Can You Build Muscle With Partial Reps?

A new study examines whether full range of motion is necessary for muscle growth.

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Stat of the week

  • Muscle growth: full vs. partial range of motion

  • How to exercise when feeling stressed

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Stat of the Week: 300 calories

Next time you struggle to control your hunger and cravings, try getting to sleep a little earlier. 

Research suggests that those who don’t get enough rest will consume an extra 300 calories per day from snack foods like pretzels, cookies, and chips.

The cutoff for a poor night of sleep appears to be 6 hours. When you get less, sleep deprivation can trigger hormonal changes that increase cravings and make it harder for you to feel full. To keep your snacking under control, try to get enough rest, go to bed, and wake up at a similar time each day. 

Muscle Growth: Full vs. Partial Range of Motion

If you ask Arnold, he’ll tell you that every rep in the gym requires a full stretch and flex. (You can watch Arnold demonstrate it here.)

The research? It suggests that Arnold’s method might not be the only way to grow. Research suggests that performing partial reps can still build muscle. 

Scientists reviewed 23 randomized controlled trials to determine how much range of motion influences muscle growth. Full and partial range of motion similarly affected muscle size, strength, body fat, and sports performance. 

However, that doesn’t mean both techniques are completely equal. The research found that a full range of motion improves strength and power. Other studies have found that a full range of motion helps with technique, maximizes tension during an exercise, enhances flexibility, and improves sports performance. 

When you dig deeper, it appears Arnold was ahead of his time: the scientists found that emphasizing the stretch portion of the exercise might be the key to maximizing muscle growth. Training from “long muscle lengths” stimulates the release of proteins (like mTOR) that help your muscles activate and become bigger and stronger. That means fully stretching your muscles on a movement — such as lowering all the way down on a pullup or bench press — and then finishing the lift by contracting your muscles as much as possible. 

How To Exercise When You’re Feeling Stressed

When work, family, or finances get you down, do you push your body to the limit or give yourself a break? 

Research suggests that a great workout might make you feel good at the moment, but it could hurt your recovery and set your body up for a bigger crash. 

Exercise is one of the best forms of stress relief. So, when you’re overwhelmed, doing something will likely give you a mental boost. But you might want to limit how often you push the limits of what you can do. 

Scientists found that it takes about 48 hours for your body to recover from exercise when you're not stressed. However, when you’re overwhelmed, it takes your body twice as long to bounce back from exercise (a full 96 hours). The longer recovery could set you up for feeling more exhausted, getting sick, or suffering an injury. It might also explain why you feel stuck during your workouts. The same researchers found that during a 12-week program, you’ll gain significantly less strength if you manage higher stress levels. 

If you continue to train hard when stressed, you might not feel it after one session or a week. But that lack of recovery can add up to more inflammation and an inevitable breakdown. Our take: If you’re going through challenging times, prioritize exercise. It can help you both mentally and physically. But it might make sense to train less often (to maximize your recovery) or lay off chasing PRs until you’re in a better place.  

That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining us and being a part of the positive corner of the internet. We hope you have a fantastic weekend!

-Arnold, Adam, and Daniel

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell