We look at resistance training and all of the varying weight room movements as tools that play a part in developing a robust and resilient athlete. When coaching an expansive range of different sports and skill levels, it’s essential to have an extensive tool box. Full and partial range of motion movements can be highly beneficial to the athlete’s physical preparation. Too often we see coaches with “ass to the grass” mentality completely omit partials. We’re not saying one is better than the other, but when applied correctly the combination of both can be very advantageous for the athlete’s continued physical development.
There are a number of benefits to incorporating partial range of motion exercises in a training program. Partials can be utilized to reduce the overall stress demands placed on the athlete during peaking, taper and in-season training blocks. They can also serve as an effective way to increase intensity or provide a greater overload to the athlete’s system due to the mechanical advantage. When working with a higher level athlete the shorten range of motions can be a simple way to increase specificity in the weight room by accentuating critical joint angles (specific to competitive actions). Another benefit is from a motor learning perspective and by emphasizing different ranges of motion will increase variability within the movement pattern.
We have the pleasure of working with a lot of young and inexperienced athletes, our initial plan of attack is to use a full range of motion. Very rarely will a partial movement be written into the training program, but in certain situations (ie. individual’s anthropometrics, current orthopedic issues or previous injury history), the implementation of shortened ranges of motion might be most effective. After exhausting all full range of motion options, we’ll use a partial to teach an athlete a specific motor pattern and to build confidence. It’s important to note, this is not a loading strategy, but a teaching approach. For example, let’s take an athlete struggling with the squat or split squat pattern. The athlete utilizes his or her bodyweight as resistance, but has issues with posture, positioning and/ or stabilization. One approach is to slightly shorten the range of motion to give the athlete a mechanical advantage. This can be done by utilizing a higher plyo box for the squat or including an additional 1 or 2 airex pads for the split squat. These slight modifications can go along way not only with the technical execution, but with building self-confidence. Then gradually whether it’s session to session, set to set or even rep to rep, you can increase the range of motion by lowering the box height or removing an airex pad.
Once an athlete gains the necessary experience, is proficient with the motor pattern and has an adequate level of strength, we look to find different strategies that blend full and partial range of motion movements. We believe that in order to fully maximize the partials, the athlete must first develop strength throughout the entire range of motion. When applied properly this can be a potent stimulus to increasing levels of force and power production. We strive to find different strategies that allows the full and partials to complement one another. Examples would be programming partials as supplementary work post the primary movement. The motor pattern of the partial would be similar to the primary movement. Another way is to use partials as work sets and perform full range on the warmup sets. It’s important to note, when the athlete reaches a certain intensity (70-75%), we’ll have the athlete start performing the partial ranges. Typically if the movement is greater than 80%, we do not want the athlete to go right from a full range to a partial. We would like them to get at least 1-2 preparation sets prior to beginning their work sets. We have also taken an approach of alternating full range of motion and partials with a max effort and dynamic effort session. Performing a full range movement with the max effort movement and the partials with the dynamic effort movement. Then after 2-3 weeks switch the sequencing. If the athlete performs partials throughout the entire primary movements sets (warmup and work), we’ include full range of motion with all of their assistance movements.
Jamie Smith is a proud husband and father, passionate about all things relating to athletic development and a life long learner, who is open to unorthodox ideas as long they are beneficial to his athletes.