Q: I recently changed the way I work my calves in calf workouts, and I have gotten some really good results. I shouldn’t question it, and should just enjoy it, but I’d like to know why I’m getting good results. I’ve been focusing on the contraction on the top of the movement, rather than breaking parallel or dipping below and doing partial reps instead of full range reps. For years, I never got results and now am experiencing explosive growth. Can you tell me why and if it would work for other body parts?
A: There is value in knowing why something works, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you are curious and want to be able to pass this stuff on to others and have answers as to why it is viable, or maybe you want to apply it to other stubborn body parts, but want to know ahead of time if it would even have a chance of working. Still, there is value to saying, “Hey, it works-who cares?” What you’re describing is something that has long been considered valid in workout circles. However, in my opinion, because there is so much emphasis placed on doing “full range” in every movement, we don’t often hear someone advocating doing partial reps unless it’s during preacher curls. Partial reps are an excellent tool for all workouts, if they’re used correctly. You’ve obviously found that it has worked for your calves-at least for the gastrocnemius. I find it difficult to believe that the soleus, unless it was already well developed, could find value and growth from a “top of the range” focus on partial reps. Strongest range reps, as they’re called, can be effective if your weakness lies in that area, and can force most of the strength you have for a set into that area and not waste it on the full range. So yes, I do believe that this can work, but it’s only as effective as your weaknesses are glaring in that area. Stretch partials, as opposed to top range partials would be excellent for someone with a lack of soleus. The calves are not unique in how they work as muscles, but they are unique in that they are never allowed to really de-condition themselves because we are using them to walk everyday. That actually makes them tough and resistant to growth. In general, I wouldn’t apply this to other body parts because the stretch range and toe extension is what makes partial rep ranges most effective on calf exercises. It extends the range, so you’re doing more of a full rep on calves than you think, despite its obvious partial range. But let’s face it, what you’re doing is working, so don’t fix it if it ain’t broke or causing any apparent structural integrity problems.