At SPARC, we take exercise form very seriously. Exercise quality will always outweigh quantity. For example, a push up with relaxed abs, poor hip position, and partial range of motion may still give you a good pump in the chest. However, perform a correct push up (the core is braced, the body is aligned, lats are contracted, and the elbows reach 90 degree flexion) and you can work the entire body, reinforce good movement patterns, maintain joint mobility, and achieve more work per rep.
One of the first things we look for in quality movement is whether or not you achieve proper range of motion. We’ve all seen it at the gym: someone puts 315 lbs on their back, squats down 3 inches, and stands back up with a new “PR” for the history books. While this may be a phenomenal way to train your ego, you are failing to train your body for realistic, functional movement. What’s going to happen when your sport, recreation, or an emergency situation requires that you squat down even 10 inches? Something’s going to give.
Training a full range of motion ensures your body can handle external forces at any range. This standard of training prevents injuries such as strains, pulls, or tears, engages more muscles per rep, and gives you a standard to measure progress. It also preserves joint mobility so you don’t have to spend hours stretching. Follow these guidelines during your next training session:
- Standardize the ROM: Only count the reps that meet your standard. Your squat should have the thighs parallel to the ground. Chin ups require that your chin reach the bar. Bench press to within 1-2 inches of your chest. Utilize external cues to remove any guesswork: squat down to a bench or medicine ball, or lower a bench press until it comes into contact with a rolled towel on your chest. Not sure what is considered full ROM? Check out our Youtube Channel for instructional exercise videos.
- Don’t Force ROM: Your joint flexibility may be limiting your range of motion. While it is crucial to perform exercises to full ROM, it might take time for you to get there. Muscle tightness, pain, or movement compensation are indications that you may need to mobilize that movement pattern first. Find the depth you can reach without pain or form breakdown, and work over time to increase your ROM before moving up in weight.
- Pick Exercises That Match Your Fitness Level: If you can’t hit full ROM with a 100 lb back squat, but you can with a 50lb goblet squat, stick with the latter. The goblet squat will be safer, develop more muscles, and prepare you for heavier loads down the road. This is an exercise in humility, but will pay off when your body is tested during sport, work, or life. Judge your progress by the quality of movement, not the weight on the bar.