Does Range of Motion Matter When Building Strength

Full Range Of Motion Is Important For Weight Training

When it comes to strength training, there are two types of exercises: compound movements and isolation movements. Compound exercises involve multiple muscles working together. They include things like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows and chin ups. These types of exercises require a greater amount of muscle mass than isolation movements such as bicep curls or leg raises.

Isolation exercises involve one muscle group and do not require any other muscles to work properly. Isolation exercises are great for building size because they don’t need much muscle mass. However, these types of exercises will not build strength as well as compound movements. A good example would be the pull up barbell exercise. You can only use your arms to perform a pull up barbell exercise without using your legs or back at all!

The reason why you want to emphasize full range of motion when doing weight training is because it requires a greater amount of muscle mass than performing a movement with less range of motion. If you train with too little range of motion, your body won’t have enough time to fully utilize the muscles involved in the movement.

The result?

Your muscles fatigue before their maximum potential is reached. In other words, you won’t be able to lift as much weight.

For example, if you are doing bicep curls, your body only has to use your bicep and forearms to perform the exercise. If you stop the movement before your forearm muscles stop working, then they are taking advantage of their full range of motion. On the other hand, your bicep is limited by the point where your forearm and bicep muscles give out.

So you don’t want to be just doing half range of motion exercises. Your body is energy efficient and will only use the muscles it needs. Muscles that aren’t being used can rest and won’t tire out as quickly. This also means that it will be easier to perform an exercise using full range of motion in the long run because your non-working muscles will get stronger along with your working muscles.

Is Full Range Of Motion Better For Building Muscle?

Full range of motion workouts will put more demand on your body and therefore you’ll grow more muscle. In addition, your muscles won’t get as fatigued and overworked when performing compound exercises with a full range of motion. You won’t experience as much delayed onset muscle soreness.

There is a lot of wasted energy when training at less than your full range of motion. By the time your muscles fully fatigue, they can only contract so far before hitting their limit. This means that your muscles are not being fully worked out.

Muscle cells need to be fully fatigued in order for them to grow. Muscles only grow when they are put under physical stress. If you’re only using half of the range of motion (or even less) during an exercise, then your muscles will never truly be tested and forced to grow.

Full range of motion will also help improve the strength and coordination of supporting muscles. If you’re doing an exercise with too little range of motion, the muscles that should be doing the brunt of the work will get stronger while the others lag behind.

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The Key To Full Range Of Motion Exercises

You don’t want your muscles to fully fatigue before reaching their limit of motion. You want your muscles to become fatigued at the exact moment in which they reach their full range of motion. The way to achieve this is to perform each exercise in a controlled manner. This will force your muscles to contract enough to reach their limit of motion before fully fatiguing.

The problem with this approach is that most people don’t have the necessary control over their muscles, or even the mental fortitude to complete an exercise in a slow and steady manner. Most people will also use momentum to “help” them lift the weight, which takes away from the effectiveness of the exercise (some trainers actually recommend this technique because it allows people to lift heavier weights).

You can practice the slow and steady technique when performing an exercise in order to build up your ability to do it properly. This will take some time, but the results are much more satisfying and you won’t ever have to worry about getting weaker.

It is also important that you pick the right exercises for your body type and skill level. Some exercises are harder than others and not everyone is going to be able to perform all of them.

Don’t perform full range of motion exercises immediately before a workout or on the same day as a workout because it will be too taxing on your central nervous system and you could do more harm than good to your muscles.

One last note, performing an exercise at less than full range of motion puts your joints and supporting muscles at greater risk of injury because you’re not working them through their complete range of motion.

How Much Weight Should I Use?

This really depends on your strength and skill level at an exercise. If you’re a beginner, start out lighter and increase the weight as you master the exercise. You don’t want to use too much weight in case you’re not strong enough to perform the exercise properly. This could cause injury.

For each exercise, you should be using a weight that gets your muscles fatigued by the last couple of repetitions. Ideally, you should be trying to finish your last couple of repetitions with some semblance of control. If you’re using correct form and still using a weight that allows you to easily perform 15+ repetitions, then the weight is too light.

If you can easily perform more than 15 repetitions with good form, then the weight is too heavy. It’s better to start out lighter than heavier because you can always add more weight once your muscles get stronger.

Remember that building large muscles is not the goal here. The goal is to perform each exercise through its full range of motion and to perform each one correctly and with good form.

With this in mind, here are the exercises. Each exercise is broken into major muscle groups and specific muscles within those groups. Use this list as a reference to create your own routine.

You can perform anywhere from 5-10 exercises for each major muscle group. It is suggested that you start out with 8 exercises for each major muscle group (32 total) to start. Don’t worry if you can’t perform every exercise listed under a particular muscle group. Just pick out the ones that you can do and leave the rest for next time.

