What Is Full Range of Motion and Why Do I Want That?

Before discovering CrossFit, I had been doing “traditional weightlifting” at a “normal gym.” I would spend a few hours each day doing my repetitions and sets alternating between muscle groups to get through my workouts. Back and biceps, chest and triceps, and the infamous leg day were on the agenda each week with a few rest days in between.

I had my personal training certification from NASM and practiced what I was teaching religiously especially in regards to range of motion through my movements. What am I talking about? Only squatting to 90 degrees and never below parallel because it wasn’t good for you was the kind of range I am talking about.

For most of you who take CrossFit classes, you will hear your coaches reiterating that we should “break parallel” and get your hip crease below your knees. Why would I be doing this if I was taught not to? Here is why.

Your body is meant to have that full range of motion because it is what you were born with. Over time, your body loses these ranges because of a multitude of things. Maybe you have bad knees from an injury, years of hammering from carpentry has caused overuse injuries in your joints and tissues, or you have been sitting at a desk for so long you don’t realize your full ROM potential. If we neglect these full ranges, then it gets harder and harder to reach them so now below parallel is off limits for us because it will lead to an injury!

Wrong.

All of the things I have learned about CrossFit were completely outside the realm of what I was used to. They were asking for a variety of movements to be performed at a full range of motion that seemed unnecessary. The depth of the squat and the Kettlebell swing were two that I noticed from the beginning. After researching some information and using my own knowledge, I figured out why these ranges were so important.

One of the most important take aways is that it causes synergy to occur in the muscles. This means that instead is isolating a certain muscle group for an exercise, CrossFit methodologies and movements require the use of many muscle groups working together to perform the movement. Your core strength isn’t just built from doing an endless number of crunches, but through a combination of gymnastics movements, barbell movements, and even Kettlebell swings! Who would have thought? Another great reason for using our full range of motion is because it gives us better awareness of our bodies in space. We are performing our movements from the core to the extremities using explosive power and stability. In order to move these heavy loads, long distances, quickly like CrossFit wants us to, we have to do it safely and with a full range of motion. It helps us recruit more musculature to stay stable and produce more power!

Another great part about the full range is that you get more flexible while moving! Instead of spending hours statically stretching before and after class to get in to those positions, you can do it while moving. Most of these injuries caused by the wrath of CrossFit are because people are immobile and are trying to perform these functional movements in a bad position! If we can get you moving and in a better and complete range of motion, chances are you can ward off the injury demons.

Don’t sacrifice those extra ranges. Even if you have to back off the weights a little to get a better lockout overhead or get into that deep squat, the benefits will outweigh the sacrifice and you will see much better improvement in your overall technique and position. You will feel better too!