I’ve already covered why using a shorter range of motion can actually set you up for joint problems. Now I want to cover how a bigger range of motion makes you stronger.
Using a shorter range of motion is very common within our fitness culture. Walk into any gym and you’ll see loads of people lifting weight and moving in short choppy movements. The reason is simply because the leverage on a muscle changes as the bones of our body move. This is why it’s harder to do a deeper push up than a shallow one.
Back in my weight lifting days, I loved a short range of motion because it allowed me to lift more weight. It didn’t mean I was stronger, I was just changing my technique to lift more weight.
The funny thing is, strength training and conditioning is all about making the muscles work hard against resistance. So if that’s the case, why would we ever use a shorter range of motion to make the muscles work less hard?
I know some might argue that “different muscles” are working at different points in the range of motion. This is simply hogwash. It’s not like your quads shut off half way through a squat and then your calves start working instead. The muscles the are working at the top of a movement are the same ones that are working at the bottom of it. The only difference is how hard they are working.
Striving for a bigger range of motion is a pure blessing in your quest to become stronger and build muscle. It gives you the freedom to work your muscles harder, or easier, without needing to change anything. You simply move a little more or less.
It gives you the ability to micro adjust the tension that’s appropriate for your level of strength even as your strength changes day by day and even rep by rep.
It also gives you the advantage of really pushing your muscles as hard as possible with less stress on your joints. If you want to have a stronger back, strive for 1 more inch up on that pull up bar. Go for your eyes, then your nose, then get your chin over the bar. Before too long, you’ll have a back that’s so strong you can pull yourself up until the bar is at mid chest!
Working the muscle a little harder at one point in the range of motion builds strength that carries over to the entire motion. If you build up the strength to do a push up all the way to the floor, you’ll find the top of the movement will become easier as well.
The bottom line is simple;
Of course be careful and wind any joint issues you may have which prevent you from using a big range of motion. Also, I know some might argue that some weight machines and even free weight work is bad to use with a big range of motion. If that’s the case, I would seriously consider the safety of anything that can compromise joint safety simply by how it makes your body move.
A little more range of motion will build strength, power, muscle, flexibility and control that extends to every inch of every movement you ever do.