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Range of Motion Adaptations in Powerlifters

Gadomski, Stephen J.1; Ratamess, Nicholas A.2; Cutrufello, Paul T.3

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 11 - p 3020–3028
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002824
Original Research

Gadomski, SJ, Ratamess, NA, and Cutrufello, PT. Range of motion adaptations in powerlifters. J Strength Cond Res 32(11): 3020–3028, 2018—The aim of this study was to investigate range of motion (ROM) and training patterns in powerlifters. Upper- and lower-extremity passive ROMs were assessed through goniometry in 15 male powerlifters (35.3 ± 13.7 years) and 15 age-matched controls (34.9 ± 14.6 years). The Apley scratch test and modified Thomas test were used to assess ROM across multiple joints. Training frequency, stretching frequency, and exercise selection were recorded using questionnaires. Passive glenohumeral (GH) extension, internal rotation, and external rotation ROM were significantly decreased in powerlifters (p < 0.050). Powerlifters displayed decreased ROM in the Apley scratch test in both dominant (p = 0.015) and nondominant (p = 0.025) arms. However, knee extension angle was markedly improved in powerlifters (20.3 ± 7.3°) compared with controls (29.9 ± 6.2°; p < 0.001). Bench press and bench press variations accounted for 74.8% of all upper-body exercises, whereas back squat and deadlift accounted for 79.7% of all lower-body exercises in powerlifters' training programs. To determine whether existing ROM adaptations were seen in elite powerlifters, the powerlifting cohort was split into 3 groups based on Wilks score: <400 (low), 400–500 (intermediate), and >500 (high). GH ROM limitations were more pronounced in elite powerlifters (Wilks >500), who had more powerlifting experience (p = 0.048) and greater lean body mass (p = 0.040). Overall, powerlifters displayed decreased GH ROM, but increased hamstring ROM, after training programs that were heavily focused on the bench press, back squat, and deadlift.

1Medical Scientist Training Program, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina;

2Department of Health and Exercise Science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey; and

3Department of Exercise Science and Sport, The University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania

Address correspondence to Dr. Paul T. Cutrufello,

Copyright © 2018 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.