Optimal Range of Motion in Resistance Training: Balancing Safety and Effectiveness

In the realm of resistance training, the concept of using a full range of motion is often emphasized for optimal muscle strengthening. However, it is important to question whether this approach is always safe. In this article, we will delve into the topic of range of motion in resistance training, considering both its benefits and potential risks.

Example of Bench Press: Finding the Sweet Spot

bench press

When it comes to exercises like the bench press, the requirement for competition may dictate touching the bar to the chest during the descent. However, going too low can increase the vulnerability of the shoulders, especially when the elbow surpasses the line of the back. This mechanically weak position puts the shoulder’s anterior capsule at a higher risk of injury, necessitating a careful balance between depth and safety.

Considering Arm Length: Individual Variances

not passing the line of back

The extent of arm lowering and the stretch experienced by the pectoralis major muscle can vary significantly based on individual arm length. Longer arms tend to result in a greater range of motion for the forearm bone (humerus), leading to potentially dangerous stretching of the pectoralis major. Individuals with longer arms should exercise caution to minimize the risk of injury.

Thickness of Rib Cage and Pectoralis Major: Individual Factors

in-home personal training

The thickness of the rib cage plays a role in determining the risk of injury to the pectoralis major during the bench press. Those with a thicker rib cage are theoretically less susceptible to injury. Conversely, individuals with a less substantial rib cage need to lower the bar deeper to achieve the same range of motion. It is unwise to apply the same range of motion across all individuals, especially for beginners who may not have developed the same level of muscle thickness and strength.


While utilizing a full range of motion is often considered ideal for resistance training, it is crucial to assess the safety implications for each exercise and individual. Factors such as competition requirements, arm length, and rib cage thickness can influence the appropriate range of motion. Beginners should exercise caution and gradually progress their range of motion as they develop strength and muscle thickness. By striking the right balance between safety and effectiveness, individuals can optimize their resistance training outcomes while minimizing the risk of injury.

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