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Twenty Years of Experience Boiled Down to One Blog Post

The first time I lifted weights with any serious intention whatsoever was in 1992 at the age of 33. Before that I did what most people do and just wandered blindly from one machine to the next and banged out enough reps to get the target muscles tired. I never truly exerted myself. I’m sure we’ve all seen this in the gym, just look at 99% of the people exercising and none of them is treating it like a life or death struggle to reach a new peak of exertion. They work out like they wash their car or drink a cup of coffee – casually and with zero passion or purpose.

The ‘ah-ha moment’ for me came when I learned about the role of intensity in causing muscle growth. It’s one of those things that makes perfect sense. A skinny guy can lift 100 pounds one time, a guy with bulging muscles can lift 400 pounds one time. Fine. We understand that big muscles can lift more. But the skinny guy can rest a bit and lift 100 pounds four times. So he also lifted a total of 400 pounds. Why isn’t he as strong? Why aren’t his muscles as big? It’s obvious. He took more time to lift 400 pounds than the big guy took. So muscle building isn’t just about what you can lift, it’s equally about how much time it takes you to lift it. And that, my friends, is the definition of intensity. Yet everybody – and I mean everybody – in the gym was completely ignoring the time side of the equation. So what if you did three sets of twelve reps with 265 – how long did it take you, Pal? Without knowing the time there is no way to know how intense it was compared to the last workout or the next workout.

Once I saw that with total clarity the next twenty years were about measuring intensity. The Power Factor measurement came first. It measured pounds per minute. Simple. Bench press a total of 6,200 pounds in two minutes and your bench press Power Factor was 3,100 pounds per minute. That was the intensity of your output. The skinny guy always has a lower Power Factor number than the guy with huge muscles. Makes perfect sense. But the more important thing is always the next workout. If you want to force your body to make bigger, stronger muscles you have to increase your intensity. So next time you bench press you need to have a Power Factor intensity of 3,150 or 3,300 or 4,000 lbs/min or whatever you can muster. In this universe there is no room to debate this issue, it’s well established; it always takes more muscle power to lift 8,000 pounds in two minutes than it does to lift 7,500 pounds in two minutes. Always. (Yes, assuming the distance is the same. Which it always is with the Power Factor workout.)

Next came the knowledge that very, very brief exercise could still trigger muscle growth. That was the birth of Static Contraction training that measured intensity in seconds rather than minutes. We started with 30-second holds. They worked. So we did 20-second holds. They worked. So we did 10-second holds. They worked too. Finally, we tested 5-second holds and, not surprisingly, they generated the highest intensity per second because you can always hold a heavier weight for five seconds than you can for ten seconds. The absolute highest intensity we could reliably measure with barbells and stopwatches was 5-second static holds. And boy, did that build muscle! It also absolutely minimized the wear and tear on the body that older people like me have to take into consideration. There has never been a more efficient way to build muscle and reduce the repetitive wear and tear of weightlifting. The only thing that will improve Static Contraction training will be the machine that measures output to the millisecond to determine every individuals optimum rep duration. That’s in the works.

And by the way, when you are shooting for a clear goal that – by definition – you have never hit before, you can’t do it without passion. You have to psyche yourself up before the lift. You have to exert yourself with every scrap of concentration and determination. That isn’t boring. That isn’t like sipping coffee and daydreaming. It is classic ‘man against himself’ and it makes you feel the power of personal victory and triumph. And you get the certainty of mathematics to prove you are a better man today than you were last week. That is an astonishingly powerful feeling and I believe it’s also it’s own vaccine against common depression. But that’s another blog post.

Speaking personally, my ‘overnight success’ is yet to come in this realm. Power Factor and Static Contraction training are not household words. When that day does come, and it eventually must, it will be like every other ‘overnight success’ in that many years of quiet experimentation, trial and err and not a little ridicule laid the foundation for the inevitable widespread recognition of the bloody obvious. It was ever thus. People always resist new knowledge. But math and physics are never disobeyed for long and any honest attempt to maximize the intensity of weightlifting always leads down the inevitable path of measuring weight lifted per unit of time. You can measure in troy ounces per fortnight or grains per millisecond but whatever answer you get you always have the challenge of besting it the next time you’re in the gym. And that will take everything you have. If you succeed, you trigger new muscle growth. If you fail, you won’t grow. Period.

You can still choose to train in a blind, haphazard way, never knowing your muscular intensity. But, knowing the facts of how intensity is objectively measured, why the hell would you? Seriously. What is to be gained by never knowing your all-important intensity of output?

“It never ceases to surprise me at the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge.” Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury

(The Power Factor and the Train Smart (Static Contraction) workouts are now available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)


Train Smart eBookClick to see at Amazon

Power Factor Workout - Power, Endurance & Size editionClick to see at Amazon







Static Contraction Machine – Personal Thoughts

Static Contraction machine displayLately, almost daily I receive queries about where or when people will be able to buy a home static contraction machine.

Here’s what I can tell you. I have never been in the manufacturing business so I’ve known from the beginning that making a serious static contraction machine is not something I could ever do on my own. There have been and still are a tiny handful of guys who try to fabricate something in their garages or basements and some of those try to sell to the general public. None of those machines is worth buying in my opinion. In fact, I’d tell a friend to clearly avoid them.

I tried to work with a shoestring static contraction machine manufacturing operation and it does not work. I could outline the dozen or so reasons why it does not work but I don’t want to talk about the negative aspects and the steep challenges of creating a world-class static contraction machine. What I prefer to talk about is what is being done right now.

