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What is a Full Range of Motion? – Better Your Training!

You may have heard this phrase before, and although it seems fairly straight forward, there is actually more to it then you may think. Understanding what a full range of motion in your training truly is will help make your training more effective in a multitude of ways. Within this article, I will help you understand the question, what is a full range of motion? I will tell you how it relates to your training and its benefits, as well as how to implement it within your training. Let’s start with getting the explanation out of the way!

What a Full Range of Motion Truly is:

As I said, understanding what a full range of motion truly is will help make your workouts more effective. A full range of motion is when you take an exercise through its entire movement pattern, this, in turn, will take the joints involved in this exercise through their full range of motion.

To put this into context, lets take the standard barbell curl. We know it is an isolation exercise that involves elbow extension and flexion to complete the movement. If we brought the barbell to only 90 degrees, we would not be fully flexing the elbow, and therefore not going through the entire range of motion. The same would be true if we only went from 90 degrees to a fully flexed elbow, we would only completing half the movement because we have not fully extended the elbow joint. This principle is true for any partial rep and all exercises.

Dumbbell Curl

Full Range of Motion in Relation to Your Training:

Using a full range of motion is huge to the effectiveness of your exercises for a variety of reasons. You have your hypertrophy benefits as you are inducing a full stretch and contraction on the muscle, as well as maximizing volume. You have your strength benefits with you moving the weight throughout the entire exercise, getting maximal recruitment of muscle fibres, as well as the strength practicality of being strong in many positions.

Am I saying to always do a full range of motion no matter what? No. Am I saying to base the majority of your exercises using a full range of motion? Yes. So when can it be beneficial to use a partial range of motion? If you think about strength training, you have exercise variations where you are trying to strengthen a specific part of usually a main compound movement. An example being a box squat for fixing different sticking points within your full squat. Talking about hypertrophy, you open yourself up to more options if you sprinkle in partial reps. Let’s say you are doing a 3×10 on barbell curls, and you want to finish your sets off, or just your third set, with some metabolic stress training. You can do 10 reps of a full range of motion curl taken to or near failure, then push past the point of failure and crank out more reps using partials. This is a popular and effective way to implement metabolic stress training. I invite you to share your use of full range of motion in your training in the comment section below.

Hammer Curl

Implementing Full Range of Motion Into Your Training:

We know what a full range of motion is, and its relation and benefits within our training. Now we need to figure out how we properly implement this principle. As we know, using a full range of motion is what I would suggest using for the majority of your exercises. So let’s say you’re doing a primary movement on chest day with a dumbbell bench press. I would suggest using a full range of motion to increase muscle recruitment and induce a full stretch and contraction. This will also allow you to apply progressive overload more easily and effectively as well. For the other main movement(s) I would suggest the same thing, maybe focusing more on different aspects of the exercise (like focusing on the squeeze with a machine press for example). When you’re near the end of your workout/exercises for a muscle group, this is when you may want to consider implementing partial reps. You’re already fatigued so this can be an effective way to get some additional hypertrophy benefit and really finish of the muscle. You’re also typically doing isolation exercises near the end of your workout, and I find these are typically better suited towards partial reps. Again, remember there are certain partial rep exercises that can be beneficial for strength training. Think about where these would be best implemented within your workout or program.

One other suggestion I have for not using a full range of motion would be when you are trying to create constant tension on a muscle. This is often times beneficial when trying to really focus on a muscle and let it do the work, this is typically used from a hypertrophy standpoint. This is also an effective way to activate the muscle your trying to work, and be more efficient with your exercises (creates fatigue more quickly, especially if you aren’t getting much from completing the exercise to its true, full range of motion).

An Overview of Full Range of Motion:

After reading this article you know a full range of motion is when you complete an exercise through its full movement pattern. This has many benefits, both from a hypertrophy and strength standpoint. You also know a rough guideline of how to/when to use or not use a full range of motion within your training, and the benefits that come from different implementations. Please remember, I am giving a rough guideline and suggestions as to how you can use and not use a full range of motion within your training, you need to look at your routine and see where this principle best fits in for you.

You now have some insight into what a full range of motion truly is, and information that I hope will be able to benefit you in your training! As always, if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to leave them below and I will be sure to reply!

Until Next Time,

Kohl Johnson

Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.

Support is much appreciated if you benefited from this:
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Kohl Johnson

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the information.

    Using the full range of motion with the small rest in each repetition will allow you to use heavier weights / do more reps.

    Regarding that, have to say that I like doing dumbbell kickbacks till I get a full contracted biceps while at this point I feel the triceps are fully stretched, then, while trying to initiate the movement with the triceps, I stretch the biceps slowly while contracting the triceps, full contraction at the final point(keep contracting there for a couple of seconds).

    What do you think of this?

    Have a nice day

    ,Leo

    • Hi Leo, actually, although a full range of motion is beneficial, using a full range of motion compared to a partial range of motion (with the same weight and reps) will fatigue you more. Especially with a shorter rest time in between. Although using a full range of motion is beneficial, in an exercise like the triceps kickback, you aren’t really getting much tension on the triceps from 90 and below degrees of the elbow joint. Here is a link to a video where it is explained in more detail by Athlene-X: 

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