Workout Tips

Unlock Gains With a Shorter Range of Motion

Shorten your range of motion during lifts to stretch your muscle exertion and gains.

Unlock Gains With a Shorter Range of Motion

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Another time to use constant tension is at the end of a set. Perform full range of motion reps, then at failure, finish off the set by pumping out another few reps in the one-to-three quarter range. This will extend the set a bit.

Go to YouTube and watch a few videos of pro bodybuilders training (as if you haven’t already). What do you notice, apart from the massive weights they use and the faces they make from exertion? Bodybuilders rarely lock out their joints, preferring instead to use a slightly reduced range of motion to keep the target muscles fully engaged. Called “constant tension,” this trick can end a plateau and save your joints.

Try it on a variety of compound and isolation moves. For example, on dumbbell overhead presses, lower the weights until you feel a mild stretch in your shoulders, but don’t go all the way down; then press them back up three-quarters of the way. Because the weights aren’t supported by the joints or connective tissues on either end of the range of motion, the muscles (in this instance, the deltoids) work at their max throughout the entire set.

This also means that the joints aren’t stressed by heavy loads. So if you have an injury, constant tension sets will prevent you from aggravating it.

Quick Tip: 
Constant tension isn’t always appropriate if your goal is strength. To lift the heaviest weights, you need to lock out your joints. Do your main lifts normally, and use partial reps on assistance lifts.