When it comes to strength training, moving through the full range of motion (ROM) leads to superior strength gains.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Len Kravitz, PhD (not the one who married Lisa Bonet), 40 young men with no resistance training experience were randomly divided into a full-ROM group, a partial-ROM group, and a control group for 10 weeks.
The study tested maximal strength elbow flexion using a biceps curl on a preacher curl machine.
After 10 weeks, one rep max strength in the full ROM group increased by 25.7%, while then partial ROM group only improved by 16%.
What does this mean for you when you’re in the gym?
Using full range of motion in training exercises leads to greater strength gains than partial range of motion exercises.
In the preacher curl example, start with your elbows completely straight, at 0 degrees flexion, pulling the weight up until the elbows reach 130 degrees flexion and lowering back down fully.
In the early phases of your strength training, you’ll want to use full ROM movements in each of your exercises.
As you progress in strength, partial ROM movements can be added to your program.
Partial ROM should target the strongest part of a lift, for example, staying 2-5 inches from full elbow extension on a bench press.
And since partial ROM is more effective with higher loads of weight, it makes more sense to incorporate at a later phase of training once you have established adequate strength.