An Even Fuller Range of Motion

One of the constant reminders you’ll hear at the gym is that you should be moving your body through a “full range of motion.” It’s a great idea… but what does it mean?

Ideally, it means we should be strong throughout the range of motion of a muscle. So if we’re using that exemplar of muscles, the biceps, it means we want to be strong when the elbow joint is all the way closed (fist as close to the shoulder as possible), when the elbow joint is all the way open (the arm is flat), and all points in between. The theory goes that if you’re weak anywhere in that range of motion, that is the place you’re going to get hurt, so in your training you should strive to move through a full range of motion.

Alright, so if that’s true, then why stop at the floor with a deadlift? Why not stand on a box and keep lowering the weight down until the hip joint is all the way closed? Well, turns out most of us are a lot stronger lifting from the floor than when we stand on a box and it’s nice to be stronger through that (usually) more functional range of motion (we’re not picking things out of holes as often as we are picking things up off the ground) so it would be kind of a bummer to do lighter weights in that bigger range of motion.

But what about the rule?! Full range of motion all day all the time! Maybe. I think there’s strong (pun intended) practical benefits to getting stronger in that functional range of motion where you pick things up from the ground but I also think standing on a box and gaining strength in that greater range of motion is also awesome. Why not? Life will inevitably require us to lift something out of a hole at some point so we might as well not suck at it.

One way to ease into this extra range of motion is to use smaller, metal weights like 25s. It’s kind of shocking how much harder it is to move through that extra range of motion. Go light, but give it a whirl, and then the day you’ve got to reach down and heft that random toddler from an extremely shallow well, you’ll thank me.

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