Why Full Range of Motion?

Our newest rendition of Wisdom of the Week brought you all a new scale for the handstand push up, the negative. The negative is an EXCELLENT way to build strength through the whole range of motion. This is a phrase that Aimee and I continually repeat form video to video. Let me take a few moments to explain why we harp on this so much, and why it is so important.

 These are all the muscles that need to be strengthened if you want to bang out those HSPUs!

These are all the muscles that need to be strengthened if you want to bang out those HSPUs!

The term full range of motion refers to the range of any given movement from the start of the movement to the completion of that movement. To use the example of the handstand push up, the start of the movement would be the athlete locked out with arms overhead, standing on their hands, and the end of the movement would be the head flat on the ground in the tripod position. The same start and end positions would be reversed on the way back up, start position being the tripod, and end position fully locked out. These start and end positions can be defined in any movement, be it gymnastics, weight lifting or body weight movements.

As a growing athlete who is developing strength and trying to improve, it is  IMPERATIVE that the vast majority of scales performed brings the athlete through the full range of motion. If a scale is used by an athlete that breaks the full chain of motion, you will accidentally be creating a HUGE weakness in your ability. Let's take a quick look at one of these common scaling blunders  that you can try to avoid.

A very commonly practiced handstand push up scale is to have an athlete throw multiple abmats under their head as a means of shortening the distance to the end of the movement (2-3 abmats under an athlete's head). Sure, this is a great idea as accessory/skill work for an athlete who just learned to kick up to the handstand and is trying to become comfortable with the idea of bending at the elbows and beginning their decent towards the ground.

HOWEVER! There are better options for scaling during a metcon.

 This athlete is only building strength through a small range of motion.

This athlete is only building strength through a small range of motion.

If the athlete continually uses this scale within a metcon, they are constantly building their strength ONLY from a complete lockout until their head hits the abmat 8-14 inches off of the ground. And sure, the athlete will rapidly increase their strength through that stunted range of motion, but they will NEVER gain the strength necessary to complete the whole movement appropriately, because there is a whole half of the movement that is being completely neglected. 

 This athlete is building strength appropriately through the full range of motion.

This athlete is building strength appropriately through the full range of motion.

It is much more appropriate to build strength by having an athlete de-load the movement, and maintain the range of motion. An example of this would be scaling the handstand push up with  box as we showed last week. That way, the athlete works through full range of motion, and builds strength through the entire movement. The athlete will be just as strong with their head an inch above the ground as they will be when they just begin their decent.

The following step would then be the negative, depicted below in our video. The negative is meant to work strength eccentrically; you are not trying to push back up from this! The movement is to be performed as slowly as possible, straining your muscles with everything you've got THROUGH THE FULL RANGE OF THE MOVEMENT!

 

Have fun with this one guys, and don't forget to take a look at our kick-butt itineraries. Aimee and I will be leading the trip to Italy and Switzerland, check it out! Spots are filling fast!