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Power Factor Training Minimalism Study

PFMS Headline

For about two years we’ve been running some informal studies to determine what tactics in the gym deliver the best gains of muscle mass and size.

So if trainees lifted all-out for 30, 60 or 90 seconds at a time, who would you guess gained the most mass and size at the end of eight workouts?

Well, it turns our the 30-second guys did. They did less – but they gained more mass. Remember that for a moment.

We also tested some other tactics:

  • Full range of motion
  • Strongest range of motion
  • Static Contraction using 1 set
  • Static Contraction using 3 sets

We reported on all of that here.

Right now we’re running another study to see what variations in training frequency can do to speed up gains.

You And I Can Study What We Want

This is the great thing about having our own community of people who are interested in rational strength training and appreciate the value of basic experimentation and gathering data. On top of that, it’s just plain fun.

I’ve realized that it’s like having our own crowd-funding site for things related to rational strength training. Everybody who reads this and is on my mailing list is a person with an awareness of the merits of taking a scientific, mathematical approach to weightlifting for functional strength gains.

Nobody else is doing this direct-to-the-customer stuff. At one end of the spectrum are the guys just pushing the same “3 sets of 10” for every exercise and “three days per week” for the rest of your life. Those guys aren’t curious or interested in new findings because their advice will never change anyway.

At the other end are some expensive university studies that are often funded by big operators with an agenda, like finding some food compound that has a minimal effect then building a giant nutritional supplement campaign around minimal and logically inconclusive results.

But we can do our own informal investigations into whatever we are interested in. Such as . . .

What’s the MINIMUM You Can Do?

What’s the minimum about of weightlifting you can do to trigger systemic muscle growth in your body? You might have read my interview with longtime customer Mark who says after years of overtraining frustration he used Power Factor principles to gain 35lbs of new muscle using only two exercises and eventually training only once every six months.

That got some of us on the blog thinking. What would be the minimum amount of exercise required to trigger growth and gain mass and size? Since we’re now sitting on a bunch of new data from the trainees mentioned in the above studies – and we know what mass and size they gained performing six different heavy exercises – it will be easy to compare “apples to apples” with how a similar group of trainees does with just two of those exercises.

Remember, the guys who lifted for 30 seconds outperformed the guys who lifted for 60 or 90 seconds? Is it possible that trainees who pour all of their effort and recovery resources into just two exercises will do as well? Might they do even better? Is less really more?

Right now we don’t know. But this simple little study could give us some exciting data that will point to an answer.

What will it mean if they exceed the current high-water mark of 7.1 lbs of new muscle and 2 inches of size with less exercise?

Let’s find out.


This variation of the Mass Gain study is called the Power Factor Minimalism Study. It uses just two of the six common exercises the trainees used in Part 1 & 2 of the study. We have their data. Next we’ll be able to compare it to this new data we’ll collect from trainees who pour everything they have into just:

- Bench press
- Barbell deadlift


We need several dozen people who would like to have their next 10 Power Factor workouts engineered by me in a way that maximizes their power output for optimal results. We are specifically aiming to increase both total muscle mass and muscle size and will measure those gains. (Lean mass gain, chest size, biceps size, waist size.)

Grip Strength as a Recovery Indicator

Since this study involves just two exercises, it’s a good time to test one other thing I’ve been wondering about for many years. Apparently some old time strongmen who did massive lifts for show purposes used their grip strength as a measure of whether or not they were recovered enough for a record lift.

So before trying to lift an entire wagon with ten men and women standing in it, they would first see if they could lift a certain weight using only their grip. As the story goes, this was a quick way they could measure their state of recovery without depleting themselves with a failed heavy lift. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it isn’t. But this would be a good opportunity to check to see if there is a reliable correlation between what your grip power is today and what you can bench press and deadlift.

So on this little study we’re adding the simple task of squeezing your bathroom scale the morning of your workout and recording the peak reading. Over ten workouts we’ll see if there is any validity to the old story. Frankly, I hope it is true because the world needs a quick and easy indicator of systemic recovery from heavy weightlifting.

Behold! A whopping 28.8 lbs of grip strength. (Hey, I was concentrating on getting the photo.)

To do this properly I need to interact with each participant. Specifically;

a) The results of each of your workouts needs to be sent to me via e-mail so I can analyze your progress and make adjustments over the period of the study. (An online form automates this and makes it simple for you.)
b) There will be only two different exercises and every workout will be the same. You can’t substitute exercises – we need barbell or machine bench presses and barbell or machine deadlifts. These are strongest range reps done in a power rack or Smith machine and you can expect to work up to heavy weights. All trainees will perform 10 workouts, as quickly as feasible, as determined by their progress and recovery data. Each schedule is customized to the individual.
c) You need access to a basic body fat scale or calipers so we know the difference between muscle gain and fat gain or loss. You also need access to a bathroom scale you can hold in your hands to measure your grip strength.
d) Diet is not being tested for this study so eating normally is fine.
e) As always, I have to make my medical/legal disclaimer that I am not a physician and have no way of knowing your suitability for strenuous exercise. The decision to lift heavy weights is between you and your accredited physician and I cannot assume the liability for your decision and participation.

The cost to participate in this study is only $55.

For that, you will receive;

– My personal coaching and encouragement via e-mail to wring everything you can out of these workouts.

