If you googled “how to build more muscle,” you would be presented with heaps of useless ways to do that — ingest as much turkesterone and BCAA as possible, eat every three hours, something about increasing time under tension would probably pop up as well. It’s all gibberish.
Here is one thing you need to change within your training to improve muscle growth: Start training with a full range of motion (ROM):
Technically, full ROM can be defined as the degree of movement that occurs at a given joint during a given exercise while partial ROM is when you have the option to use a fuller ROM but you choose to go ah fuck this feeling at the bottom of the leg press the feeling is excruciating and so you choose not to take it.
But here is the deal — training with full ROM seems to elicit greater muscle growth on average.
The recent systematic review investigated a full vs partial ROM on changes in muscle growth and found that full ROM is generally better for muscle growth:
So full ROM kung fu kicked the crap out of partial ROM in this study.
Another systematic review and meta-analysis found the same thing — full ROM resistance training is more effective than partial ROM for muscle growth (for the lower body specifically). The researchers concluded:
But why does full ROM cause more muscle growth compared to partial ROM? I’m afraid I’m not your man for guidance. Dunno. I might almost say scientifically that not going on a keto diet has something to do with it.
Luckily, you don’t need to take my word for it because there are minds like Greg Nuckols (M.A. in exercise and sports science) who covered this topic in his monthly research review. He had three possible explanations for that:
First, total mechanical tension which is a key factor for gainz is generally highest when muscles are in a stretched position. Such as at the bottom of the deep squat or flat bench dumbbell press.
Secondly, he mentioned something about muscle deoxygenation. I’m not sure what that is, something to do with pandas not making babies maybe, you can google it if you are of a mind.
Lastly, full ROM training tends to include the lengthed position within the muscle. For example, when you do leg extensions and go all the way down, you get that good stretch in the quad:
And it seems that training at long muscle lengths is doing the majority of the magic here.
But what if…
At this point, you might be thinking okay, Egis, let’s say I do the dumbbell bench press, go all the way down to get good stretch but at the top, I don’t lock it out to keep the constant tension on the chest so it doesn’t get a chance to rest. I would get that stretch-mediated hypertrophy you are talking about and not let the target muscle relax. Wouldn’t that be even better?
Bodybuilders (juiced up on the magic sauce) have been doing this for ages and in theory, this may have a neutral-to-positive effect on muscle growth. But I still don’t recommend it. For one reason — there is a tracking issue.
How do you track your progress in a given exercise over time? I mean, where do you stop at say, leg press? When your knees are at a 90-degree angle? But how can you be sure that those 11 reps you did this week compared to the 9 reps you did last week is progress? Maybe this week you simply didn’t go as low as you did last week?
There is a lot of uncertainty about what you are doing when there are no clear endpoints. And when there are no distinct stopping points at the bottom and top of the exercise, you introduce what I call “the fake progressive overload” — you pile on more and more plates on the bar while unknowingly sacrificing some ROM. Then you say oh look at me I’m so strong woohoo fuck yeah.
Oh, and let’s not forget that when training with full ROM you use less weight which leads to less systemic unwanted fatigue (specific to all body systems and structures) and more localized fatigue (specific parts of the body being trained) within the muscle you are trying to target. Great for both muscle growth and joint health.
- Training with the longest possible ROM is probably a good idea when the goal is to get jacked aka maximize muscle growth. Yes, at the very bottom of the leg press or squat all that you are going to find is going to be pain and discomfort. You might even shit your pantalones a little bit. Nobody wants that in a million years. But that is where the magic happens.
- Cutting out the “easy” part of a rep such as cutting reps shy of locking in the bench press seems plausible but it presents the progress tracking problem. Thus, I would advise against it.
- If you have major mobility limitations such as your heels popping off the platform at the bottom of the leg press or you find that some exercises performed with full ROM cause joint pain, train through a slightly shorter, safer, and more comfortable ROM.
P.S. If you would like me to walk you through the process of setting up a fat loss and muscle gain plan, check out my 1×1 Coaching Program.
Originally published by me on Medium on November 3, 2022