 21-curls, which consist of seven reps from the bottom to halfway, seven reps from halfway to the top, and seven full reps. Numerology aside, there’s nothing magical about either 21 or seven. You could accomplish the same with subsets of six or eight or similar amounts. Also, 21s are not exclusive to biceps routines. They work with other long-range-of-motion isolation exercises. Triceps pushdowns, leg extensions, leg curls, and pec-deck flyes are among the best candidates for 21s. Instead of doing both halves plus full reps, you can do half reps followed by whole reps or alternate half reps with whole reps. For example, do leg extensions for eight top-half reps in succession, followed, without rest, by six full reps. You can also alternate slow half reps with fast full reps throughout a set. Partial reps can feel easier after complete reps, and vice versa, breaking up the monotony of a standard set. Ideally, the halves and wholes will complement each other, allowing you to keep the muscles under tension longer than you could with only straight reps.


The key to successfully using half reps is to make certain they apply more stress on the targeted area, not less. Often, bodybuilders limit their range of motion in order to hoist more metal. Invariably, anyone doing this focuses more on the easiest portion of reps (such as the shallow top of leg presses or the bouncy bottom of incline presses) and skips the hardest segment entirely. Utilize half reps to make your sets harder and more efficient, not easier and less effective.


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