Exercise Technique Fundamentals: Repetition Speed and Range of Motion
There are several commonalities among resistance training exercise techniques. Most free weight and machine exercises involve some sort of hand grip on a bar, dumbbell, or handle, and absolutely all exercises require an optimal body or limb position, movement range and speed, and method of breathing. In this post you will find out all the details regarding repetition speed and range of motion.
Range of Motion (ROM)
When the entire range of motion (ROM) is covered during an exercise, the value of the exercise is maximized and flexibility is maintained or improved. Ideally, an exercise’s full ROM should mimic the full ROM of the involved joint or joints in order for the greatest improvements to occur, but sometimes this is not possible (trailing leg knee joint during a lunge) or recommended (using intervertebral joints during a squat).
Therefore, we recommend exercising through the full range of motion for two resons.
- First, research indicates that full range strength training enhances joint flexibility.
- Second, studies show that full range exercise movements are necessary for developing full range muscular strength.
In every exercise, bones move together and apart again. How far apart they move depends on the range of movement of the joint in question. Flexible muscles enable you to use your full range of movement. That is a prerequisite for you to be able to lift the training weight through the full range of motion. If this doesn’t happen, the muscles will get stronger in the areas where training is focused due to the restricted movement. A muscle that is only partially strengthened will, in time, lose flexibility.
Full-range strength training exercise means training from the position of full muscular stretch to the position of full muscular contraction. Note that when the target muscle group (e.g., biceps) is fully contracted, the opposing muscle group (e.g., triceps) is fully stretched, and vice versa. Of course, you should not exceed normal joint limits or have pain in any portion of the exercise movement. Eliminate or abbreviate exercises that cause joint discomfort, training only in the pain-free range of motion.
Repetitions performed in a slow, controlled manner increase the likelihood that full ROM can be reached. However, when power or quick-lift exercises (e.g., power clean, push jerk, and snatch) are performed, an effort should be made to accelerate the bar to a maximal speed while still maintaining control and proper form throughout the exercise.
Nothing beats speed for unadulterated, muscle-gain efficiency. You want to move the weights as fast as you can while maintaining total control of the bar or dumbbells through the entire range of motion. Fast lifting must not jeopardize your exercise technique. The faster you move a weight, the more muscle fibers you stimulate, and the greater the potential for muscle growth.
So how fast if fast enough? Lifting and lowering a load in 1 to 2 seconds for each movement has a lot of advantages. Mainly, it develops the ability to move faster overall, while improving size, strength, and general neuromuscular conditioning. However, that kind of speed might not be comfortable – or safe. So plan on rising weights to a 1-2 count, and lowering them to a count of 3 or 4. Logically, the actual speed of a lift depends on how muck weight you’re using and how fatigued you are. The heavier the weight, the slower you’ll lift it, no matter how fast you’re trying to lift.
Closing Thoughts About Exercise’s Repetition Speed and Range of Motion
Normally you should perform most resistance training exercises through the greatest range of motion allowed by the body positions and joint angles of a particular exercise. This results in strength and power gains throughout the range of motion.
The speed of lifting is less important than your level of control. You always want to precisely control the weights, without jerking or swaying. Don’t let gravity take over – say, by letting a barbell drop toward your chest. You want to feel the tension all the way, whether that means four seconds or a second and a half. Also, never sacrifice form for speed. Of course this doesn’t mean you should train in slow-motion, but neither should you train so fast that centrifugal force makes it harder for you to control the weights.