You may have stood in awe of this feat, but have wondered if this really had any benefit (other than bragging rights) to their performance.
Are partial repetitions with this extra resistance really beneficial?
Let’s take a look at some recent work that directly answers this question.
A little background
We know from research that resistance training is often reported as the most effective method for long-term increases in strength and muscle mass . Exercise intensity (i.e. load) and volume (i.e. number of sets and repetitions) are the most commonly manipulated variables in resistance training programs. This affects mechanical stress over the muscle and, consequently, the magnitude of exercise induced muscle damage .
Evidence also suggest that joint range of motion used during resistance exercise may also affect the muscle damage response .
Exercises with full range of motion have been recommended in traditional resistance training, despite a partial range of motion allowing an exercise to be accomplished with a heavier load. As mentioned in my anecdote above, weightlifters and resistance training practitioners habitually perform exercises with partial range of motion to displace superior amounts of load or complete a target number of repetitions during a set.
There is a lack of research regarding the acute effects of range of motion on muscle damage induced by traditional resistance training exercises. It remains unknown whether the heavier resistance lifted in a partial-range of motion condition or the larger joint angles experienced during the full-range of motion exercise is the more significant factor for creating muscle damage and the length of time needed to recover.
Recent work investigated the acute effect of traditional resistance training exercise using full range of motion or partial range of motion on muscle damage makers. Participants completed 4 sets of 10 repetitions of raising and lowering a dumbbell curl equal to 80% of full or partial range of motion on the same exercise used for a one repletion maximum (1-RM) test . A 1-RM is the most weight that individual person can lift one time. Participants performed the curl exercise with one arm using a partial range of motion and the other arm using the full range of motion.
Highlights of this research
This is the first study that compared muscle damage in elbow flexors after a traditional resistance training session with different angular amplitudes (full range of motion and partial range of motion) and, consequently, different loads.
Findings suggest that range of motion during resistance training of elbow flexors seems to be as or even more important than the amount of weight lifted for creating muscle damage. This research proved that heavier loads lifted for partial repetitions are not as effective as completing the exercise throughout its entire range of motion.
Exercise prescription considering range of motion should take into account specific goals of the trainee/athlete (i.e., increase in strength at specific angles or at the entire range of motion). For example is a basketball player may need to increase partial range of motion in a squat because they don’t typically do a full squat when they squat down prior to jumping up for a rebound.
Key take home points
• Full range of motion induces greater muscle damage than partial- range of motion.
• Exercise prescription based on range of motion should consider specific needs of the athlete/trainee.
• Coaches and trainers can utilize common indirect markers of muscle damage (i.e. force, range of motion, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and circumference) for tracking recovery status.
• Trainers/coaches should consider a longer recovery period for muscle regeneration when utilizing full- range of exercises.
• Working a muscle through its entire range of motion is most beneficial for ensuring the most muscle fibers are stimulated.
More information on creating the body, health and energy levels they desire is in our Free Fat Loss E-Course. Sign up below
1. Stone, M., S. Plisk, and D. Collins, Training principles: evaluation of modes and methods of resistance training--a coaching perspective. Sports Biomech, 2002. 1(1): p. 79-103.
2. Chen, T.C. and K. Nosaka, Responses of elbow flexors to two strenuous eccentric exercise bouts separated by three days. J Strength Cond Res, 2006. 20(1): p. 108-16.
3. Jones, D.A., D.J. Newham, and C. Torgan, Mechanical influences on long-lasting human muscle fatigue and delayed-onset pain. J Physiol, 1989. 412: p. 415-27.
4. Baroni, B.M., et al., Full Range of Motion Induces Greater Muscle Damage Than Partial Range of Motion in Elbow Flexion Exercise With Free Weights. J Strength Cond Res, 2017. 31(8): p. 2223-2230.