– Each of your workouts will be analyzed and new goals will be engineered according to your rate of progress and your rate of recovery. These will be emailed to you. The objective is to provide you with 10 productive workouts.

– You will be first to receive the full report of what occurred and the first to receive any form of workout that might be derived from the data.

– But most importantly, you will have the satisfaction of DOING SOMETHING to move the world of strength training toward a model of testing and measurement in order to make intelligent decisions about what works and how well it works.

It will be fascinating to see whether the people in this new study can equal or outperform the gains from all other protocols.

Common Questions:

Is my age a factor? We have people doing the PF study aged from their 20′s to 70′s so if you’re in that range it will be fine. The median age of the previous groups was 51 years old.

Can I use rubber bands, bodyweight, etc.? No. You need access to moderately heavy weights that will exhaust target muscles within 30 seconds of lifting. Home gym or commercial gym does not matter but you need barbells or machines. Both the exercises are common ones. (See list, above.) Also, this is not a Static Contraction workout.

I haven’t been working out out lately, can I still participate? Yes. Everyone starts at whatever his strength level is right now and then works from there. You start by lifting a weight that feels heavy to you, whether it’s 300 lbs or 20 lbs. We are measuring the progress of people at all levels of strength and fitness.

Do I have to start immediately? You can start any time in the month of April, 2016.

I’m in Pete, I’d like to be in the Power Factor Minimalism study. $55.00


P.S. This has proven to be a fantastic way to leverage our little community of rational strength trainers. Your assistance is truly needed. And, hey, it will be a fun story to tell people and make the next couple of months more interesting.

“I’m interested but I have a question first.”



What I Learned Since Quitting

A few years ago I decided I’d had enough of the world of strength training.

I’d spend nearly 20 years talking about it and investigating ways to use good reasoning, math and physics to try to make sense of what worked well and what did not work well in terms of gaining strength and muscle mass.

I suppose I got a little burned out. So I left.

But after a couple of years with no day to day involvement, I began to miss it a little. Then I got thinking about all the things that could still be investigated and my curiosity got the best of me. There was still so much that could be examined and discovered. So I rolled up my sleeves (again) and dived back in.

1. Timed Sets Generate Your Highest Output

Once you understand the role of high intensity in building muscle, you start wondering what techniques generate more intensity than others.

I’ve always been amazed that with all the thousands of trainers who talk about ‘high intensity’ virtually none of them has a measurement of it that they use when lifting. (???)

What’s equally amazing is never knowing whether, say, strip sets or pyramid sets generate more intensity. Because if you did know, would you ever use the inferior, lower intensity method?

Anyway, we testing the common variations and discovered that timed sets cause trainees to generate their highest output per unit of time.

The free report is here:


2. A Way to Guarantee Strength, Mass & Size Gains

It’s a tricky business to get steady progress in the gym. A big part of the reason is because a person has to be recovered before new muscle will grow. Ignore that and you’ll just dig a metabolic hole, get very tired, and stop making progress no matter how often you train.

Keeping track of the objective intensity of each exercise, plus personal recovery, plus training frequency can be very complex. To add to this, while things like adding a second set will double workout volume, it will not double the needed recovery. The relationship between volume and recovery is not linear.

On top of that, adding more weight is disproportionately more demanding than adding more reps. Two reps with 200 lbs is not the same as one rep with 400 lbs. That’s another non-linear relationship.

One of the first things I did when I came back was to create the Engineered Strength Gym to keep track of all the above and a bit more. I don’t talk about it the way I should. To be honest, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever come up with. Especially for evaluating the complexity of a Power Factor workout. It’s basically guaranteed strength, mass gains. Plain and simple.

Engineered Strength Gym

3. A Mass Gain Study

But there is something very fascinating that I’ve recently come to realize.

We started an informal Mass Gain Study where volunteer trainees did very specific workouts so we could measure their results.

We discovered a lot of really interesting things. And it’s made me realize that – as our own little community of people interested in rational strength training – we can examine anything we want. Together.

I don’t want to go all philosophical on you, but personal freedom is a hugely important theme with me. So whenever I discover an aspect of personal freedom that I can enjoy, it really resonates with me. And I’ve realized that you and I and everyone else on my mailing list and in this little marketplace can explore anything we want as it relates to strength training.

How cool is that?


4. Crowdsourcing New Data

Recently some of us have been chatting about how LITTLE exercise it might take to trigger systemic muscle growth. That’s a good question. So we put together a quick and easy way to test that in ten workouts.

We’re running a really valuable informal study to discover the effects of minimal exercise using maximal effort as it relates to strength, mass and size gains.

I call it the Power Factor Minimalism Study and it would be great if you could participate and contribute the data from your experience.


This is a form of crowdsourcing stuff we are all interested in. And I think it’s a very positive new application of technology and social media. There is so much knowledge to discover. And keeping a curious mind is a good way to stay young. That’s another thing I think about as I approach 60. Ha!

So please take a look at what we’re doing to examine the question of how little exercise can still achieve a goal. This is very valuable information for those of us who have busy, enriching lives outside the gym and don’t care to waste precious time doing more than what is necessary to maintain good health.

If any of that resonates with you, I hope you’ll want to participate.

Thanks for your continued interest in rational strength training.