Optimizing exercise range of motion to maximize muscle growth is a popular topic to discuss. As new research emerges, it often leaves you with more questions about the fundamental mechanisms and application of hypertrophy training. Mechanical tension is known as a primary driver of hypertrophy. Therefore it stands to reason that training a muscle through larger ranges of motion will create more tension, resulting in a greater hypertrophic stimulus. Although this makes sense at face value, it’s ultimately an unsatisfactory answer. At deeper levels of analysis, mechanical tension alone (or at least our current model) can not explain some of the observed outcomes we see both in the literature and anecdotally. The aim of this article is to provide a brief review of the topic, provide context to the ROM discussion, and offer practical recommendations to implement into your own training.
The scientific method is one of the most important tools we have in the pursuit of maximal strength and muscular development. As research in the sports science field elucidates the various mechanisms and methodologies involved in athletic development we can derive more effective protocols and further enhance the results of our athletes. However, there are several criticisms of the literature and more accurately scientists themselves. Often there’s a dichotomy within the fitness industry where it’s the nerds vs the bros. In my opinion this polarization is entirely unhelpful and based on false assumptions about what each demographic actually represents.