We’ve long known that when it comes to resistance training it’s fatigue, not load, that generates change within the muscle – and there’s plenty of research to back it up. We also know that maximizing fatigue comes down to manipulating range of movement and repetition speed. New insights now clearly show that pulses are a great way to maximize fatigue when lifting light weights for higher repetitions.
Full-range squats, as you’d expect, fire up all the global muscles that drive your body away from the ground. This highlights how full-range squats are great for working the glute max, rectus femoris and the hamstrings.
What we see with squat pulses is a more isolated activation of the quadriceps muscles closer to the knee. The activation of these muscles is key for stabilization.
We see a similar pattern when comparing the activation levels of the key muscles involved in a full-range chest press with pulses.
Again the full-range chest presses resulted in activation of the key push pattern muscle groups, the pec major and anterior deltoid. As soon as we introduced a pulse action we saw a significant increase in the activation of lat dorsi, again acting as a stabilizer.
These findings highlight how combining pulses with full-range exercises changes activation patterns and allows you to engage all the key target muscles. This is the secret to maximizing fatigue and driving muscle change.
If you’re body pump regular you’ve probably very familiar with both the terms “pulses” and “bottom halves”. Both movements are designed to help maximizing fatigue by manipulating range of movement, yet there are slight differences. Pulses are much smaller in amplitude and involve moving just a few inches above and below the point of maximum tension (e.g. bottom of a squat or mid point of a bicep curl). Bottom halves work a larger range from halfway up to the bottom of the movement.