Sunday, December 21, 2014


Time for some Sophism.  The internet and fitness world remains abuzz about the notion that full range of motion (ROM) is the best ROM, and in turn, the shorter the ROM, the weaker the training effect.  This is, of course, simplistic thinking that operates under very basic “cause/effect” pseudo-logic, very similar to how we used to believe that eating fat MADE you fat, or eating cholesterol increased your dietary cholesterol.  If ROM is good, then the most ROM is the most good, no?

It turns out, even if it IS gluten free, hemlock will still kill you

Well let’s go ahead and start bending some logic, shall we?  How can we even define full ROM, especially in contrast to partial ROM?  In many cases, we attempt to define a movement reaching full ROM once we simply run out of room to complete the movement.  If we are benching, once the bar reaches our chest and we extend it to a complete lockout, we claim that we had a “full ROM bench press”.  However, in this instance, are we not simply slaves to the equipment?  Who dictated that the barbell MUST be straight in the first place?  If I were to bench with a cambered bar and be able to bring the bar even further past my chest, did I then achieve a “fuller ROM”?

"Psh, nice quarter squats.  Get deeper."

Contrast the above with the critique many have of people performing “partial ROM” movements in their presence.  First, as an aside, I have noticed that the most vocal critics of the form of other gym goers tend to be the smallest and weakest people IN the gym, so perhaps it is in the best interest of anyone whose goal it is to achieve size and strength to stop worrying about others and instead focus on their own progress.  But I digress.  How is it that one can even diagnose what IS partial ROM in the first place?  Is not one person’s partial ROM another person’s full?  Put simply, when one performs a “partial ROM” squat, they are in turn performing a full ROM of a partial squat.  The exercise itself IS a partial, and in turn, when one fully performs the partial, they perform 100% OF that partial.

What we witness with the above is the reality that there is not one perfect movement proper and that all other movements are simply deviations from the ideal, but instead the fact that all movements are their own movements, and each one is executed independently of all others.  All ROM IS full ROM, it is simply the fullest ROM of whatever movement is being performed at that instant.  When we set up for a partial deadlift via block pulls, we are setting up for the block pull, not the deadlit, and as such, upon completion of the exercise, we performed the fullest ROM of that movement.  In turn, upon the question of “is it better to always perform full ROM”, I would in turn argue that it’s impossible NOT to.

But what of those who argue that it is not a matter of philosophy but instead physicality that inspires the NEED for full ROM?  To those I say that they have once again fallen victim to imposing will and intent upon what is simply coincidence.  We constantly witness these types bemoaning the squats on youtube, arguing how “ass to grass” squats are the superior squat.  Were this true, would it not be the case that the ass to grass squat is actually FAR inferior to a squat wherein the trainee has both feet elevated on separate platforms and squat even DEEPER than ATG?  Ass to sub-grass as it were?  The ROM is even fuller, so the training effect even better, no?  Why not strive for deeper and deeper cambers on the barbell for benching?  Why not deadlift off of increasingly higher platforms while plate diameters grow smaller and smaller?  Why not clean the barbell to the top of the skull instead of the collarbone?

This guy gets it

This is ludicrous!  Eventually, increasing the length of ROM DIMINISHES results, not improves them.  If we can agree with this reality, we must surely also agree that it will not always be the case that conventionally understood “full ROM” is the best ROM, no?  Due to simple genetic and structural variations, the most effective ROM is going to vary from trainee to trainee, and to impose a universality upon what is THE most effective ROM is akin to Kant’s categorical imperative: unrealistic and non-workable in reality (as an aside, let us recall that Kant’s work was primarily inspired to combat Hume, who questioned the very nature of existence.  Oftentimes we find that, when one’s foundation of understanding is questioned, they regress toward declaring universalities as a means to appease the fractured state of their mind, rather than attempting to understand each instance on a case by case basis).  As such, we must consider that the optimal and ideal ROM for a trainee can in many cases appear to be “partial ROM”, but instead we are to understand that what we are witnessing IS full ROM, it is simply the case that the ROM for the movement itself is defined with different parameters than someone else’s’ “full ROM”.

Full ROM is the best ROM because it is the ONLY ROM.  We do not ever change the ROM, we simply change the name and nature of the movement.

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