One of the most misused, but very important concepts in bodybuilding is using an Effective Full Range of Motion. The knowledge and application of this concept, or lack there of, is often the deciding factor weather or not all your hard work in the gym will pay off into maximum muscle growth. Using a full range of motion while training is important, but it can also lead to unnecessary injuries if it is not used within its effective boundaries. Therefore it is extremely important to fully understand the advantages and dangers of this concept if you wish to apply it to your training.
This concept doesn't simply mean going from a complete muscular contraction to a complete muscular extension in the motion of an exercise. In fact, completely contracting or extending during an exercise temporarily takes the resistance off the muscle itself, allowing it to rest and in tern lowers the intensity and overall effectiveness of a set. The purpose of performing a set is to push the muscle as close to complete failure as possible, in the least number of reps. When allowing the muscle to rest during each rep, it will take longer to induce failure and basically causing you to perform more reps, hindering any attempt to increase the intensity of the workout due to unnecessary and avoidable volume training.
That's where the effective full range of motion (EFRM) comes in. Range of motion is most effective when the movements of an exercise are stopped just before total contraction or extension. This ensures that the resistance is never removed from the muscle. For certain exercises, the point of total extension on the negative movement increases the risk of a muscle tear because it is extended past the point of control. As I mentioned in an earlier article, have total control over the weight at all time. Not extending the muscle past the point of control also ensures that the weight is being handled more less by the muscle, and not by the tendons. This ensures you are getting maximum stimulation, while decreasing the risk of injury.
One of my favorite arm exercises is the one arm cable preacher curl. This is an exercise that you can load the weight on, but in order to avoid injury to the tendons and muscle, you must ensure that it is not performed to full extension on the negative movement. At the top, come up to full contraction, while coming just short of full extension at the bottom. This is an example of the (EFRM) for the bicep muscle.
The wide grip bench press. This is one of the best strength and mass building exercises for the chest muscles. This is one of the few exercises that I do not apply the EFRM to. I find that working through the entire range of motion is much more effective, and increases the stress on the pecs. For this, I completely lower the bar down to my chest, pressing it out and completely extending my arms to a full lock-out position. Although this is allowing the muscles to temporarily rest, at the same time it allows you to use maximum weight through the entire middle of the movement. Because the bench press uses other supporting muscles, and not just the pecs themselves, the extra weight is almost required to effectively stimulate the chest.
When performing a squat, the EFRM is almost automatically applied. When the negative movement (or squatting portion) of the exercise is performed, your upper legs should become parallel with the floor. This extends the quads and contracts the hamstrings. It is important to push the weight back up using your heels, not your toes. When beginning the positive movement, focus on using the quads to raise the weight. At the top, be careful not to completely lock out the knee joint. To get the most stimulation in the quads, squeeze the muscles tightly for a 2 count, then once again, slowly begin the negative movement. This should be a useful concept to help intensify your workouts. If applied correctly, it should provide you with injury free training, while getting maximum results from your workout. I've included a law to sum up the EFRM concept.
When performing an exercise, the contraction and extension movements should stop just short of its limits. This allows the resistance to continually act on the muscle, increasing intensity.
Train safely, effectively and most importantly, keep it natural.