Bodybuilders seeking maximum muscle gain frequently focus upon range of motion when attempting to improve the effectiveness of a workout session, with some abbreviating the length of each rep in order to use more weight, with other bodybuilders focusing upon the longest range of motion in order to stimulate the greatest number of muscle fibers for each weight training workout rep. Obviously, the disparity between these two philosophies leaves most weight lifters wondering which technique is more productive, and many bodybuilders, due to articles espousing the virtues of full range bodybuilding form, gravitate towards a complete range of motion, believing that they will achieve superior muscle gain.
This concept is perfectly acceptable when using relatively light weights and high reps in a particular weight training workout, as the joint and tendon stress is small, and therefore bringing a muscle through a longer distance each rep will not lead to adverse consequences. Yet, for bodybuilders who are aiming for maximum muscle gain, and decide to cycle low reps and heavy weight with higher rep workout sessions, full range of motion for certain exercises can actually boost the risk for pain and discomfort, especially in relation to joints, which experience substantial strain when they are placed under heavy stress in a full range of motion workout.
During low rep, high weight training sessions, range of motion is best trimmed, but not dramatically, as for example, a 50% decline in range of motion will bring about a reduction in muscle growth, and actually cause instability in muscles, potentially resulting in serious injuries, including muscle tears. The best technique used to reduce the chance of joint discomfort when performing heavier, lower rep weight training workout sessions is to reduce range of motion slightly at the point of muscle contraception, which means, for example, avoiding full lock out of the knees during squat, and the elbows during the bench press, to reduce joint stress when using heavy weights. This leads to a small decline in standard range of motion of about 10%, while still offering full muscle stimulation.
Many bodybuilders are under the impression that modifying squat range of motion at the bottom of every rep will reduce the impact of knee injuries, but this is a misconception, as squats with a complete range of motion, where you lower the body as far as possible, is more effective at building lower body muscle mass, and brings about stability in the legs that will not occur when substantially reducing range of motion. The reason many suffer from knee discomfort when squatting is not because of excessive range of motion, but rather incorrect form which places unnecessary stress upon the knee joint, as the squat and deadlift are two weight training movements where form is especially difficult and crucial to the safety of each rep, and unfortunately, far too many bodybuilders aim to reduce squat rep range as opposed to solving the true cause of knee discomfort, which is improper form.
The same concept applies to elbow pain, as muscles have been designed to function synergistically, and when a link in the chain begins to function outside of its intended parameters, other muscles attempt to compensate in an unnatural way, and soon after, joints are inflamed, and muscles begin to experience numerous injuries. Therefore, in addition to avoiding full lockout on weight training exercises such as squat and triceps pushdown, if you are suffering from joint pain, you should make an effort to analyze weight training workout form on all exercises to determine whether your body is executing each rep correctly, making any adjustments as necessary.
Those bodybuilders who attempt to rectify joint pain by greatly reducing weight training exercise range of motion are simply adversely impacting their long term well being, as muscles that are not conditioned to perform in their natural strength curve will eventually cause instability in the joint and tendon regions, which will boost the risk for serious muscle injuries and annoying discomfort. Although abbreviating exercise range of motion enhances the amount of weight that can be used in each lifting movement dramatically, such artificial improvements do not produce extra muscle growth, but rather reduce the necessary stimulation for dramatic improvements in muscle mass.