Simple minds adopt rigid positions on almost everything, and the world of exercise seems to be a safe haven for lots of these simple minds.
For instance, ever since I started training, I've heard how full range of motion (ROM) is the only way to train — how if you're not training full ROM on every movement, you're somehow mentally and physically weak; that you should just pack it up and go home.
The reality is that both full range and shortened range movements should be incorporated intelligently into your programs. In fact, using a shortened ROM on key exercises allows you to hammer the muscle in ways that simply aren't possible with full ROM. Before you make any judgments, let me show you what I mean.
Movement Dictates ROM
Exercises like a preacher curl aren't meant to be done with a full range of motion. There's just too much potential for a tear or major strain.
Similarly, I believe lowering the bar all the way to your chest on incline barbell presses is very hard on the rotators. I'd rather stop an inch or two short. Even squats come into play here. It's easy to lose the proper alignment of your lower back during a squat if you go too low for your level of flexibility.
But there's a lot more to shortened ROM than injury prevention.
Enhanced Mechanical Loading
Another reason to incorporate shortened ROM is to increase mechanical loading with time under tension.
A shorter range of motion allows you to work the sweet spot of a movement — the spot where you're strongest — with a higher load and more time under tension. Increased load with sufficient time under tension does a lot of really cool things like turn on the m-TOR pathway and also initiate glut-4 translocation to get the good stuff in Plazma™ into your muscle cells.
That means more growth, but you have to do shortened ROM movements in a way that's probably way too tough for ordinary Joes.
Stimulating More Growth
Let's say you're doing dumbbell side laterals for your delts. Normally you might use 35's for a set of 10. But try grabbing a pair of 55's and doing 25 reps, but only raising them 6 inches. It doesn't sound like it would work, right?
Regardless of the ROM, your delts have to initiate the lift, even if it's only 4 to 6 inches. Same thing with bent over laterals for rear delts, or just about any exercise. A few of my favorites include any side lateral variation, incline barbell press, squat, barbell curl, and banded chest press.
Tough And Worth It
Anybody who's tried these techniques will tell you they absolutely blitz their muscles and take a lot of mental fortitude. Shocking your muscle is a very good thing, provided adequate rest and nutrition is in place.
Try shorter ROM my way and you'll never question their efficacy again!
Check out the video below and you'll see John Schlecht and me perform extended sets of lateral raise, finishing with reps in the bottom position: