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Full Range of Motion for Full Muscular Development

By Ron Harris


Ego lifting is nothing new. From the time men started hoisting iron to get fitter roughly 130 years ago, some jokers with handlebar mustaches were probably using terrible form in order to put up heavier weights and impress their fellow physical culturists at the gymnasium. Social media is a very recent advent in technology that has elevated ego lifting to a whole new level. Until we had YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, you could only be a showoff in front of maybe 20-50 people around you at the gym. Now, theoretically millions can witness your ron-harris-article-ego-lifting-social-mediaantics. A large portion of my daily IG feed is video clips of men and women proudly performing feats of strength, often making inane comments like ‘little bit of weight here’ in an obvious attempt to fish for compliments. They’re usually showered with praise and awe, regardless of their form or range of motion. Anyone who criticizes them is labeled a ‘hater,’ and will often be blocked so they can’t make any more negative comments. It’s all about getting more followers, likes, and kudos.


Here’s the ugly truth about these ego lifts. The easiest ways to use more weight than you can actually lift are to have a spotter lift some of it for you, and to drastically shorten the range of motion. Since it’s too easy to get called out for having a spotter assisting you, most people opt to simply do half reps. Let’s say you can bench press 225 for 8 reps if you bring it all the way down and touch your chest. Lower it just halfway before reversing direction, and it’s possible you might be able to use 275, even 315.  You see half reps most frequently on squats and leg presses. Just about anybody can load up a leg press with 800-1,000 pounds if they only lower the carriage a few inches on every rep. I’ve challenged guys who did half reps with 405 on the squat to do just one rep to below parallel with 315. None of them could do it. They had no strength in that range of motion! More to the point, these half-rep heroes were all lacking in leg development. Whenever I would hear one complain that his legs ‘just won’t grow,’ I beseeched them to try using much less weight and using a full range of motion and watch what happened. I even have a good friend who is 45 years old, lifting for 25 of those, who I only recently convinced to abandon his half-reps on leg day. His quads have always been painfully underdeveloped. Now, lo and behold, they are finally starting to grow after all these years!


There is a time and a place for partial range of motion. But it must be in addition to, not instead of, a full range of motion. Forget about how much weight you’re using. Even if you’re all about strength, realize that in the sport of powerlifting, you are required to touch the chest on the bench press and lower your squats to full parallel or else the lift doesn’t count. If your goal is to build the best physique you can, train your muscles through a complete range of motion and stimulate every last fiber. If you haven’t been doing that, I promise you that you will see an almost immediate improvement in your muscular development once you do!

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2019-02-16T14:37:34-04:00 February 16th, 2019|Ron Harris, The Press|

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