There are a few small companies trying to forge a path using high-end machines that take isometric measurements to be used in clinical environments. That’s a good thing, but I never get e-mails from people asking where they can buy or find a $50,000 clinical machine. People ask me about a home static contraction machine. That is also where my primary interest lies.

A team of very accomplished professionals has gathered to form a company that is exclusively devoted to not only the clean-sheet-of-paper design and manufacture of a static contraction machine but also to a constellation of supporting and expanding technologies and services. I am on this team. There is expertise in the areas of exercise equipment and ergonomic design, human kinesiology, clinical research, biometric measurement and analysis, applied mathematics, software design, user-interface design, retail merchandising, direct marketing, global logistics and distribution, international regulation and finance and much more. It’s a proverbially rocket on a launchpad.

My Vision for the Static Contraction Machine

I have a vision for the future of static contraction that the copycats and rip-off artists just don’t have a clue about. When I was in my thirties I would have been quite excited about the massive financial opportunity this represents, but now in my fifties I am far more interested in the legacy of positive accomplishment it can create.

Since hearing them, I’ve always been somewhat haunted by the words of Horace Mann: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” That’s a tall order, but I think static contraction contains a potentially vast victory for humanity. I’m not talking about a planet of bulging biceps and 19-inch necks. I’m talking about having superior health and a longer life – easily attained and within reach of virtually everyone. The health benefits of productive strength training are already well documented. Nevertheless, I think the proven benefits represent only a hint of the full treasure yet to be revealed.

So a proper static contraction machine will not merely be a machine, it will be part of a durable product line that includes very sophisticated software that networks the machines and harvests massive data with a granularity that has never been seen before. I’m always amazed (and saddened, frankly) when I visit a big fitness expo and view the newest fitness machines. The treadmills, ellipticals and other ‘cardio’ equipment are bristling with electronics that takes a few measurements and mostly provides entertainment. As poor an effort as it is, it is infinitely better than the offerings in the strength training area of these expos. Those machine don’t have a molecule of silicon in them. In an age of almost ubiquitous GPS, 3G, WiFi and networked systems, strength machines alone are utterly devoid of technology. And in a rare offering of technology regression, and to add further insult and blemish to the profession of strength training, many fitness promoters even have the Luddite temerity to proffer 19th-century technology such as kettlebells and stretch bands!

Meanwhile, the use of personal metrics is already exploding in the realm of aerobics and cardio fitness. GPS, iPhone apps and other devices measure time, distance, cadence, speed, elevation gain, calories burned, pulse rates, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and other data. But the lowest hanging fruit in the fitness orchard is the billion-dollar opportunity in personal metrics related to strength training. And do you know why it is 100% unexploited? Because nobody takes measurements when doing strength training! They literally don’t have a clue what to measure. Once you begin to take serious measurements the universe of possibilities expands. That is the universe to be investigated by the team of very accomplished professionals I mentioned.

I spent time in the laboratory of a brilliant scientist (on the team!) who designs, builds and uses test equipment to perform force measurements for a shoe company you have definitely heard of. He showed me the fine granularity of what can be measured during your 5-second rep on a static contraction machine. These are metrics that have never been examined before. For example, what is the significance of reaching your peak force on today’s biceps exercise in 800 milliseconds instead of in 2,100 milliseconds as you did on your last workout? Or what is the significance of holding 80% of your peak triceps force for a longer time? Nobody knows. And nobody will know until the software operating and networking the static contraction machine is completed and the data can be analyzed to find correlations. What an exciting frontier that will be!

The Near Future of Strength Training

Even this is the tip of the iceberg. What will we learn when we can compare your personal results with thousands of other people of your same gender, age, weight, bodyfat and levels of strength? Or who also are pre-diabetic like you? Or who also have a premature ventricular contraction like you? This data goes beyond merely calculating optimum training intervals and schedules and could quite possibly reach into the area of diagnostics. The near future holds a simple static contraction machine in every household tracking every family member’s strength by performing perhaps one 5-second exercise every week or so – and always sending a reminder of when it needs to be done. Simple strength training that is easily and almost universally accessible from childhood to geriatric adulthood.

If you think about these things very long you begin to realize the massive undertaking involved in creating a durable company that will offer a complete product line of static contraction machines and software to the world. It will irrevocably change strength training. Once the various apps are available it will be common to compare meaningful strength measurements with friends. “Dave just performed his personal-best bench press with a Relative Static Index of 985! Click to ‘Like’” Haha. Strength training with viral popularity! It will happen. (And the Luddites will disappear into deservedly embarrassed obscurity.)

So why is it taking so goddamned long to get a Static Contraction machine? Good question. I confessed at the outset that I don’t have the talents to make this happen on my own. Every once in awhile I ask the other members of the team, ‘Why is it taking so goddamned long?’ I hear about legal, accounting, patents and other boilerplate. I hear about a global recession. But I don’t hear a date.

So this post is for the benefit of the thousands of people we’ve heard from who really want a home static contraction machine – almost as much as I do. When one is available I will tell you first. But it won’t be a static contraction machine that was slapped together and boxed up in time to capitalize on a Christmas rush or to catch the wave of some goofy fitness craze. It will be a solid, world-class element of an over-arching lifetime health enhancement system designed and intended to ‘win a victory for humanity’ – and if it isn’t that, I won’t tell you about it.

Thank you.

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Static Contraction machine display

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Static Contraction machine - standing

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Static Contraction machine - seated

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These images reflect a design created by an award-winning fitness equipment designer who is part of the static contraction machine team. They contain newly patented innovations. I don’t expect the static contraction machine that makes it to market to look exactly like this. When you start with a clean sheet of paper and are designing for isometric exercises only there are many fresh ergonomic and metric possibilities that present themselves.

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