Lee over at Ordinary Joe Bodybuilding asked me a few questions for an article at his blog.
1. Hi, Pete. It is estimated over 200,000 trainees have used your training methods – how did your Static Contraction story start?
It started in a commercial gym in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley in 1992. My friend and I started training together. He was a lifetime fitness advocate and I was a busy guy who didn’t like being in the gym and wanted every minute I was in there to give me maximum bang for the buck.
I wrote down every exercise, weight, rep and set that I did and I timed all of it on my wristwatch. After every workout I transferred all the information onto my laptop while we ate hamburgers and yakked about life in general at a nearby restaurant. We both knew Mike Mentzer and respected his emphasis on ‘high intensity training.’ I studied math and physics and when the talk turned to intensity I wanted to know how it was measured and quantified. Nobody knew. There literally was no measurement being used. (Almost 20 years later, except for my training, there still isn’t a measurement. The mind boggles.)
Anyway, I used a simple measurement of the total weight lifted divided by how much time it took to lift it. Long story short, I called that measurement the Power Factor. Having meaningful numbers led to finding ways to increase the intensity of every exercise and that eventually led to Static Contraction. When you lift under ideal circumstances the absolute maximum weight you can hold for five seconds but no longer, it represents the highest intensity any muscle can generate. Do that on a progressive basis and great things happen.
2. Who has been your biggest training influence, and how did they help you?
My biggest training influences have been, as I mentioned, Mike Mentzer for pointing out the role of high intensity and Isaac Newton and James Watt.
Newton created the new world where people look to science and math for answers to mysteries and Watt pioneered the study and measurement of power. I’m serious about those influences. Newton has probably done more to improve my life (and everyone else’s) than any single person I can name.
Once science and experiment established that lifting heavy things builds muscles in humans, the rest is just the laws of mechanics. For me, that cuts right through 99% of the BS heard in gyms. If someone claims A is a better biceps exercise than B, I want to see measurements that prove it.
3. If you were to select the number one training mistake, what would it be?
People train too often. You can’t grow new muscle until you fully recover from your last workout. Then you wait for new muscle to grow while you are asleep one night. When you go back to the gym you are a stronger man (or woman) and you should be able to lift more weight. When you lift more, you stimulate new muscle growth again. Piece of cake.
But people screw that up by going back to the gym too soon. They aren’t any stronger so they do some dumb workout that hasn’t a prayer of building new muscle. It’s busywork.
This is what happens to people who believe the ‘Monday, Wednesday, Friday’ nonsense. Who on earth can get stronger every 48 hours for months at a time? Maybe a young male jacking himself full of two grand a month in pharmaceutical help could do it. Nobody else can. But guess what days are always busiest at the gym? Sad and avoidable.
4. In the same way you might choose an ideal dinner guest, who would be your ideal training partner and why?
My ideal training partner would be any person who has seriously studied engineering. An engineer has the right training and mindset. He knows you have to have a defined goal and you have to have objective and actionable data points on the path to that goal.
Engineers understand objective measurement. They know that when you deviate away from your goal you have to make adjustments in your tactics.
When people train with Static Contraction or Power Factor they are writing down their performance. Power Factor uses spreadsheets to create graphs so you can see success and failure. Engineers get that.
5. If you could travel back in time, what training advice would you give your teenage self?
I heard every dumb thing we all hear in gyms. ‘Heavy weights for mass, light weights for definition’ and ‘today’s my light day, tomorrow’s my heavy day.’ I’m embarrassed to say I used to repeat it to my friends, trying to be helpful.
I didn’t get smart until my early thirties. Like most people, my visits to the gym didn’t do a thing to transform me. It was only after 1992 when I started measuring everything that I got really strong.
I was amazed at what I could lift. I once lifted a total of one million pounds in just over two hours. It worked out to something like three and a half TONS every minute for over two hours. And I was a guy with an office job who visited the gym maybe three times a month.
6. And finally, in your book Train Smart, you say the day is coming when people achieve their optimum muscularity by doing 30 seconds of exercise per month. How do you see Static Contraction Training developing in the future?
That’s already happening for many people who post comments on my blog. They train about once a month by doing five exercises with intensity that is off the charts compared to most people. Guys who are 60 or 70 are benching over 500 lbs and leg pressing close to a ton. They only do it for five seconds. But when they come back next month they are stronger and can do more. (Technically it’s two months later for the same exercises, since they are on a split routine.)
The big future for static contraction will come when a proper static contraction home machine is available. Having a simple machine that uses no weight plates or stacks yet offers literally tons of resistance, records digital measurements of 10 or 20 strength parameters will revolutionize strength training. That can’t come soon enough for me.
Nearly every gym today uses machines that could have been build with 1850’s technology. I’m serious about that. Take a look at the next machine you use for an exercise and ask yourself what component of it was not available at the time of the steam engine. It’s sad how primitive strength training is in this century. And shameful how many people want to keep it that way for their own financial benefit at the expense of other’s health and wealth.
Thanks for interviewing me, Lee.
Thank you for your time, Pete. Our readers at Ordinary Joe Muscle Building wish you every success!