Full range-of-motion bench presses work more muscles for improved strength and flexibility.
You may have been warned that working through the full range of motion bench press could cause shoulder injury. Any exercise can potentially damage muscles, joints and tendons if done improperly. If you've sustained an injury in some other way, a full-ROM bench press could cause further damage. But healthy people with no injuries can benefit from using full ROM.
Multiple Muscle Benefits
A full-ROM bench press targets your pectoral muscles but also engages your deltoids and triceps, as assisting muscles, and even hits your biceps, working as stabilizers. Personal trainer Matt Siaperas of Hardbodies Gym explains that while you will still work your pecs with a limited-ROM bench press, you'll be shortchanging the assisters and stabilizers. Your delts, triceps and biceps will still engage, but they won't have to handle the full resistance if the bar isn't pressed all the way up or lowered all the way down.
Range of Motion Improvements
You might not give too much thought to how much range of motion your joints currently have, but you'll take notice if you lose your full ROM. As noted in the 2005 book "Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principals and Practice, Volume 1," diminished range of motion can interfere with normal, everyday activities as well as other exercises in your workout regimen. So, in addition to working your muscles harder, the full-ROM bench press maintains, and may even improve, flexibility in your shoulder and elbow joints.
Getting Better Results
In his article for ShapeFit.com, personal trainer Matt Schifferle notes that exercisers often pass on full-ROM movements in favor of more repetitions and intensity. However, working through your full ROM actually causes you to work harder through each set. Thus, working through the full ROM on your bench press is more efficient and brings faster results with less weight and fewer repetitions.
Pointers to Avoid Injury
Because proper technique is vital for safely working through and fully benefitting from a full-ROM bench press, you should be aware of typical mistakes in execution. Hold the barbell in a wide grip with your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart. Going too wide can limit your range of motion. Keep your elbows from dropping below your shoulders by positioning the bar over your mid-chest area rather than over your shoulders. An unstable shoulder joint can cause problems, too. Stabilize the joint by squeezing your shoulder blades together when you bring the weight down.