Ballet FlexibilityHere is the second-biggest lie in strength training: “you need to use a full range of motion.”

Never mind that there is not one, single clinical study to confirm this ‘fact’, (yes, not one) let’s take a look at some common sense aspects of it that are apparent without the help of a team of university students and PhD’s performing studies.

Short Muscles

Otherwise educated personal trainers will tell people ‘you need to use a full range so you don’t develop a short muscle.’ As I mentioned before, the length of your muscle is determined at birth and the only way to change its length is to detach it from the bone and re-attach it somewhere else on the bone. That would make it a shorter muscle.

Does that sound likely to you? Do you think that’s happened even once among the 6+ billion people alive today? “Did you hear about Charlie? He did partial biceps curls and now his elbows are always bent partially shut.” Right.

Lighter Weights

The purpose of lifting weights is to increase the demand on your muscles so they grow bigger and stronger. The more weight, the more demand. Easy to understand, right?

When you perform a full range of motion you need to choose a weight you can lift in your weakest range. Using the bench press as an example, you need to select a weight light enough to lift off of your chest. Whatever that weight is it’s a hell of a lot lighter than what you can lift in your strongest (and safest) range in the bench press. So you end up demanding, say, 175 lbs from your pecs instead of the 290 lbs they could handle at the top of the movement. That can’t be good for building muscle, can it?

Instead of using the heaviest weights possible in the safest range of motion for each muscle group the way SCT guys do, full range trainees use the heaviest possible weight in their weakest – most injury prone – position and therefore use a sub-maximal weight in their strongest position. Why would that be smart? It’s just a dumb strategy all around. It’s less load for building muscle and maximum load for causing injury in the most vulnerable range.

Flexibility

The other thing you’ll hear from conventional thinkers is “If you don’t do a full range of motion you’ll sacrifice your flexibility.”

The truth is strength has nothing to do with flexibility and flexibility has nothing to do with strength. Zip. Flexibility is a wonderful aspect of fitness and most of us need a lot more of it. But have you ever seen barbells in a yoga studio? Have you even seen a yogi who developed massive muscles and strength from stretching? It won’t happen. There is absolutely no need for barbells in a flexibility workout and using them for that purpose is dumb.

When a person says ‘static contraction training doesn’t improve flexibility’ it’s a total non sequitur. He might as well say ‘static contraction training doesn’t improve digestion’. Of course it doesn’t. Effective strength training has nothing to do with digestion – or with flexibility. However, remember this – conventional training using heavy weights in your weak range can cause a permanent injury that will affect your flexibility for the rest of your life.

Trying to mix strength training with flexibility training results in a crappy strength workout combined with a crappy flexibility workout at best, and a permanent injury at worst. The same is true of the ‘circuit training’ routines that allegedly mix strength training with aerobic training. All you get is two crappy, sub-maximal workouts.

I hope you’ll remember these points when somebody tells you nonsense like “you need to use a full range of motion.” Outside of a yoga studio, using a full range of motion is a big mistake.

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4 Comments.

  • 100% true! Many techniques are using partial (Barre Methods) and no or little (SCT) ROM and the "real" studies are showing that joint strength and flexibility can actually be increased. And, the muscle density added of these techniques are phenominal. When you train at that strong point, you actually strengthen the joint complex. Of course, if flexibility is an issue for you, then some stretch work and so forth is always a good thing.

  • Thanks for posting, Brian. I almost never talk about the medical aspects of Static Contraction training because I'm not an MD and I don't want to make medical claims for SCT. That said, I've heard from dozens of chiropractors and medical/sports rehab professionals who tell me they use SCT on their patients. They say the ability to stimulate tendon, ligament and muscle growth – in a precise range of motion where there is no pain – has been a boon to injury rehab. Of course, it's nice to do all those things before you ever get an injury, that's the best case.

  • You bet, Pete. I am a certified Pilates and Yoga instructor, with intensive anatomy training. I love weights too! Even prior to finding your awesome method, I began using a “partial” and “static” range with my clients for Pilates (not Yoga of course). Wow! The results were outstanding. Everbody grew muscle (ladies think it is tone…wink.) and my students with joint issues markedly improved. Their flexibility actually improved! I was thrilled to see the research you did with strength training. I have just started using your method myself. Another Wow! All lifts when up! No joint issues. I truly believe you have found the best and safest way to lift. Now we just have to convince the masses!

  • StaticContrac

    Thanks, Brian! With a comment like that people are going to think you’re a blood relative! Haha. And isn’t it funny how you have to say ”muscle tone” with women clients. It’s one of my pet peeves that women are systematically lied to about strength training and believe it will make them ugly. It’s 180 degrees from the truth. (I talk about that a bit here: http://www.precisiontraining.com/respect-for-your… )

    And YES, when you don’t injure yourself with full range training and when you strengthen tendons, ligaments and joints your flexibility does improve. Why wouldn’t it? It ain’t easy getting this out into the marketplace but thanks to people like you it is slowly happening.

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