One of our goals during each and every workout is to activate and work as much muscle as possible. It doesn’t matter whether you’re training a single muscle group or your entire body, more muscle involvement means more calories burnt and more stimuli for muscle growth.

There are several ways to do it but besides adding more exercises to the workout or increasing weights, there’s a single easiest method that you can use to activate more muscle during most exercises. That way is extending the range of motion.

Now, first of all, you need to understand that not every exercise benefits from the extended range of motion. Some exercises, like the bicep curl, for example, actually benefit from the limited range of motion because that way the muscles spend more time under tension. Extending the range of motion to lock the elbows at the bottom or to push the barbell against the chest at the top will actually allow the muscles to rest in case of the bicep curl.

But there are many exercises that become more intense because of the greater range of motion and they activate more muscle at the weakest spots as a result. Here are some of the more common examples.

Decline Push Up

You can extend the range of motion of a push up if you elevate your arms on weight plates, kettlebells or even dumbbells. This works best with the decline push up because you need to raise your legs to the same or greater level to keep the top part of the exercise at the same difficulty. This way at the bottom of the exercise you have to push yourself from a dip like position which adds more intensity, activates more muscle and works on the most difficult part of the push up.

Pull Up

It’s easy to extend the range of motion of a pull up by pulling your chest up to the bar rather than only the chin. This exercise is one that is commonly limited as far as the range of motion goes because guys tend to cheat and don’t pull themselves up enough to complete more reps. However, that works against them because incomplete reps really cut the benefits of this great exercise. If you go for the extended range of motion you can guarantee that those upper back and shoulder muscles get hit really hard.

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

You can really get down on the bottom part of the deadlift if you increase the range of motion of the kettlebell sumo deadlift. Stand on weight plates or other elevated platforms so that you pick the weight up from the floor lower than your feet. This makes a deeper starting position and activates more muscle to initiate the lift. This way even when you go back to the standard deadlift, your performance will increase.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is performed by swinging the weight up to the chest level to primarily activate the hips and explosive hip thrust power. But you can easily involve more back muscles and your shoulders if you swing the weight above your head. This obviously requires greater hip thrust power too.

As you can see from these four examples, activating more muscle in each exercise is just a matter of extending the range of motion by making the muscles move more under tension. You can use this method with any exercise as long as the muscles don’t get the rest at the top of the movement (bicep curls, bench press, shoulder press) but increase the tension (squat, row, pull exercises).