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Also, try to focus on the exercises that target the muscles that you really want to develop. If you want a bigger back, then you’ll want to focus on exercises that work the back and especially the lats. If you want bigger legs, then you’ll focus on the exercises that work the thighs and hips.

Get it?

When it is all said and done, you’re going to be performing anywhere from 45-60 different exercises in a given workout. This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that you’re not supposed to be really lifting heavy weights.

You’re only using light weight so that you can perform the exercises through their full range of motion without damaging your joints or connective tissue. As a result, your muscles will get a more thorough workout and you’ll see far better results compared to strength training with heavy weights.

Weeks 1-2

Perform the following exercises twice a week on non-consecutive days with at least one day of rest in between. Once you can perform all of these exercises comfortably, then move on to the next section.

Remember to warm up for about 5 minutes before starting your workout. Also, make sure you’re properly warmed up and stretched before each exercise.

Also, remember that proper breathing is important when it comes to weight training. Deep, full breathing will increase the blood flow to your muscles and give you that extra strength needed to lift. Take a deep breath in…and hold it…as you lift the weight.

Then breathe out as you lower the weight.

This may seem pointless, but it’s an easy way to add more strength to your lifts.

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Upper Body Pull

1. Dumbbell Row

2. Bent Over Barbell Row

3. Undergrip Pulldown (Medium V-Bar)

4. Undergrip Pulldown (Thick V-Bar)

5. One Arm Long Cable Row

6. Hammer Strength One Arm Low Row

7. High Pulley Single Arm Row (W Machine)

Upper Body Push

1. Incline Barbell Press

2. Flat Barbell Press

3. Incline Dumbbell Press

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4. Flat Dumbbell Press

5. Machine Chest Press (Medium Grip)

6. Machine Chest Press (Narrow Grip)

7. Machine Chest Press (Wide Grip)

8. Pushup (normal grip)

9. Pushup (wide grip)

10. Pushup (narrow grip)

Lower Body

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1. Leg Press (both legs)

2. 45 Degree Leg Press (both legs)

3. Vertical Leg Press (both legs)

4. Hack Squat (both legs)

5. Machine Lunge (both legs)

6. Smith Machine Lunge (both legs)

7. Leg Extension (single leg extension)

8. Leg Curl (single leg curl)

9. Seated Leg Curl (single leg curl)

10. Calf Raise Standing (both legs)

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11. Calf Raise Seated (both legs)

12. Calf Raise On ‘Closed’ Machine (both legs)

13. Calf Raise On ‘Open’ Machine (both legs)

14. Wrist Curl (both arms)

15. Wrist Extension (both arms)

Abdomen

1. Bicycle Crunch

2. Abdominal Twist Machine

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3. Cross Cable Crunches (X-Body Rope Attachment)

4. Double Crunch (Both Legs)

5. Hanging Knee Raise

6. Jack Knife

7. Oblique Crunches (Both Sides)

Cool Down and Stretch

Sorry, but this is the part of the workout where you need to relax and stretch out all of the muscles that you’ve worked. It is important not to skip this part of the workout since it will help reduce the chance of muscular injuries occurring in the days following your workout.

Also, don’t forget to cool down from your warm up, it’s just as important to the success of your training.

That’s it folks! If you need any additional advice or have any questions, feel free to post them on the message board.

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Good luck!

David Rudd

Team Liquid

Sources & references used in this article:

Does muscle size matter? The relationship between muscle size and strength in children with cerebral palsy by SL Reid, CA Pitcher, SA Williams… – Disability and …, 2015 – Taylor & Francis

Strength variation through the range of joint motion by M Williams, L Stutzman – 1959 – academic.oup.com

Isokinetic strength aspects in human joints and muscles by JMH Cabri – Applied ergonomics, 1991 – Elsevier

The relation between stretching typology and stretching duration: the effects on range of motion by E Thomas, A Bianco, A Paoli… – International journal of …, 2018 – thieme-connect.com

Does delay matter? The restoration of objectively measured shoulder strength and patient-oriented outcome after immediate fixation versus delayed reconstruction of … by JM Potter, C Jones, LM Wild, EH Schemitsch… – Journal of shoulder and …, 2007 – Elsevier

Does the stretching intensity matter when targeting a range of motion gains? a randomized trial by AA Valença, BO Soares, BR Cavalcante… – Motriz: Revista de …, 2020 – SciELO Brasil

MOVING TOO RAPIDLY IN STRENGTH TRAINING WILL UNLOAD MUSCLES AND LIMIT FULL RANGE STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT ADAPTATION: A CASE … by BD Johnson – Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 2005 – Citeseer