Progressive Distance Training
Progression is the key to successful training. Read that again. If your not constantly trying to do “more” than something is basically wrong with the way your training is set up. The body must have continually harder stress to adapt to or it will not get bigger or stronger. But how do you go about it, and how do you gauge progression? There are many ways. More weight for a given number of reps, more reps with the same weight, easier reps with the same weight, more sets with a given weight, more total reps with a given weight, less rest between sets, accomplishing the same weight after an increased lighter workload, better quality reps, (better form) are some of the ways to push the body to greater weights. Today boys and girls we will talk about using progressively longer reps with heavy weight in order to ultimately increase the weight on your full range reps.
This system, along with some other training hints, has allowed me to push my full squat, starting from the bottom, in the power rack, using only a belt, up to 900lbs and my deadlift up to 700lbs. It was a big favorite of Paul Anderson and Don Rheinhoudt. That recommendation by itself is good enough for me. Basically it involves lifting a heavy weight as a partial lift and trying to systematically increase the distance a weight is worked until you’ve made significant gain in a full range rep.
There are a lot of ways to do this. Paul Anderson liked to start with a weight about 100lbs heavier than your current max in a full range squat. Take that weight and do sets of 20-25 reps in the quarter squat. (Obviously the best way to do this type of training is in a power rack) He could then increase the range of the rep about three inches in the next session and drop three reps. He could progress on from there increasing the distance and dropping the reps until he got to the bottom and was doing full range reps with more than his old max. I think that are of the several advantages of this system. Progressively overloading with heavier weight builds tendon strength, core strength and stability with heavy weights while preparing the body for further future strength gains. Gains can sometimes be made quite quickly with the system because it exposes you to heavier weight much faster than a regular progression system and allows one to work through sticking points which hold them back form heavier full range reps.
Don Rheinhoudt would train his deadlifts by starting with his goal weight set with the plates eight inches off the floor. He would pull singles and increase the distance by 1 inch every week for eight weeks until he was pulling his goal weight from the floor. I have found this or a similar system to work well for me in the deadlift. One thing in either of these lifts I have found is that if you use a very short range partial then they should be mixed with full range reps to get the best carry over. Also bottom position work is slightly different than regular competition style lifts so if you have a competition in the near future and use this system then the two lifts must be mixed to ensure proper form in the competition lift. If you’re doing a long range partial probably 3/4 of the rep and working down to a full range rep then it is your choice as to whether to include the full movement. Some times they are very close and for recovery sake its okay to just do one.
I personally like to train with singles and I use a sort of revolving system of partials to increase my full reps. For instance I start with a 1/4 squat and work singles up till I reach a goal weight, then move down a pin, in the next session, and work singles again until I reach the goal for that position. As soon as that goal is reached I increase the distance and go for another goal weight there and so on. I like to warm up with the longest range movement for the day, max it, and then move to the shorter-range movement. If you go from the shorter to the longer range movement you will need to do some warm-ups because of the increased range, but moving from a longer to shorter range you will have “pre-warmed” already and all that is necessary is to add weight. Sometimes I work one, two or three positions for a lift in the workout. These can be done all in the same workout or in different workouts during the week. I usually max the full or close to full range movement, then max a shorter movement with more weight. For the squat, a bench or box squat can be used instead of rack squats. Same thing, using progressively shorter benches or boxes, therefore increasing the range. For Bench presses, Board presses can also be substituted for rack work using more or less boards on the chest to increase or shorten the range. These can also be mixed and I have had success with that. For instance a regular full or full rack squat with a 1/2 or 3/4 bench squat. Same thing with the bench presses. Progressive distance also works well for overhead presses.
Another tip to help measure your progress is to literally measure the range of your reps. For instance with bottom position squats I measure (with a tape measure) what height the bar sits at on the rack for a full range rep. (For me, about 39 inches is what I squeeze under from the ground) I then keep track of the heights of my partials and the weight done at a specific distance to track my progress. (For example: 900 at 40″, 1,000 at 44″ and 1,400 at 49″.)
If you’ve never done partial reps before, be careful to work in slowly. Once you’re used to them you can begin to push hard. You’ll notice the real gains start to come when you get to the 3/4 reps or more. Another plus is it also helps build the skill and ability to push really hard in a rep and gut it out. As with anyone’s writing, use what helps you to advance your training. For the complete picture on Partials Training check out my DVD, the only one available specifically targeting this almost forgotten training technique.