Static Contraction Exercise Examples and Some “Cheats”

by Pete Sisco · 23 comments

in Training

If you are just hearing about Static Contraction Training (SCT) you might want to try a few of the exercises at your gym just to satisfy yourself that there really is a difference.

The basics of SCT are to, a) limit the range of motion to only your strongest and safest range then, b) for just 5 seconds lift the heaviest weight you can within that range.

The exercises themselves are common ones you likely already do using your full, weakest range of motion. They can all be performed on regular equipment found in almost all gyms. You will also (happily) need quite a lot of iron plates.

Below are three great examples from the Train Smart e-book.

When you try these you will suddenly realize how much your muscles really can lift and how many muscle fibers must be dormant and unstimulated during your normal, weak-range exercises.

Static Contraction Bench Press

Bench Press:
This exercise is performed inside a Power Rack, as pictured. Position the bar within 4 inches of your extended reach. Place 30-100% more weight on the bar than you normally use. Press the bar up one inch (do not lock-out) and hold for a about of 5 seconds while exhaling. Experiment to find the most weight you can hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 days later with 10-30% more weight and again 5 days after that with another 10-30% more weight. Always use a weight that is so heavy you can only hold it 5 seconds. If you can hold it longer, it is too light. This applies to all three exercises on this page.

Static Contraction Shoulder Shrug

Shrug:
This exercise is performed inside a Power Rack, as pictured. Position the bar within one inch of your grasp while standing. Place 30-100% more weight on the bar than you normally use. Lift the bar off the support and use your trapezius muscles to raise the weight just slightly. Hold for a count of 5 seconds while exhaling. Experiment to find the most weight you can hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 days later with 10-30% more weight and again 5 days after that with another 10-30% more weight.

Static Contraction Leg Press

Leg Press:
This exercise is performed with safety stops engaged at ALL TIMES. Position the seat so the sled is within 4 inches of your full extension. Place 100-200% more weight on the press than you normally use. Press the sled up one inch off the safety stops. Hold for a count of 5 seconds while exhaling. Do not lock out. Experiment to find the most weight you can hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 days later with 20-50% more weight and again 5 days after that with another 20-50% more weight.

After you’ve followed these instructions you will discover that not only do you lift more weight, you can exactly measure your progress with a meaningful number for each exercise. When you train with SCT you simply “train by the numbers” and can always see progress or lack of progress and know whether or not you are fully recovered with mathematical precision. The full Train Smart workout consists of 10 exercises that are divided into two different workouts using just five exercises. An SCT workout consists of going into the gym and performing five exercises lasting five seconds each and then either leaving the gym or spending your time working on some aspect of fitness other than strength training. If you’re a person who wants measurable results and doesn’t like to waste time, SCT is made for you.

Some Exercise “Cheats”

Those of you who have been training with SCT for a few months often write me to say that you are now so strong that you are max’ing out the equipment at your gym. In other words, SCT has literally made you too strong for normal gym equipment. The first thing I like to tell people who write me about this is, “That’s a great problem to have!.”

Here are a few things you can do to cheat the machines and get more intensity out of the exercises.

Lat Pulldowns: Most of these machines operate by lifting a stack of plates held in place by a locking pin. Sometimes you can add one or two dumbbells to the top of the weight stack. Obvious Warning: make sure the dumbbell isn’t going to fall off the stack when you lift it. This can work for SCT because you only perform a 5 second exercise, never try it for multiple full range reps. Also, using a single grip handle you can perform lat pulldowns using one arm at a time, thus effectively doubling the weight.

Ab Crunches: Can use the same cheat as above on the weight stack.

Biceps: If you are using a machine, rather than a barbell, you can use both hands to pull the weight into your strongest position then release one hand and hold that position statically with only the other hand. This basically doubles the amount of weight and intensity compared to using both arms.

Leg Press and Toe Press: You can also perform these exercises using one leg at a time thus doubling the weight. Be very careful not to torque your pelvis and spine – if you feel even a slight twinge of pain don’t do it. My preference is to place an empty barbell across the sled and then load it with additional plates. I’ve used machines that can accommodate two barbells.

The sad thing is that most humans are capable of getting too strong for conventional weightlifting equipment yet the same machines get built year after year. Worse, the common advice is to risk a serious injury using a full range of motion just so these machines can appear to have adequate weight for most people. (There is a reason you never see weights in a yoga class – heavy weights and flexibility training don’t mix.) The world needs machines that provide adequate intensity for people lifting in the strongest, safest range of motion. Static Contraction: building muscle without maximizing joint and tendon injuries – what a radical concept!

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1 Jack Haynes

Hi Pete -

What do you think will happen?

The idea is that as young guys we discovered that you could actually get stronger during a workout.

In other words, if your best BP was 300, in proper form with maximum effort and after a good warm-up with lighter weights we would, following a rest, try to lift the 300 faster and stronger; that is to say, make every extra rep better than the previous rep and do this for 8-10 extra single reps.

And it worked.

On some of those extra reps our brains were so fired up the weight would seem to fly off our chests, causing one to believe 350 was just around the corner.

We also got arm weary, but who cared?

Unfortunately, these were pre-SCT times (60 years ago) and we were 3 days a week lifters who never really understood the science of rest and recovery.

