Respecting your Capacities: Part 3 Range

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Range of motion capacity has a direct impact on both strength and endurance capacities. In the previous blog we talked about secondary position changes while under load (compensations), and defined this as a part of your body moving in a direction other than the direction the whole body is moving (i.e. knees moving towards each other while standing up or squatting down).

When we discuss range of motion we need to consider both passive and active ranges. Passive range of motion is how ‘stretchy’ or ‘bendy’ a joint or muscle is; i.e. partner stretching or using equipment to achieve a range of motion. Active range of motion is using the musculature around the joint to pull yourself into your end range. Active range of motion is the marker that determines what movements we can safely perform under load and what to avoid until sufficient range of motion is achieved.

When it comes to longevity in training, movement quality is the first priority.

The Force/Length Curve is a great way to demonstrate how range of motion impacts strength and endurance. The y-axis shows the amount of force we can develop and the x-axis shows the entire range of motion of a joint. Looking at the graph, we can see that as we approach our end range of motion we generate less force--a more optimistic perspective would be that we are stronger in our mid range of motion.The good news is we can expand the x-axis, or range of motion of a joint (more on that in a minute).

To flesh out range of motion based compensation patterns, let’s talk about shoulders. A majority of the people that I work with simply cannot use just their shoulder to get their hand overhead. Modern day life doesn’t require us to work overhead very often and if we don’t spend time in a range of motion we will eventually lose our ability to achieve that range. A healthy shoulder is able to get the hand overhead without the help of any neighboring tissues, an average shoulder (in today’s society) requires assistance from the neck or mid back. If an overhead workout results in upper trap or neck pain it’s a clear sign the shoulder is working outside of its active range of motion.

Looking back at the Force/Length curve we can extrapolate that we need to have more range of motion than the task requires to ensure we have the requisite strength. Working near your end range of motion with a load that is beyond the force you can generate at that range will have the same result as working outside of the active range, a compensation.

Chronically working outside our active range will result in permanence of the compensation pattern that is utilized to achieve the task, and this compensation will eventually become the only option. If we move in one pattern we are using the same tissues ad nauseam leading to fatigue in that pattern and further breakdown of the movement. Adequate active range of motion affords us movement options, meaning we can load a variety of tissues and delay fatigue induced breakdown.

Combining static stretching with end range isometrics expands the x-axis (range of motion) of the Force/Length Curve. The expanded x-axis will reduce range of motion induced compensations, increase strength over that range, and provide an opportunity to load more tissue (use more muscles) reducing fatigue induced movement breakdowns. When it comes to longevity in training, movement quality is the first priority.

The videos below will show you how to assess active and passive ranges of motion for shoulders, hips, and ankles. Lack of range in these joints contribute to a number of issues I see regularly.





Need help figuring out how to address some crummy ranges of motion? Book a session with me at

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