Monday, March 17, 2014


When I first started learning how to lift, I was constantly reminded of the value of using a full range of motion (ROM) in everything I did.  Every movement, no matter what the movement was, had to be performed will a full range of motion, regardless of my goals or the goal of the program.  If I was going to bench for 3 sets of 10, all 10 reps had to touch my chest and go to a full lockout, or else it “didn’t count”.  When I squatted, by god, I better get below parallel on each rep and lockout at the top, or I could just watch my gains fly out the window.  And so help me, if I ever even thought of curling without having the dumbbell touch my front deltoid, I may as well pack up the gym back and go home, because I clearly wasn’t there to work.

You're NEVER going to get biceps doing that.  Better deload down to the bar and start over with strict form.

As I got further along in my training, I learned something incredible: full ROM is worthless.  At least insomuch in terms of getting bigger and stronger, it has no value.  About the only value I find in full ROM work is as a diagnostic tool to determine where I am weak versus where I am strong in a movement pattern.  Once that is decided, I don’t ever need it again until it’s time to reassess my weaknesses.

Think about it realistically for a second: no one is weak all over in a movement.  You will logically have parts of a movement wherein you are stronger and parts wherein you are weaker, that is simply a function of reality.  If you are “strong all over”, that just means the weight is too light to be of any use.  Knowing this, what is the possible benefit of training in the full ROM of any movement?  If you are weak off the chest in the bench and are benching in order to build a stronger bench press, why would you want to waste any energy on the lockout portion of the bench?  Wouldn’t it be better to spend the entirety of your training time hammering the weakest portion of the movement rather than dividing yourself equally between your strongest and weakest portion of the lift?

The dangers of only playing to our strengths

So much of how we train is dictated purely by convention and dogma.  We are told that a squat HAS to go below parallel and lockout, and therefore, whenever we squat, we perform this movement.  Whenever we witness someone NOT training this way, we chastise them for “not doing the movement”, with pithy witticisms such as “and not a single squat was done that day”, completely ignoring the fact that the purpose of the training was to get bigger and stronger, not to do squats.  We end up policing and ensuring our own mediocrity for the sake of enforcing convention, forgoing critical thinking and the ability to understand that a movement is only useful in its ability to make us stronger.

Rant aside, how do you break the shackles of the full ROM in your training and start getting bigger and stronger through critical thinking?  Simply by employing what has been discussed above.  Understand that within the full ROM of every movement will exist areas where you are strong and areas where you are weak, and from here, when you train this movement, you simply cut the ROM at the point where it is no longer beneficial.

If you are weak off the chest on bench, bench off your chest until the point where your triceps start taking the load, and then bring the bar back to your chest to start the rep over again.  If you are weak at lockout, stop the rep when your triceps abandon the movement and start over.  If you are weak out of the hole on squats, spend most of your time squatting in and out of the hole.  If you can’t lockout your squats, spend more time locking them out.

A great, if blurry, example

Additionally, partials can be used in part of an overall program structure.  If you use ROM progression like I do, you realize that the majority of your heavy lifting is going to be spent in the top portion of the ROM rather than the bottom.  If you bench with the bar suspended in chains, you are training your lockout every week, whereas the portion closest to your chest only gets hit toward the very end of the cycle.  To compensate for this, you can model your assistance lifts such that you spend all of your time in the bottom portion of the ROM, ensuring that you are still developing strength at this portion of the ROM.  In doing so, you are prepping your body for the impending full ROM lift it will be required to perform at the end of the cycle, ensuring no portion is neglected and that any weak areas you have can still be developed.

If you feel that certain parts of your body are being neglected with this practice, there are always solutions that do not require you to sacrifice strengthening your weak points.  If your triceps are no longer receiving stimulus because all of your benching focuses on the chest, you can always incorporate some tricep pushdowns as a finisher to get in some tricep recruitment.  If your pecs are lacking, there are chain flyes.  Finishers are valuable in any training program, and are the perfect way to flush some volume to an area at the end of a workout if you feel it has been neglected.  Don’t be careless and just randomly employ these for “the pump”, everything you do in training should have a reason.

 Reason: Someone switched my pre-workout with LSD

I realize one can read the above and wonder why one wouldn’t just train in a full ROM to hit all parts, rather than having to essentially double the effort by training a movement and then additional assistance work.  The point here is that you should use your training movements to develop strength where you are weak, not strength where you are strong.  The primary benefit of training a movement pattern that mirrors your competition lift is that it can make said lift stronger, and employing it purely for the sake hammering all body parts seems to be squandering its potential.  However, finishers like pushdowns, flyes, sled drags, etc, are far less specific in their application and far better suited for developing some general strength and size.  Rather than using them to break up specific weak points, they can far better serve you as a non-specific training tool for ensuring more volume in general.  Once again, we are back to the idea of using every tool in your toolbox and being able to adapt to any circumstance.

Those that adapt get stronger, and those that refuse will die.


  1. I gotta say thank you, you're the first one who broke me from full range dogma, and I implemented it with block pulls from 4", then 2", and then from the floor. Went from zero PRs in a whole year to adding 20lbs to my deadlift in like 2 months.

    1. That is awesome man, I'm really glad to hear it worked out for you. It's definitely difficult to get out of the full ROM mentality, it's so ingrained in us from the start, and there is so much resistance whenever anyone tries to advocate otherwise. Keep it up, and keep smiling whenever someone tells you it won't work.