Strength Zone Training

How to Build TRUE Full Range of Motion Strength


A great deal of strength training info comes from powerlifting and Olympic lifting. It's more geared toward competitive lifters. The problem is, not everyone who goes to the gym is there to become a competitive lifter.

What about the rest of us who are there for athletic performance, muscle growth, and general fitness? Here's the answer.

Many people, including trainers, commonly mistake the fundamentals of competitive weightlifting for the fundamentals of strength training.

The fundamentals of weightlifting come from focusing on moving loads – based on what's dictated by weightlifting sports – to master certain lifts. Whereas the fundamentals of strength training come from focusing on loading movements based on anatomy and biomechanics to master your body.

The difference between weightlifting and strength training is exemplified in this diagram, which is adapted from the 1996 book, "Biomechanically Correct" by Everett Aaberg.


For most lifters, the goal is to build a healthier, stronger body that's more athletic and injury resilient. To accomplish this goal, it only makes sense to build strength throughout the entire active range of motion. That way, you're stronger and more injury resilient in all positions.

The first things we're told about how to properly strength train is to maintain good exercise form and use a full range of motion. The problem for many? They don't understand what true full range of motion strength is and how to successfully build it.

Building strength at each joint throughout its entire active range of motion is about focusing on what exercises are and are not doing to the body, NOT focusing on what the body is doing to the weights.

With this reality in mind, it makes sense to classify exercises based on what aspect of the active joint range of motion is being emphasized. How? By using the two strength zones as the basis for exercise selection in order to design more comprehensive strength training programs.

There are two general categories (or zones) of strength exercises based on what range of motion in a given joint movement they target. Here they are:

  • Exercises that emphasize the target muscles in the lengthened to mid-range.
  • Exercises that emphasize the target muscles in the mid to shortened range.

To get strong, use at least one exercise from each strength zone for each muscle group.

This will strengthen different portions of the range of motion in each main joint movement. When you're choosing exercises, this approach guarantees that you'll build true full-range strength.



e are the perks you can expect from using both strength zones:

1. Reduced Injury Risk

Strength gaps in your range of motion are injury liabilities. They're making you more prone to injury in the ranges of motion you've not trained in. So training in both strength zones will help you build a more resilient, adaptable body preparing it for whatever life and sport throws at it.

It's no mystery that you're more susceptible to injury when your tissues and joints are asked to deal with force in positions they're not prepared for. Therefore, you'll be more physically prepared when you use strength zone training, since it builds true full range of motion strength.

Strength zone training isn't just about helping you to build muscle, it's about building muscle with a purpose!

2. Improved Physique

There's a reason why seasoned bodybuilders will try to hit "all angles" of a muscle. Doing so brings up the appearance of weak areas and gives it a 3D look.

To maximize the aesthetics of a muscle group you wouldn't just want to train it with exercises that only emphasize one range of motion, would you? That's not the best way to get a complete look.

Plus when you fill in those strength gaps, you get stronger overall, and it's simply easier to make strong muscles big.

3. Functional Performance

Strength zone training is also about having a body that can get things done. We now know that some lifts only train the mid to shortened range of motion, while others mainly train the mid to lengthened range.

Strength zone training ensures you develop strength in various movement patterns, directions, and body positions, so you're stronger in more ways and therefore capable of functioning at a higher level in any environment... not just inside the gym.


You may be missing out on full range strength if you're not hitting both zones. So use this list to add what's lacking. It will also help you avoid redundant exercises so that you're not continuously hitting one zone at the cost of the other.

Although it's certainly not exhaustive, these are some of the best exercises in each strength zone for each main muscle group.


Lengthened to Mid-Range:

  • Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Pec Flye
  • Push-Up
  • Machine Chest Press
  • Machine Incline Chest Press

Mid to Shortened Range:


Lengthened to Mid-Range:

  • Chin-Up
  • Pull-Up
  • Lat Pulldown

Mid to Shortened Range:


Front Delts

Lengthened to Mid-Range:

  • Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
  • Cable Face-Away Front Raise

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Barbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Front Raise

Medial Delts

Lengthened to Mid-Range:

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Barbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Rear Delts

Lengthened to Mid-Range:

  • Side-Lying Dumbbell Rear-Delt Flye
  • Cable Cross-Body Rear-Delt Flye

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Dumbbell Rear-Delt Flye
  • Machine Rear-Delt Flye


Lengthened to Mid-Range:

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Dumbbell/EZ-Bar/Barbell Curl
  • Cable Curl
  • Machine Curl


Lengthened to Mid-Range:

  • Dumbbell Overhead Extension
  • Overhead Rope Extension
  • Band Overhead Extension

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Skull Crusher
  • Cable Push-Down
  • Cable or Dumbbell Kickback

Quads (A Bit Different)

Knee-Bend Strength Zone:

  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Leg Press

Knee-Extension Strength Zone:

  • Leg Extension Machine
  • Inverted Leg Extension
  • Sled Push
  • Reverse Sled Pull

Squats and lunges are just like horizontal chest presses in that they're most difficult at the bottom of the range of motion, where the lever arm is the longest and your knees are bent because your thigh is at or near parallel to the floor.

As you get closer to the top and your knees extend, the lever arm shortens and you gain a mechanical advantage on the weight as your thigh becomes vertical.

So, even though the load you used was appropriate for the bottom part of the movement when your knees are bent, it's too light to create sufficient muscular overload in the less difficult top ranges of motion when your knees are more extended.

Therefore, full range quad strength is developed by using knee extension exercises to strengthen the quads in the ranges missed by compound knee bend exercises like squats and lunges.


Lengthened to Mid-Range:

Mid to Shortened Range:




  • Dumbbell Half-Kneeling Calf Raise
  • Seated Calf Raise Machine

Your calves are made of the gastrocnemius complex and the soleus. Doing calf raises with a straight knee creates superior gastrocnemius muscle activity. Doing these raises with a bent-knee creates superior soleus muscle activity.

So it makes sense to do at least one calf exercise in each knee position to maximize your training time and efficiency. There are four good ones that you've likely never tried.


Lengthened to Mid-Range:

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Stability Ball Plate Crunch
  • Reverse Crunch

Note: The stability ball crunch gives you a great stretch at the bottom along with a great concentric shortening at the top of each rep. That's why it's in both categories.


Lengthened to Mid-Range Strength Zone:

  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Deep Squat
  • Lunge

Mid to Shortened Range:

  • Hip Thrust
  • Reverse Hyper
  • NT Loop Linear Monster Walk

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