It was good advice when my dad was doling it out to me — right after I had hurriedly thrown together one of those shoebox dioramas for fourth-grade reading class and was dashing out the door to play.
And like much of that homespun wisdom we brushed off in our youth, it still holds true today. Take, for instance, the gym. We know cutting corners in workouts — not going to failure, skimping on squats, doing more TV watching than running on the treadmill — is detrimental. But did you ever think about your typical range of motion? In other words, are you “half-assing” your repetitions?
The shorter the distance you need to push a weight from Point A to Point B, the more weight you can lift. Guys especially tend to make use of this handy fact, piling on the ego-boosting poundage while shortening their reps to be able to finish their sets.
Perhaps with no other bodyparts is the temptation greater than chest and biceps. That’s why you’ll find dudes short-arming their bench press, not going deep during flyes, or not lowering the barbell all the way to their thighs during a curl.
If that sounds uncomfortably familiar, science recommends some careful introspection. A study published in the January 2014 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research measured the impact of short versus long range-of-motion resistance exercise over an eight-week period. The result? Muscle size, body fat and strength measures were significantly better among those who used a full ROM. The full-rangers also kept much more of their gains during a follow-up four-week detraining phase.
The researchers concluded that the higher mechanical stress of the long-ROM training made the difference and recommend that range of motion should not be compromised for the benefit of greater loading.
We tend to agree with the lab coats on this one. Partial reps as an occasional intensity technique on a finishing set or two have their place, but for the most part, full reps are the most efficient way to bodybuild.
This workout is designed as a little rehab for those of you who need to work on your ROM. Combining chest and biceps, it includes exercises that benefit from a full stretch on the eccentric portion of a rep. Forget the personal-best weight quest for a while and get used to taking each rep through the positive and negative. Or, as my pops might colorfully put it, “Give it your best whole-assed effort.”