Utilising full range of motion in workouts for building muscle
Ever thought you were going too deep into an exercise? or maybe you thought you weren't going deep enough into something like a squat. Well it turns out that there's a certain amount of scientific evidence that proves that both forms of thinking when applied together have truth to them especially when using weight.
The most common example of this which involves not going deep enough into an exercise is known as not using full range of motion or more commonly known as 'half reps'. While the effective use of half reps are debatable they are certainly not as effective as using a full range of motion.
Science says that using a range of around 0-90 degrees (using a squat as an example) is far more effective than the range of 0-50 degrees (0 being a standing position and 50 or 90 degrees being how far you sit into the squat position), as a study conducted by the journal of strength and conditioning research (1) found. The journals main focus in this study was to identify any muscular growth differences between two different groups of people, one group training in a short range of motion of 0-50 degrees and the other group training in the field of 0-90 degrees using squats and other leg exercises, both groups completed this study over a period of 12 weeks in which they did leg workouts 3 day a week in a pre-set out plan of exercises. As common sense would suggest the group working in the 0-90 degree range of motion had a greater size and strength gain in the worked muscles. The study also measured the fat stores in both groups and compared them which showed that the 0-90 degree group had a greater reduction in fat stores.
The results gathered (1) are pretty compelling and do prove the effectiveness of a better or full range of motion but as if to further prove its effectiveness, the study gave each group individual weight loads with the 0-50 degree group using a 10-25% higher weight load than the group using a wider range of motion, however the 0-90 degree group still recorded far superior results in strength, size and fat store reduction. This study concludes that there is such a thing as not going deep enough into an exercise or the 'half rep' approach and it may not be as effective as it seems.
HOWEVER... there is always a however...that's science for you
This study is only targeted at leg based exercises, so is it universally applicable to the entire body? and is it more effective to use higher weight over technique or full range of motion? hmmmm?!
In most cases the answer is complicated but this depends on a certain amount of things (2); the first thing is how advanced you are using certain exercises as for example, if chest exercises like bench press or dumbbell press are common among your routine and you would consider yourself adept in the use of this exercise (which means you would be pressing heavier than when you started) then a full range of motion may actually be dangerous (mainly in cases of using a high weight) as putting too much stress or load on a targeted muscle can cause it to tear or pull not only on that particular muscle but the secondary muscles in that area like the shoulders for the example of bench press. Whilst lifting heavy on partial reps seems to be one technique for better muscle growth as heavier weights in full range of motion can be dangerous, is it really the most effective way to see results? Maybe not as much like the example of the study conducted into muscle growth in the leg muscles, the technique of full range of motion works best with a lower weight or load that can yield much higher results than partial reps with a heavier weight.
A 10 week study conducted in 2012 by the Journal of strength and conditioning research (JSCR)(3)(4)that researched the muscle gain variation between the use of full range of motion and partial range of motion (partial reps) this time in the upper body using preacher curls (5) in which 40 untrained male participants to perform preacher curls twice a week for the ten weeks planned. One half of the group of males lifted from the range of 0-130 degrees (0 being arm fully extended and 130 being fully flexed) and the other 20 lifted from 50- 100 degrees and what the research team found was that the partial rep group had increased strength by 16% and had increased bicep thickness by 7.37%, but the group which completed the full range of movement for the exercise had increased their strength on average by 25.7% and their bicep thickness by 9.52% overall (4).
While this research concludes that both partial and full reps do give results there is a noticeable benefit to full range of motion over 'half reps' as generally the difference of about 10% in strength gain doesn't seem like that much to celebrate about but its that small increase in each workout that can make all the difference especially long term as all the small benefits will add up to make up a large goal difference and may even help you reach your goal earlier or even exceed your goal even earlier than you thought.
While the effectiveness of 'half reps' is still very much debatable and shouldn't be ruled out entirely for it's uses in various training types and techniques, the evidence suggests that full range of motion especially when using lower weight or even body weight especially is much more effective for strength and muscle growth than only partially completing the movement, meaning that when you see someone else and especially yourself not reaching the full potential of an exercise then you may not reach the full potential of what you could achieve and what you should be achieving and is proof that proper controlled form, using and making informed smart decisions with weight and paying attention to technique could just be the goal booster you've been looking for.
If you have any questions or if you would like one of the ENERGY coaches to check your form then be sure to ask.