Last week, while doing SCT benches and using max. wt., I did extra sets killing myself to hold the weight for just the tiniest fraction of a second longer and also tried to do the same with shorter rest intervals.

Food for thought?

Let’s see what happens.

Like you, it’s fun to experiment.

JH

2 Shane F

I’m curious what the problems are with doing squats and calf raises with a bar as opposed to using a leg press machine. I’m starting SCT next week when I get my power rack put together, and won’t be joining a gym. Any advise for a beginner? Thanks!

BTW – I have trained with weights prior, but have been off for a little over a month due to a bulging disc in my neck giving me a rough time. I also wasn’t getting the results I wanted, and I now want to try a new approach.

3 Pete Sisco

1. You can never squat as much as you can leg press (even allowing for the 45 degree angle of the press and it’s 70.7% equivalence) so when you do squats the intensity is reduced.
2. Many people get neck and spine pain when doing very heavy squats. That does not happen with the leg press.

If you have no access to a good leg press and must do squats then you are stuck with them. But they are inferior in terms of intensity.

4 David

Hi Pete or Greg,

I look forward to news of the release of the new machine. I am based in the UK, are there plans to release it in the UK and Europe?

Many thanks…

5 Greg Karr

David, the short answer is…..yes!

6 Brian T

Greg,
Sorry if I asked this somewhere else (I can’t find it), but can you give us an approximation of the cost (plus shipping worldwide) of the new sct machine and roughly when we can expect it to be available?

Thanks,
Brian

7 Greg Karr

Brian, I don’t have that information yet to share. But as soon as I do, you guys will know about it.

8 mohamed

Hey Pete, thanks for that great news about the sct machine ..i am from Guyana South America , i started sct there about 2 yrs ago , however i did not have access to a gym there so i squat instead of legpress. I have been in the US for 10 mths now but only just got into a gym.NOW there are legpress machines there BUT there is a resistance of 360lbs max .When i came here i was static holding 550lbs on the squat now the 360 was not enough for ONE leg on the legpress machine ..so do i go back to the squat or what ….please advise

9 Pete Sisco

To be honest, my first chose would be to look for another gym. A leg press with 360 lbs of resistance is a toy. You could do squats in a power rack but there are risks. The smart move is to find a better gym.

10 Ronny Andersen

Hi Pete,

Would one leg 210+ kg be more intense than two leg 400 kg.. kinda know the answer but good to have it confirmed. =) Also.. I have a problem with grip strength.. any chance to use STC to increase grip strength and if so how can I incorporate it?

Thanks and have a wonderful day!

Ron

11 Pete Sisco

420 is always more than 400. Hammer Strength makes a grip machine but it’s rare to find them in a gym. You have to improvise with a weight plate or dumbbell that mimics the type of grip you are trying to improve. The same principles apply – a weight so heavy you can only hold it 5 seconds.

12 Ronny Andersen

Hi Pete,
Thanks for the quick reply, going to do my A workout today.. I`m excited! I will see if I can find some things to lift with my fingers/grip..

Take care and keep up the good work. =)

Ron

13 chris

cant wait to see the sc machine. there does not seem to be any gyms that i can find that have heavy enough machines for lats and legs. was forced to go to that new three minute multiple five second holds so i can use a little less weight. and yes pete that is a good problem.

14 Greg Karr

Chris, the wait will be worth it, trust me!! I know because I’ve been behind the scenes in the initial design phase and I can tell you the machine will be revolutionary.

15 Brian T

Sounds awesome.

Will there be an option as well where you can put a resistance band around the bar (at different and varying heights and angles you want) for strengthening impact positions for kicks and punches like Bruce Lee did? Measuring progress in extra sport specific exercises would be awesome too!

16 Greg Karr

That’s not something we were thinking about but its an interesting idea. I’ll have to see if its something we can integrate.

17 sheri

I was just about to ask the same qu! so will this b equipment for a gym or something the average Joe & Jane can buy for home. also, any idea on the approx time frame? I’m about to lock in for 3yrs at my gym…the gyms tht don’t lock me in don’t have the equipment I need for ur workouts.

thx!

18 Greg Karr

Sheri, this will be equipment for the home. I don’t have an approximate time frame yet but trust me, you guys on this blog will be THE FIRST to know when we plan on launching the product so stay tuned!

19 Tom Strong

Hmmm…..

Would I also be able to use this in a gym for clients, perhaps a store front location? I like the concept that Pete spoke of in Maximum Strength Training of a nationwide hookup where clients could go to whether at home or traveling. I would also be interested in becoming certified to teach SCT as you had discussed in another post. I currently am certified by AFPA (American Fitness Professional Association) as a Personal Trainer, Advanced Personal Trainer, Nutritional and Wellness Consultant and Sports Conditioning Consultant.

20 Greg Karr

As I said before Tom, we have hundreds of ideas in the works…… ;-) And people on this blog will be the first to hear about them as we roll them out.

21 Donnie Hunt

Great Article!

22 Jérôme

Hi Pete,

Just getting tired of loading and unloading the bar in the power rack or the different machines ! When will the Static Contraction exercise machine be ready ? Not in a decade I hope.

23 Greg Karr

Jerome, I can assure you we are working very hard to get this machine out. Stay tuned to this blog because we will announce it first to our readers before anyone else knows about it. I’ve personally been working on the design and I can PROMISE you that you’re going to love it! And no, its not going to be a decade!

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