Guest Post: Skeptical of Static Contraction

Today’s post is by a customer named David Dressler who was skeptical of Static Contraction and found his own way to test it on himself – including its effects on his weak-range strength.


Challenging Your Own Belief System

I want to “echo” and add something to what Greg Karr M.S., C.S.C.S., NSCA-CPT said in his article June 4, 2011 about Static Contraction Training.

For over 40 years I had been body-building with weights as heavy as I could possibly lift in the usual way for 3 sets of 5-8 reps 3 to 5 times a week. I was sore every day but lived under the then current dictum “no pain no gain”. I was pleased with my results but, of course, wanted to see what my ultimate limit was. It was at that point I encountered SCT.

I was skeptical. I did not want to try something that might cost me a lot of effort and actually lose strength or size in the process. What I read made sense, but I was still resistant. How could what I believed for over four decades–and which clearly worked–be improved in a fraction of the time? How could doing “half a rep” (working in the strong range) be of any value? Wouldn’t I lose strength in the “other half of the rep” (the weak range)? Would I have wasted four decades worth of sweat? That was the real issue: that I could be wrong all those years!

I decided to do an experiment. I would train only some body parts with SCT and continue to work the rest of my body in the usual way. That way, if SCT did not work, or if I got weaker and smaller, at least it would not happen to all my muscles at once. And, since SCT only takes a few seconds per exercise when done properly, certainly almost no time would be lost in the effort.

I decided to train my biceps, chest and quads with SCT. I would train everything else with my usual routine. I began very conservatively by just training my arms with SCT. When I experienced the results, I added my chest and quads. Below are my results after less than 6 weeks:

BEFORE  SCT                        AFTER SCT
Biceps 120 lbs                         210 lbs
Chest  175 lbs                          310 lbs
Quads 450 lbs                        1100 lbs

I also experienced less soreness and no direct injuries to the muscles being exerted with SCT. I did, however, injure my hands when I more than doubled my bench press within a few weeks, because I did not have the padded grips Pete recommended.

Undoubtedly I had grown stronger training in the strong range. Still skeptical, however, I wanted to see what had happened in the weak or less strong range. To find out, I deliberately set the equipment so that I would lift in the that range. I decided to start with the bench press.

Typically, people in the gym say to “bounce the weight off your chest” when doing the bench press. That is, lower the weight and let it touch the expanded chest for a split second and then lift it. This puts the elbows below the chest and elongates the pectoral muscles just prior to exerting the effort. Anyone who has done a bench press from this position knows it is the most difficult position from which to do the press. Every muscle and joint involved is actually at a disadvantage to lift: that is why it is not the “strong range.” But decades of bias, not science or even results, have accorded this position the status of being the “right way” to do the bench press, and millions of people are doing it that way. The fear of doing SCT in only the strong range is that one will lose strength in the weak or less strong range. I was testing this belief.

Even my weak or less strong range had gained strength dramatically and in proportion to the almost doubling of strength that took place in my strong range with the bench press. And I had not even lifted in the less strong range.

I found exactly the same thing with every muscle group I had trained with SCT in my experiment.

I can understand the reluctance to try SCT. You don’t want to risk losing your gains. The claims of SCT are almost unbelievable, especially with the peer pressure in the gym, even from trainers who keep telling you, “do full range or you will get short muscles and lose strength.” So, if you are like me, just try one or two muscle groups with SCT for a month. Then test your less strong range. I am certain you will have made strength gains you never believed possible in both your strong and less strong range, far exceeding anything you have gained in the muscles that you did not train with SCT during that time.

David Dressler, BA, RMT


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24 Responses to Guest Post: Skeptical of Static Contraction

  1. Frank Ithink at #


    Two comments, two questions.

    Comment. I see you went up quit a bit with your curl. I must be a pansy because that is one exercise I have not gained much at all since starting SCT. I can still only do 115#, max! And I’m going nowhere fast. Weird how my biceps are so weak — and yet I have nice biceps if that makes any sense.

