In all my years of lifting, there is one thing I haven’t been able to figure out. And while I still have much to learn and improve on, this one thing in particular makes me cringe every time I see it done. That one thing is seeing people not use full range of motion. Every time I see someone throw a few plates on the bar and squat down to way above parallel with their knees about to blow through the skin only to re-rack the weight and slap a couple high fives with their buddies just makes me sick.
Now, there is a difference between not being able to reach full range of motion and not trying or caring. The latter will result in bad habits, no beneficial gains and often, injury. However, I do realize that for many out there it may be impossible to reach full range of motion while using proper form in a movement such as the squat. This may be due to a lack of mobility. I will address this issue and how to treat it later on, but first I would like to clarify why using full range of motion is so important.
The Importance Of Using Full Range of Motion
The importance of using full range of motion during training is simple. Using full ROM strengthens your muscles throughout their entirety. That seems obvious, right? If you are only going through part of the movement, you will get stronger through that range of motion but the rest of the movement will be weak. And who wants to be strong enough to squat 500 pounds but only four inches deep? In most sports, that isn’t going to get you anywhere. So if the benefit of using full ROM is so obvious, why do so many people avoid it?
As I have already mentioned, there are basically two reasons an individual might not be using full range of motion. One is fixable over time and one is just stupidity. If you are simply not trying to reach full ROM because it is hard then why are you even training in the first place? It is hard, that part is true, but the benefits of reaching full range of motion outweigh that aspect or at least it should if you are serious about achieving your body’s full capability and improving at your sport.
How To Improve ROM
If you don’t train your muscles through their full range of motion simply because you cannot, this is both understandable and fixable. Tight muscles are common in our age of sitting at desks all day. I myself have struggled a great deal with muscle tightness and although I have improved significantly, this is still an issue that plagues me during certain movements. There is hope though and here are a few things you can do to improve your range of motion.
Yes, weight training. If you struggle with reaching full range of motion, you should be trying to improve each time you train. Use a weight that is manageable for you and will allow you to use proper form but try to push yourself to get farther than you did during your last training session. If you’re not trying, you’re not progressing.
Using your body weight to work on increasing range of motion is also very effective and highly recommended. Warm up your muscles before you train using body weight movements such as squats, lunges, pushups, or anything else you can think up. I have found that doing a few air squats to stay warm between sets of barbell squats really helps me when it comes to reaching full depth while keeping good form.
Tight Tissue Release
There are a number of mobility tools out there that are specifically designed to get you moving better. These tools are awesome for rolling out tight body tissues that inhibit your range of motion. If you have problems with range of motion, I would recommend checking out the variety of mobility tools out there. I personally incorporate foam rolling and the use of lacrosse balls and mobility bands into my mobility training daily.
So, there you have it. If you want to get stronger and better prepare yourself to compete in your sport, training your muscles through their full ranges of motion is a must. There are times when partial reps may be appropriate, but that time is not all the time. Be sure to train your muscles through their full range of motion regularly and you will reap the benefits.