When I sent out the “What About Needing a Full Range of Motion?” message I received a great reply from customer named John S. who is a financial manager and occasional alligator wrangler (but that’s another story).
He refers to something I have also heard from many chiropractors and other medical professionals called Nociception. Wikipedia offers this definition:
Nociception (synonym: nocioception or nociperception) is defined as “the neural processes of encoding and processing noxious stimuli.” It is the afferent activity produced in the peripheral and central nervous system by stimuli that have the potential to damage tissue. This activity is initiated by nociceptors, (also called pain receptors), that can detect mechanical, thermal or chemical changes, above a set threshold. Once stimulated, a nociceptor transmits a signal along the spinal cord, to the brain. Nociception triggers a variety of autonomic responses and may also result in the experience of pain in sentient beings.
OK, so it has to do with how the body detects pain that could cause damage to the body. But what I liked about John’s interpretation was his analogy of what BMW automotive engineers do with a similar problem and what a useful analogy it is to help understand why Static Contraction works as well as it does.
“Nociception is described very simplistically as your muscles communicating back to your brain and feeding it information as to what position the joint is in as well as detecting mechanical, thermal and chemical stresses above a predetermined threshold in the muscle joint area, when nociception activates it basically prevents the muscles from contracting at 100% capacity.
If the joint in your shoulder is positioned in a mechanical disadvantage such as in the beginning of a full range bench press with the bar resting on the chest, the muscles will communicate to the brain via pain receptors that a 100% effort from the muscle would damage either the shoulder joint, tendons and or the shoulder and chest muscles themselves. The nociception/self-preservation system activates so that you cannot exert 100% effort thereby limiting the stimulus for muscle growth.
This begs the question; why does the vast majority of people work out in the weakest range with resistance that is not enough to stimulate maximal growth? I can surmise why from why I trained that way which was due to the fact that I deluded myself and mimicked what I read and saw in the magazines, never once questioning the rationale behind their methods. Never did I ever think that these monsters in the mags were taking drugs to attain the degree of mass they showed.
To illustrate more of how nociception works would be to reference the modern automobile when a malfunction occurs within the engine, for example a camshaft position sensor gone awry. On my own BMW M5 for instance there are sensors in the motor that will communicate to the computer that the camshaft position sensors are not functioning properly, the computer will then cause the vehicle’s fuel management and ignition systems to go into “limp mode” meaning the full potential power of the engine is curtailed/retarded drastically to prevent self-destruction or damage to moving parts of the engine thereby allowing the driver to “limp” home.
To further illustrate my point you don’t start out your car from a standing stop in 6th gear. If I revved my engine up to 6000 rpms in 6th gear and dumped the clutch one of two things will happen, I will smoke the clutch or I will rip out the 6th gear in the transmission causing catastrophic failure. This is what is happening in gyms all over the country when a young up and comer tests his strength on the bench press and ends up with a lifelong injury causing untold depression and lost opportunities in life. He overrode the nociceptors and blew his transmission.
As you [Pete] so beautifully described in your articles those who are ignorant and brainwashed choose a weight light enough to exercise within the confines of their weakest range. Then once the weight has traveled beyond the weak range the muscles are no longer working to full capacity even though they are now capable due to the mechanical advantage which is now not enough to impose stress induced stimuli required to trigger a growth response which then ultimately results in zero to mediocre results, in the worst case scenario you end up with a torn pectorals if you manage to somehow hype yourself up to temporarily override the nociceptors when starting the bar off the chest. The same is true for squats etc.
This conclusion is accurate and true, I have seen video footage of the pectorals ripping when the bar is on the chest or at the starting point. Every time an injury during bench pressing occurs the bar is always on the chest when it happens. I have yet to see or hear of anyone having a pec tear in the last 3rd of the movement.
So when the old standby three days a week system stops working the same people then resort to bizarre training regimens under the premise that more is better, more time in the gym, more reps, more sets, more exercises combined with more visits to the gym. The only result for these poor people is more of the same. As you succinctly stated these are the people who look the same as 10 years ago only older and weaker. Talk about a downward spiraling result.
This further underscores why every other training method is pseudo-training and literally a total waste of time and potentially damaging to your body. The question then is why would you want to train in “Limp Mode”?
With PFT and SCT you are in the optimal range, nocicepters are signaling a green light and the muscles have told the brain that full effort is safe to engage, the brain subsequently sends out the message to put the pedal to the metal resulting in an explosive muscular contraction without the fear of engaging the ABS (Automatic Braking System) or going into Limp Mode.
I think the automotive engineers that invented these monitoring systems for cars got their ideas from human anatomy, neurology and kinesiology as the two systems are fundamentally the same.
I want to stress Pete that I do enjoy reading your articles and never glance over them. I have put your research to the test and have concluded beyond a shadow of doubt that PFT and SCT are the only methods to employ if you want to safely and quickly reach your genetic potential for strength and size.
BTW I weigh a solid 275 lbs at 5’10” in height and I’m now 47 years old.”
Great stuff. Thanks again, John. It always makes my day when a customer can so completely demonstrate that he “gets it”. SCT is about safely lifting the heaviest weight you possibly can. Why would anybody doubt that would work?