Get Strong with a Big ROM

by Brandon Holder

Same Exercises, New Deficit, New Gains

Get strong and build muscle by extending the range of motion. These exercises are perfect for adding a little extra deficit at the bottom.

You’ll get strong if you have a semi-decent program and good form. But after a point, you won’t be able to add five pounds every week to your lifts as you once could. The progress will come slower and in smaller increments.

One way to progress? Increase the range of motion by doing an exercise from a deficit. Reaching untapped ranges of motion will not only help you develop strength but also make you more mobile.

Warning: Don’t jump into these deeper positions with the same weight you use with a standard range of motion. Work through them slowly and focus on controlling the movement from start to finish. You’ll build up the strength and confidence and also prevent injury.

To progress further, increase the height of the deficit slightly. Just don’t use a deficit high enough that’ll disrupt technique. Start conservatively; half an inch can go a long way.

Not every exercise is better with a deficit, but here are some that I’ve used with great success.

1. Deficit Push-Up

Push-ups from a deficit will take the exercise one step further and create an unmatched loaded stretch on the pecs. Elevate your hands – or both your hands and feet – on boxes, benches, parallette bars, or even chairs.

2. Deficit Barbell Row

Perform this by standing on a weight plate or small box. The extra range will require more strength to initiate the lift off the ground. This is good if you want to build your back.

Be careful when choosing a height for the deficit. If you use too much, it might cause you to round your back, so be mindful and prevent it from becoming excessive.

3. Deficit Single-Leg Exercises

Split squat variations and reverse lunges work well with a deficit. The extra range of motion will require a lot more strength from each leg. You’ll also get a good stretch in the hips and rear leg.

Make sure your knee goes deep enough to actually use the deficit. If you stop short, you won’t use the deficit you set up! You’ll just be using a normal range of motion, and the effect will be the same.

4. Deficit Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlifts or stiff-legged deadlifts with extra ROM are a fantastic way to develop your hamstrings and strengthen your entire posterior chain. Just keep your back from rounding over and keep the barbell close to your body. This will help you hit your hamstrings and not overwork your lower back.

5. Deficit Hip Thrust

You don’t need to load the hip thrust heavy when using a deficit like this. The added range of motion will be enough to make it effective. You can do it from a double or single-leg position, and you can alter your foot position by working from the toes, heels, or on the edge of the box.

6. Deficit Kettlebell Deadlift & Squat

The deadlift is the most popular exercise you can do from a deficit, but you don’t often see people doing it with a kettlebell. It’s a great mobility and strength builder. You can do it as a primer for any deadlift or squat session or as a main exercise.

You can also use a belt-squat machine or a dip belt (as shown in the video). These alternatives will offer a different stimulus and help you continue progressing the exercise. Directly loading your hips will help open them up and require a different type of stability and control when you lower your body.