Full Range of Motion
Full range of motion is very important for performing weightlifting exercises. There are many reasons for this as I'll discuss below. There are times when partial repetitions are beneficial, however in general to build strong flexible muscles it's important to perform the full range of motion.
Full range of motion is full extension of the muscle or muscle group to full contraction of the muscle or muscle group. The full range of motion includes the joint and the tendons and ligaments around that joint.
In a bicep curl for instance it would be from your bottom of the rep range with your arm fully extended to your arm fully contracted at the top, curled up. Many don’t perform a full curl standing or seated at a preacher bench because they either rock their bodies or don’t lower the arms the a full extension.
Another great example is a lat pulldown. Lat pulls are to maximize the full range of motion for the back not the arms. When performing a lat pulldown you will allow your arms to fully extend, your arms to be straight at the elbows and a full stretch to be felt in your lats and back. From the fully extended position you pull the bar towards you until your arms maximize the full contraction of the back muscle, not full contraction of the bicep. It’s as if you have a rope or cable pulling your elbows to the floor and you are minimizing the use of your arms.
There are several reasons to perform full range of motion.
First it is important that the opposing muscles work in unison with each other to fully extend then contract so that we don’t become musclebound. In other words, one group of muscles won't overpower another group of muscles. For instance your chest muscles will not overpower your back muscles and pull your shoulders forward giving you improper posture.
Full range of motion also improves joint health. Not only do your muscles need to have full stretch and contraction but also your tendons and ligaments need to be fully extended and contracted. This improves their strength and range of motion making your body more limber with less pain.
Another reason to perform full range of motion is to maintain the full length of your muscles. To explain let’s use an example of a chest press. Let's say you only do a half way down chest press with either a barbell or dumbbell's. Then that one time at the gym the bar is loaded to your very max and you lose control of the weight on the way down forcing it to go to your chest. If your muscles have been only performing half reps you can tear your muscles because they are not used to the full range of motion. This is one of the most common mistakes I see in the gym today, performing a half rep in a barbell chest press.
When performing your full range of motion it is important to remember not to bounce the weight at the bottom of the repetition. That can be hard on the joints and ligaments as well as increasing the risk of muscle tearing. It also will not help in growth of your muscle or muscle group.
The very first thing you need to do is perform the exercises with proper form. If your muscles or your joints are too tight, keep working them farther and farther with more of a stretch each time you work out. Everyone is different and you need to listen to your body and make the necessary adjustments. The movement should not be painful.
Augment the full range of motion with stretching and staying limber with foam rolling. These are two very important things to do before and after exercise, stretching and foam rolling. In addition, Active Release Therapy (ART) will also aid in keeping the muscles loose and limber.
As you can see full range of motion is extremely important. It is important for so many reasons. It protects your joints and avoids muscle tears. It builds bigger stronger muscles which are more flexible and keeps a person from becoming muscle bound. Make sure you perform your full range of motion for all of your lifts.
Happy lifting and Strive to Arrive!