    Comment 2. Pain in hands. Oh man, can I relate to that. My best static bench is 440# and that was only once due to massive pain in hands/wrists on anything over 300#. I’ve actually tumbled back to under 400 – sometimes down to mid 300’s – due to one reason — pain in wrists and back of hands.

    Question. After all this time, are you honestly still going up (poundage) in all exercises? I’m not, at least I’m honest! 🙂 and I don’t see how anyone can increase amount of weight lifted each exercise after a year or two. I mean, us humans do/will max out. Right?

    Question 2. Greg and Pete – so are you doing SCT exclusively? Or switching between 1/2 reps (PFW) and static?

  2. Rene Kittelsen at #

    I believe!

    Only on my third week though, but I still gain strength in every workout! 🙂 I’m really starting to see a difference on my body, and I’m getting complimented about it aswell! YES!

    I was on a seminar for leadership training this weekend, and I couldn’t keep still about SCT, so now they’re two more coming this way 🙂

    and my closest friend have tried SCT, and he was surprised aswell and brought his brother in law to check it out too!


  3. Willie Belter at #

    Prior to doing full-range squats when I first started lifting 30 years ago I had trouble developing my glutes and hamstrings. My quads grew quick but, my legs lacked the development in the back. I want to continue developing the glutes and the hamstrings however, with SCT and PF training on a leg press I feel I’m not hitting those areas nearly as much as the quadriceps. Do you have any SCT and PF training suggestions to hit theses areas?

  4. Willie Belter at #

    I have another question about the lower back training with PF. I feel it more in my traps than the back area. I take the loaded bar and have it hang down with my arms straight and a very slight bend in the knees and try to concentrate using my lower back muscles to do the reps however my traps seem to feel the burn more than the lower back. Could you suggest something in my form where I can actually feel it in my lower back muscles verses the trapezoids?

  5. Willie, is there a reason why you don’t “feel” that you’re hitting those areas as much? The leg press is one of the best lower body exercises and we chose it because it hits all the muscles of the thighs the best. Plus it replicates functional movement so the strength gains will translate into real life strength improvement.

  6. Willie, are you keeping lordosis, or that curve in your lower back? That is extremely important. When I describe the motion of the deadlift I usually tell them that its not really a lift from the shouldres but its more of a thrusting of the hips forward that lifts the weight. If you do it that way, you should feel your lower back lifting the weight.

  7. David Dressler, BA, RMT at #

    Frank IThink,

    Although you have addressed “Greg/Pete” under my article, I am going to assume you might be addressing me, so I will answer.

    Regarding Comment 1 that you have not gained much in your biceps curl, yet you have otherwise, isn’t the clue here that your hands and wrists hurt? Of all exercises, biceps curls are going to stress those muscles most, particularly in the grip involved. That is why using pads and hooks are so important. Remember, I learned the hard way. The tiny ligaments in the hands get stretched and stressed, the little bones in the hands move out of ideal position in relation to one another, causing pain. The pain prevents maximum contraction of the hands, hence the biceps cannot engage fully.

    Comment 2 answers Comment 1 and itself.

    Your question: After all this time, I am not going up with every exercise. I cannot, because I have maxed out the equipment in my gym or else I have not been able to find equipment that allows the most effective SCT positioning. I have, however, held the gains I initially made with SCT, which were far, far beyond any I had made in decades, as I said. With the right equipment, positioning, and less of an underlying problem with my back, I see no reason why I would not keep gaining strength. I am 70 years old, and my strength in my “SCT muscles” are greater than in my 20s or 30s when I trained conventionally to my limit, and these SCT gains were made in decades less time!

    As to your final question, I am attempting to lift the heaviest weight I can do, in strong range, for five seconds (although I can’t actually count when I am putting that much effort out). I cannot do every muscle group this way, as I explained, due to the equipment, maxing out, and positioning problems.

    As for your persistent arm pain, and any other chronic pain, I recommend seeing a chiropractor, physical therapist, well-trained massage therapist, or doctor of osteopathy in your area. Very often what feels like muscle or tendon pain is actually pain arising from joints that have been slightly but significantly mispositioned during a movement or actual injury. The back is the usual place for this to happen, but with weight as heavy as we are lifting, any joint can be involved. When massage therapy does not work (because it usually involves treating only soft tissue), joints (boney tissue) must be addressed. That is where chiropractic and osteopathy and physical therapists who do manipulation are relevant.

