Thursday, February 28, 2013


The Iron Master, May 1995 Edition, (Reprinted with permission)

Whelan Strength Training
Washington, DC

One of the classic rules of strength training seems to have been forgotten by many. Back when we were a cult, (prior to the fitness craze of the last 20 years), everyone knew that full range of motion was a fundamental rule. It was a given. John Grimek was one of it's strongest proponents and was so flexible that he could almost touch his elbows to the floor while keeping his legs straight. Grimek, Ed Jubinville and other old-timers who always advocated full range of motion were largely responsible for dispelling the old "muscle binding" and "muscle bound" myths. With the advent of the fitness craze, however, our beloved Iron Game has been invaded by toners, shapers, sculptors, and firmers. These toner types have caused great confusion to many well intentioned beginners.

You should train your muscles to the fullest (but safe) possible range of motion that the joint will allow (Provided that you are healthy and not recovering from an injury.) Full range of motion training increases your flexibility. Half motion and "herky-jerky" ballistic movements do not improve flexibility and can sometimes cause injury. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a gym and seen someone doing tricep pushdowns with (lifting gloved) hands incorrectly spaced. The weight is usually so light that they keep their grip open and don't even close their fingers. They then proceed with a range of motion of about 6 inches, pushing down till a full 2 or 3 inches before lockout and then only raising the forearms until parallel to the floor! It is like this for most exercises now. The reason usually given for this half-range of motion style is to, "Fatigue the muscle by keeping constant tension on them."

You must remember that "toning" simply means to "firm-up". People who tone are not serious members of the traditional Iron Game Fraternity and are usually afraid of getting "too big" (as if it would happen by accident!) They are generally the typical unisex, 90's, sensitive, lacking in testosterone, wimp type. (Any techniques they use, you want to do the opposite!) Toning techniques purposely retard progression to reduce hypertrophy. The muscle if "fatigued" by means other than progressive resistance (poundage). This is usually muscular endurance (second energy system/intermediate twitch fiber) training, not strength training. Strength is the ability to produce force; muscular endurance is how many times you can do something at a sub maximum rate of force.

If you are training at a high level of intensity, and want to maximize hypertrophy, (All Natural Strength Readers) the primary method used should be resistance, not some toning, muscular endurance technique. Example: If you lean against a wall with your knees bent and held at mid-squat position, it won't take long before your legs are fatigued and burning. But so what? It is a waste of time and energy. Your training time is limited and should be focused only on productive methods. This does not increase your ability to produce force and will not do much for gains in muscular size or strength. If you are using good form (a given) the poundage lifted should be giving you all you can handle. If not, the weight is too light.

Another common reason (Excuse) for not training with full range of motion is fear of joint damage. First of all, I don't know of anyone who has ever hurt their joints by locking-out! Most people understand not to FORCEFULLY lock-out. That being said, however, there still is a common fear of joint damage by locking out. This theory is expounded by various "fitness organizations" that specialize in TONING. Here is the rule of thumb: Do not "Grind" or rapidly snap the joint (by forceful lockout), Do not hyper-extend or hold the weight in lock-out position. The difference between avoiding forceful lock-out or hyper-extension and proper full range of motion should barely be seen with the naked eye and is not an excuse to cut the range of motion in half! Make the transition of a repetition (between positive and negative) in a slow, smooth manner without completely stopping. (Or holding the repetition at lock-out). Remember, full range of motion is fundamental and is the backbone of good form. Do not confuse classic, hardcore, progressive "Iron Game" strength training with the common, general public, "Johnny Home-Owner" information given by most "so called" personal trainers and general fitness publications that specialize in toning.

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