LETS TAKE A GYM TOUR - PART 1 CHANGE THE RANGE

by Nilparna Sen | December 27, 2016 Views :

The fitness industry has evolved over the years and is steadily taking a much-needed scientific direction. With knowledgeable, certified trainers growing in numbers and investors pouring in more money promoting health and fitness, we have surely seen a sharp upward graph in the recent years. But such an optimistic trend should not blind us from certain issues that need attention.

Under this series subject, we will address the common sights in the commercial gyms of India today. The series will give you a detailed insight into the belief systems, practices and the growing "trends" occurring on the gym floor. We will talk about what they are and whether they are doing more harm than good.

I can’t be happier about the numbers in the weight-training community swelling by the day. Adding to that happiness is the start of a (very) slow trend of people drifting from the machines to the power-cages and their inclination to GO HEAVY. While I’m the biggest proponent of “going heavy”, I’m equally scornful about idea and practice of Partial Range of Motion. Let me give you a picture of what it is and what it looks like.

You see a driven, motivated young lad loading up plates on the bar for his next set of squat. He walks up to the weight, all aggressive and determined, all set to impress everyone looking at him. He begins. He sits down, for what looked like a three inches, gets back up, and wears a look of victory and pride on his face.

Now, what is the problem with that kind of super-heavy, but not-even-partial, barely-sitting-down squat? Everything. Except, may be, for the fact that he is at least in the power-cage. A good many of us would agree to this (and it pleases me to assume that there are such trainees educated enough NOW).

But those of you who don’t, you may make either/all of the following statements, to the defense of your partial ROM (Range of Motion) training, which I’d gladly de-construct.

There is zero scientific explanation to the belief that correlates depth with poor joint health. Squatting deep is hundred percent safe, unless done improperly. So can be said for drinking water.

PARTIAL ROM DEFENSE 101:
Case #1 - “BUT SQUATTING DEEP IS BAD FOR THE KNEES!” –
Oh, those golden words. If I had a penny for everytime someone said this to me, I’d be a millionaire. The myth of squatting deep being bad for the knees dates back to the 1960s, when a researcher called Dr.Carl Klien conducted a very poorly structured study, which indicated that a full squat may be result in more laxity and instability of the knee.

Over the years, the study has been rebutted with solid, scientific justifications. In fact, science has proven that the compressive forces of the knee is at its maximum when the squat is AT PARALLEL. The compressive forces, contrary to your belief, reduce at the bottom of a squat (ass to grass).

Advocating the full ROM squat, another point worth noting is that the knee health actually gets better (weight training strengthens not only muscles, but also bones, ligaments and tendons) with performing perfectly executed deep squats.

Then, why so many cases of injuries among trainees? Injuries are often a consequence of poorly designed programs and/or improper form. There is zero scientific explanation to the belief that correlates depth with poor joint health. Squatting deep is hundred percent safe, unless done improperly. So can be said for drinking water.

Case #2 -“BRO, THE LOAD IS SO HUGE! OFCOURSE, THE RANGE WILL SUFFER WITH THAT!”
Okay Bro, I love the fact that you want to do a heavy rep. Except, it SHOULD LOOK BE ONE REP, NOT A QUARTER. If you think you’re getting beastly strong and giving a supremely high stimuli to the muscle when you’re only partially squatting 200kgs (in that case, even the guys who Leg (quarter)-Press 700kgs), I have bad news.

A word on Motor Unit Recruitment: This term basically indicates how many muscle fibres is your body recruiting for a particular task (keeping things basic). Having said that, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this equation: More motor unit recruitment = more muscle fibres involved = more muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Now consider another (very simple) equation: More Range of Motion = More Motor Unit Recruitment (This is scientifically backed and proven). Take a page out of your childhood algebra and mix the two equations, which leads to this:

FULL R.O.M. = MORE MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY.

Getting back to your Bro’s heavy quarter squat PR, the bad news to be broken to him is that all he did was build his ego, not his strength/muscle.

Consider a parallel to this case. On day 1, A 100 meter sprinter runs at the speed of 23km/hour. On day 2, he runs at the speed of 24km/hour but fatigues and stops at the 75th meter. Did he break his running PR? Of course, not. The entire 100 meter track is Full ROM for us lifters. So, every time your Bro expects a pat on his back for his quarter-squat PR, smile and tell him that he only ran 75 meters. (Also give him the explanation if you don’t want to sound stupid.)

Bottom Line: Do a heavy rep. Not a quarter/half of it.

Case #3 - “BUT TOUCHING THE CHEST IN A BENCH PRESS LEADS TO SHOULDER INJURIES!”
When done correctly? No way. Going full ROM on a bench press in an improper form may lead to an injured shoulder. Going half ROM on a bench press in an improper form may also lead to an injured shoulder or any other muscle. Note the keyword: improper form.

The important take-away is that your form and technique has to be taken care of first. Get your form checked under the supervision of a certified trainer and avoid drowning into the typical flood of misinformation widely prevalent in the gyms.

If done in good form, there is no reason on earth to not get the benefit of more muscle fibre recruitment with a full ROM bench press.

Case #4 – “I SIMPLY, PHYSICALLY, CAN’T GO FULL RANGE.” – Let me take you back to a few thousand years ago. Our survival as human beings demanded a lot of running, hunting, climbing up trees and cutting and lifting heavy things. Among all things, it definitely meant being a lot more on the feet, squatting down to poop, and not having to sit endlessly on a desk. Human bodies used to move across planes and ranges of motions the way it is actually supposed to.

Fast forward to the current generation of our lives depending on our computers, elevators, cars and of course, elevated toilet seats. Collectively, we face the consequences of very poor mobility and flexibility. For instance, with never having to sit on the floor and/or Indian toilets, most of our bodies have not learnt to sit in a deep squat.

On the same note, with being forever-hunched-over, typing on our keyboards, most of our shoulders have forgotten retraction (shoulders pulled back)

Therefore, more often, it is a rampant issue of poor mobility. The solution to this is as simple as working on your mobility and teaching the body how to move in the first place. Then comes teaching it how to move with heavy weights.

The solution to this is as simple as working on your mobility and teaching the body how to move in the first place. Then comes teaching it how to move with heavy weights.

In conclusion, if you’re getting big and strong stopping the bar a foot above your chest, or barely getting the pulley to your head in your lat pull downs, or leg pressing with the entire gym’s plates for a 2-inch movement, re-think. You can get a lot BIGGER AND STRONGER.

And no, your excuse is not valid.

I hope the information drives you into making Range of Motion a priority over ego-lifting, and telling a half-repper/quarter-repper in your gym about the same.

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