Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi decided to compare partial range of motion versus full range of motion training in the development of maximal strength. They found that lifting weights through a partial range of movement develops maximal strength just as effectively as using a full range of motion.
The study included 10 weeks of weight training performed twice a week. Subjects each performed the standard bench press and were divided into 3 groups:
- Group 1 performed 3 sets through the full range of motion
- Group 2 performed 3 sets through a partial range of motion (defined as one that is beyond the sticking point 2 to 5 inches from full extension of the elbows).
- Group 3 performed 3 sets with a combination of partial and full range of motion sets.
After the ten weeks of training, all 3 groups showed statistically significant increases in strength based upon their 1 Rep Max Bench press. And surprisingly, there were no significant differences between of any of the groups.
The authors conclude that the findings appear to suggest that partial range of motion training can positively influence the development of maximal strength.
It had been believed that muscle strength improves only at the joint angle it is trained, and if you didn't complete the full range of motion at a joint, you would have weakness at a specific angle. It was also believed that performing only the second half of the lift (not returning to the full start position) would not improve the strength at the start of the lift.
Most experts expected some strength gains in untrained individuals simply due to neural adaptations. It was indeed a surprise to find that strength increases were the same for partial and full ROM training.
Another similar study, however, found that partial repetitions also increased maximal strength but not to the same degree as full repetitions.
Clearly, more research is needed to find a definitive answer, but this new information is intriguing and worth pursuing.
J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Aug;18(3):518-21.
An analysis of full range of motion vs. partial range of motion training in the development of strength in untrained men.
J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):409-11.
Influence of range of motion in resistance training in women: early phase adaptations.