    Good luck with your training!

  8. Speaking for myself, I normally only do SCT, however lately I’ve been experimenting with some Power Factor arm training tactics. But that’s just my own testing and research for something I’ve been working on. I don’t feel the need to be any stronger so I’m interested in maintaining my muscle rather than building more. If I can keep my levels of strength into my 60’s and 70’s it will be a big win for me.

  9. I do the biceps curl with a SCT machine and use the forearms to lift.I pad the bar and have no wrist/hand problems-I save that for the bench which gives my arthritic wrists heaps!

  10. Ken at #

    Maxing out the gym equipment – go to do the exercises with one arm or one leg – then you can improve again 🙂

  11. Monico at #

    Frank Ithink,
    I’ve been doing SCT for 1-1/2 years and I do still have gains on every workout. However, I have combined SCT and PFW. A few months ago Pete came out with a little study showing SCT more effective if you did as many 5 second holds as possible in 3 minutes. So I tried it and then I combined it with PFW. So my workout is now like this: SCT – as many 5 sec holds as possible in 3 min and then I drop some weight and to PFW – as many reps as possible in 1 min. This is not the most efficient way to workout but it has worked very well for me. Every workout I improve either by doing more reps on the PFW or doing more 5 sec holds on SCT. I increase the weight when I reach about 40 or 50 reps on PFW or my first SCT hold is longer than 7 seconds. Be patient, the weight increases will come. I sometimes have about 3 or 4 workouts between weight increases, but they do come. For example I am currently benching 525 lbs on my SCT and on my last workout I did 4 holds in 3 minutes. Two workouts before that I was at 3 holds in 3 min. The first hold is the longest at around 4 to 5 sec then each subsequent hold is shorter since my muscles are drained. Then I drop to 405 and did 38 reps on my last workout. The previous workout I did 36 reps in 1 min.

    I use a 3 way split (i.e. Workout A, Workout B and Workout C). A – Chest and Back, B – Legs and Shoulders and C – Arms (Bicep, Tricep and Forearms). I work out once every 7 days. That is each muscle group gets worked out once every 21 days and YES I still have gains.

    As for the hand pain, it was brutal the first 6 to 8 months. As you increase the amount of weight it gets to a point where your hands can’t take it. It’s a lot of weight that your body is not used to. I used a thick beer koozie and cut it in half to use as cushion pads. Your hands will eventually get used to the weight and the pain will disappear. I no longer feel any pain in my hands. The wrists are another story. I use wrist straps for all my push and arm lifts. The straps I use have velcro and can be tightened and loosened as needed. I never lift without them.

    At 44 years old I am nowhere near my limits. Don’t believe the ads about putting on 30 lbs of muscle in 30 days or anything close to that. Maybe an 18 year old being fed like a horse might get close. But, muscle grows very slowly, especially if you’re over 30. Don’t give up and keep pushing. Make sure you keep very accurate logs of your workouts so you have a true history of your lifts.

  12. Frank Ithink at #


    I did make a mistake – thinking Greg wrote the article. Thanks for your in depth reply.

    Re: curls. Kinda funny, but I don’t really have pain doing curls. I think I just have weak biceps. I doubt I’m going to break 115-120 SCT anytime. But, I’m going to try PFW (reps) and see if that won’t bump me up a little bit. Minor point because I do have good biceps. Weird. And yes I do use pads, hooks etc. No help on the bench press/tri but helps every other exercise.

    And 70 years old? Fantastic .. great stuff. Love to hear it.

  13. Frank Ithink at #


    Thanks. I’ve been doing SCT for years. I also use a 3 way split. One thing I’m going to try is what you touched on in your post. I’m going to try PFW (1/3 reps) or a combo of SCT/PFW….just for the heck of it.

