People do some pretty crazy shit at the gym.
One of the biggest mistakes I see when I observe people training is this…
Redundancy is defined as being “an unnecessary or unessential (and sometimes unintentional) repetition”.
In other words- doing the same thing over and over again.
This is true in almost every aspect of training you see happening in the gym- from cardio to stretching and also strength training. Most folks tend to repeat their same workouts over and over and over while hoping for a different result.
As you know, continually repeating a behavior while hoping for a different result is considered by many to be the definition of insanity. However, I doubt that the people doing this are nuts- I prefer to think of them as being misinformed.
When it comes to designing your workout program there are literally endless possible combinations of exercises, reps, sets, rest intervals and tempos that can be incorporated but today I wanted to shine some light on the one aspect nearly everybody overlooks- positions of flexion.
Positions of flexion (POF) is not a new training concept. In fact, I first discovered it for myself about 20 years ago. However, outside of bodybuilding circles it is completely unknown and that is a shame since it bears relevance for any person who wants to see better results in the weight room.
This training technique involves training each muscle group through its full range of motion with the focus on three positions of flexion- mid range, stretch and contracted.
The POF technique is often performed in a circuit fashion using three exercises back to back to back. The circuit begins with a mid range position exercise, followed by a stretch position and ends with a contracted position exercise.
With the POF technique you tap into more muscle fibers than your typical workout and this can produce some impressive results- especially when you combine POF with the correct loading parameters.
To better illustrate what I am talking about lets apply POF to an arm training routine. The typical bicep training program usually looks something like this;
Standing barbell curls- 3 sets of 10 reps
Seated dumbbell bicep curls- 3 sets of 12
Cable curls- 3 sets of 15 reps
A newbie looking at this might say “what’s wrong with this? There are 3 different exercises and 3 different rep brackets?”
The problem is redundancy. When you examine the program a bit closer you can see that each exercise is essentially the same and is working only one position of flexion- mid range.
In order to fix this we need to do two things-
- Change up the exercises
- Modify the repetitions
A POF bicep routine would look more like this;
Standing barbell curls: 4-6 reps with a 5/1/2 tempo
Incline hammer curls: 10-12 reps with a 3/1/1 tempo
Reverse grip EZ curls on preacher bench: 15-20 reps with a 2/X/0 tempo
If you look closely there are some subtle yet significant differences between these three exercises:
First, all three exercises differ in terms of elbow position. The first exercise has the elbows positioned on each side of the body in what is known as a “mid range” position. In the second exercise the elbows are behind the body creating a “stretch” position and on the third exercise the elbows are in front of the body placing an emphasis on the “contracted” position.
Second, all three exercises differ in terms of hand position. The first exercise has the palms facing up, in the second exercise the palms are facing the body and with the third exercise the palms are facing down.
Third, there is a difference in repetition ranges. The first exercise uses heavy weight and low reps in the 4-6 range. The second exercise incorporates moderate weight in the 10-12 rep range. The third exercise utilizes high reps in the 15-20 rep range. This is done in order to stimulate different muscle fibers throughout the repetition continuum.
Finally, there is a change in lifting speed or tempo between each exercise. The first exercise uses a very controlled tempo with an extra slow negative or lowering phase of each rep. The second exercise incorporates a more moderate tempo and the final movement utilizes a fast tempo.
This same technique can be used for every major muscle group. Here are some sample combinations for you to try;
Mid range- Barbell squats
Stretch- Sissy squat
Contracted- Step up (or leg extension but I prefer step ups for knee safety)
Mid range- Chin up
Stretch- Cable Pullovers with straight bar
Contracted- Prone dumbbell rows
Mid range- Close grip bench press
Stretch- Behind the head triceps extension
Contracted- Prone triceps kickback
Here is a quick video I shot that explains POF with respect to arm training:
These are many possible combinations of exercises that you can plug into a POF routine. Taking the time to properly design your workout routine so as to eliminate any redundancy can have a significant impact on your results while helping to prevent any overuse injuries. I always keep this in mind when designing training programs for my clients and hope that you will too.