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I found that the exercises for the triceps vary in the range of motion. See the triceps kickbacks, for example, where it makes little sense to bent the arm more than till around 90 degrees. On the other hand, at the cable machine we can engage the triceps from the starting position where the forearms are fully bent:

crack

But others stop the movement at around 90 degrees - like this picture here:

no crack

It is the same with other triceps exercises like triceps overheads (some instructions say to bent forearms fully, others stop at around 90 degrees).

Now think of squats where most people don't use full ROM, i.e. don't do deep squats, because going too deep would increase the risk for injury. Is it similar with the triceps that one should stop somewhere around 90 degrees to protect the elbow? I mean is it worth the risk to bent the forearms further than 90 degrees? Or to put it differently: What is the physiological senseful ROM for triceps exercises?

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  • More ROM would be wasted on the reverse grip exercise in the image. The arm would go up but there's no resistance - because of the distance to the machine, you're moving the handle almost horizontally.
    – Luciano
    Apr 18 at 14:37
  • most people don't squat deep because it is harder at the bottom: you can't use as much weight as on quarter squats, and you need to have some mobility.
    – Luciano
    Apr 18 at 14:39
  • @Luciano This is true for all exercises: You can lift less weight in full ROM/ lift more in partial ROM. Nonetheless, in other situations there is usually the recommendation to use full ROM but in case of squats I less commonly see people doing deep squats
    – LulY
    Apr 18 at 14:49

2 Answers 2

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As @ThomasMarkov points out, virtually all (but not all) muscles profit from using a greater range of motion in your exercises.¹

Full range of motion exercises (regardless of the joint we speak of) lead to greater muscle damage using the same weights and volume.² That is obvious if one realises that the length-tension curve of the muscles shows that the peak load for each muscle group lies around 90 degrees joint angle, ie. in going to full extension, especially on the way there,³ you accumulate more muscle damage due to the muscles not being able to handle as much weight as they could in lower joint angles.

Yet, this is not necessarily the same as injury since mechanical stress (= micro-injuries) is an important factor for hypertrophy and possibly exactly the reason for muscles profiting from greater ROM.

Thus, instead of not using full ROM (which is not really functional either) in fear of injury, why not just leave 1-2 repetitions in reserve to reduce the risk of injury by reducing the volume, achieve the same outcomes as with going to failure,⁴ and have the better baseline hypertrophy from full ROM as well?

Sources

¹ Muscle Hypertrophy Response to Range of Motion

² Full Range of Motion Induces Greater Muscle Damage

³ Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise

Similar muscle hypertrophy following eight weeks of resistance training to momentary muscular failure or with repetitions-in-reserve in resistance-trained individuals

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  • Wasn't the 'muscle tear induces growth' debunked as a myth, since growth can occur in the absence of damage? So more ROM simply generates more stimulus/tension, which would be the main reason for hypertrophy.
    – Luciano
    Apr 18 at 14:12
  • @Luciano It is still a main contributor, which does not mean it is necessary. Metabolical stress without damage leads to growth as well but not as much. And yes, TUT is another important concept. Apr 18 at 14:27
  • @Luciano I should specify that while major muscle damage is detrimental, current research still considers minor damage (micro-injury) as a probable necessary factor in protein synthesis facilitation. Apr 18 at 16:08
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don't do deep squats, because going too deep would increase the risk for injury

There is little to no evidence to support this claim, so it shouldn’t inform how we think about other exercises.

Is it similar with the triceps that one should stop somewhere around 90 degrees to protect the elbow? I mean is it worth the risk to bent the forearms further than 90 degrees?

Stopping at 90 degrees is no more or less injurious than going to full elbow flexion. There is however some evidence that full range of motion exercises are superior to short muscle length partials, so full ROM push downs are probably favorable to shortened partials.

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  • "There is little to no evidence to support this claim" You are right! Read about that a review after your answer. Didn't know that because of the widespread warnings about deep squats. So if I get it right it is bad that most people don't do deep squats.l because they don't use full ROM. Interesting..
    – LulY
    Apr 18 at 14:52
  • @LulY The thing to get here is that there are very few movement patterns that I would say are inherently injurious. It’s the dose or intensity that mediates injury risk. Ass-to-grass squats with the same weight as quarter squats may prove to be more dangerous, but only because your body is less prepared for heavy loads at full ROM than heavy loads are very short ROM. Does that make sense?
    – Thomas Markov
    Apr 18 at 15:22
  • Yes, I agreed on the "deep squats are not dangerous" point in the comment before and also get your point here..
    – LulY
    Apr 18 at 15:56
  • @LulY For a more extreme example, consider the deadlift and the bicep curl. “Deadlifts are dangerous” is said all the time, and no one has ever said “curls are dangerous”. I can deadlift 315 for sets of 12 all day, but if I tried to curl 315 I’d tear my biceps off. What’s more dangerous? Neither, they’re just different exercises with different loading parameters.
    – Thomas Markov
    Apr 18 at 17:27
  • The point I find interesting is that partial ROM squats (= "normal" squats) are pretty much the norm since more do them than deep squats, but at the same time folks are laughing about others who pick max weights and do biceps curls in partial ROM, i.e. barely move them up and down. That paradox is the background for my question: I thought there might be some reason why some exercises are mostly not performed in the full possible motion of a joint..
    – LulY
    Apr 18 at 17:50

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