    Really, at this stage of my life (54 yrs young and athletic since about 3) I’m happy with where I’m at. At times I want to outlift a young stud but in reality, not a big deal at this stage. Work my ass off once every 7-14 days and I’m happy. I don’t think I can really go up too much more in any of the exercises I do — which again, is fine.

    Thanks again for your detailed post. It’s good stuff for a lot of newbies or lurkers.

    P.S. Has anybody heard from Pete about that g.d. SCT machine yet??? Where is it??? 🙂

  14. Frank, here’s what I can tell you about the machine:

  15. Frank Ithink at #


    I was making a funny. Just taking a friendly jab at you and using your lingo (‘where is the g.d. thing’). I had read the article you linked to .. awhile back.

    No problem on my part. Take your time and get it right rather than rush it.

  16. Frank Ithink at #

    Being serious here…..not only keeping your strength into you 60’s/70’s but even 80’s and 90’s. Think about it. It can be done. I did it with my father who had severe, delusional Alzheimer’s and spinal stenosis. He was 85 when he passed away. The week before he passed, he was doing big #’s on partial reps. Big #’s. And he had more strength at 85 than he had at 25. I cannot tell you how that helped him (and me, in taking care of him) in soooo many aspects of living/life.

    I’m being serious. This is a true story.

  17. OK, I missed the jab. No worries.

  18. I believe you. We hear from people all the time who are 80+ and can’t believe how SCT has transformed their lives. The 65+ market is huge and it’s fairly immune to the “insane, are you man enough for this routine?” crap that drives so much fitness marketing. Happy news for me.

  19. Bob at #

    Hi Pete,

    I’ve been a fan of SCT for many years and by that I mean I have been following your website since when you were involved with the SCT machine …so for quite a awhile now ..but to be honest whenever I’ve tried SCT it seemed to easy to do so I just didn’t think I was getting anywhere and I would do a regular workout a few days later so I could feel like I actaully did something ie: sweat, felt sore the next day etc. but here’s the thing I never really got any results ..I would get frustrated and then go to the gym do too much and end up hurting myself and be out of commission for weeks I’m turning 65 in Oct and I really want to stay in shape and by that I mean I want to maintain a decent physique and not look like an old man but I don’t want to have to work out more than once or twice a week …what can you recomend and I hear people talk about their strength gains and how they can lift more weight but what about size.

  20. If you want minimum wear and tear on your body do SCT. It’s all you’ll ever need. Really. If you have a psychological need for doing more work in the gym then do Power Factor. It allows you to add more volume – but with full measurement! – so you avoid doing useless, draining workouts like everyone else in the gym does. The real key is having meaningful data from every exercise – SCT delivers that with the absolute minimum training volume, PF delivers it with whatever additional volume you want.

  21. charlie at #

    i have noticed when i have a little more bend in the knee on squats and legpress that i get more in the ham and glutes…also the DL works my hams and glutes, however you are not looking for fatigue the same as other workouts, espec. with SCT and pf might be a lot more volume but it is still not much compared to other workouts that use full range and rest…

  22. charlie at #

    like craig said stick your but out and maybe lower the bar to just above the knees at most 2 inches, this will nail your back and the bend in the knee will determine how much hamstring gets it.

  23. charlie at #

    is this with one hand or 2?
    are you doing curls with a ezcurl bar or straight bar or d-bells?
    i wonder because i do my SCT curls using my distal anterior radius because i have XF machine and a straight bar position kills my wrists…
    this allows me to do 260lb at my best, but also never really progressed
    also maybe do curls as the fist exercise on that day…my bis are never peak when i do them last…beyond that get NSA care or at least chiropractic to relax the nerves to the bicep so the function will be optimal.

  24. charlie at #

    neil make sure you are pushing through the base of the palm just past the wrist not out by the knuckles, in this position you may not even need to fully extend the wrists.
    if you lower your bench range just one inch toward the weak range your numbers will drop lots and you will take heaps of load off the wrist in that and load more into the muscles.
    i believe that straight bar is sub-optimal for bench, we should design a handle that fits on the XF. and holds our wrist and forearm in more comfortable supinated.