Tweaks and Tips for Static Contraction Training

Static Contraction training e-book.We had such great input when we did our post on diet that I wanted to try a similar post on tweaks and tips for static contraction training. It’s common for people who do static contraction training for awhile to develop tactics and shortcuts that improve their performance.

In the past I’ve added some of the tweaks I’ve learned to this blog. I show how to get more resistance out of gym equipment on this page. I show how anyone can push or pull more weight with the tools on this page. And how simply yelling can give you 12% more strength.

But I’m sure many of you have discovered other tactics. For example, because a static contraction bench press does not require lowering the bar to the chest it can be performed while laying on your back on the padded floor of the power rack. That provides total support and many people find it more comfortable than a narrow bench when hoisting enormous weight. Sometimes a little tip like that can mean the difference between staying on a plateau and making progress.

So here is the place where you can discuss techniques that have helped you. I’m sure it will become a valuable resource for all trainees.

 

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50 Responses to Tweaks and Tips for Static Contraction Training

  1. Bela at #

    I have an olympic weight set at home, but no leg press. And since I am not paying a gym’s monthly membership for one exercise, I use my 1-ton truck. I pull it up on ramps, which are setting on concrete blocks for extra height, then I lie on the ground, placing my feet inside the frame right behind the bumper. It works pretty well with only one downfall: I can’t gauge how much of the truck’s weight I am actually lifting. But until I can afford to buy or build my own leg press, pressing my truck gives me a progressive overload that makes my legs think I have lost my mind while I know I am only training with my brain. 😉

  2. Wow. I hope you get a photo when you can get the wheels off the ground. (Not to spoil the fun, but see if a local gym will let you pay for a visitor pass so you can use their leg press once or twice a month. It’s always cheaper than a membership. But the truck photo is way cooler. 🙂 )

  3. charlie sanders at #

    this is a good idea

  4. Yeah, we gotta see that Bela,pics please

  5. Eli Lambert, PT at #

    I’ve been using Static Contraction training for over five years. If you stick with it for that long you have to come up with good ways to get more weight, that is easily measurable, from your gym’s equipment. The very first thing I would recommend is something to enhance your grip. One ton hooks work great for me, or straps if you have them. I realize that if you come from a military, or even a CrossFit background, there is a stigma to assistive devices. And certainly when it comes to combat training, high level fitness, or gymnastics, you should absolutely train functionally. But we have to live within the limitations of the human body. And the grip will always be the weak link with the massive weight you’ll be attempting. Remember: your Pride can’t overcome Physics.
    The first machine you will out-lift will be the Lat Pulldown. Once the weight for bilateral pulls is overcome, go one handed. Make sure to emphasize the pulling down of the shoulder, and not the bending of the elbow. The distal muscles of the arm, like the biceps, are much weaker than the proximal scapula and spinal stabilizers. Rest assured that the lats are getting the workout of their life. Once you get to the bottom of the weight stack unilaterally, and you will, it’s time to go to your local hardware store. Buy a three foot length of chain, with an EZ clip. Maybe two. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but make sure you get chain thick enough to handle heavy loads, small enough to fit through the center of a plate weight. I wrap the chain around the attachment to the top weight in the stack, and suspend plate weights to the stack. Watch your fingers, of course. The EZ-clip makes it much simpler to attach and detach. The chained weight does add a little bit of friction resistance, from the change in torque to the center post through the weight stack, so factor that in.
    The Leg Press will be next. You’ll want to switch to one legged even before you fill the sled with plates. One-it’s easier on you, with less loading. Two-unilateral is better on lumbar and sacroiliac stability in my book. Three-have you ever cleared out every single plate in a crowded gym? People get ticked off. If you have a machine with small capacity, usually you can SAFELY AND SECURELY place a barbell through the sled, and load extra weights on that.
    There is more, but I’ve already written three times more than I intended. So I’ll just take another opportunity to thank Pete. I would LITERALLY be half the man I am today if it weren’t for your hard work.

  6. Great stuff, Eli. Thanks.

  7. Bela at #

    Just as soon as I can get the wheels off the ramps, I will get a photo and send it to you. I think I am going to have make some adjustment for height in relation to my strongest range of motion (long legs), but I will definitely keep you guys posted.

  8. Lifting vehicles is always tough because the first part of the lifting is unspringing the suspension. You have to experiment to get your range of motion right for the heavy part of the lift.

  9. Phil at #

    Hi All,
    Re getting more out of SCT lifts I’m going to be very honest.
    I’ve used Pete’s barbaric yelp which works! I’ve also used three other methods.
    The first is seen common in gyms and is to get angry. You see people in gyms in a mental state of war with the weights they’re about to use. I’ve tried that, it works, however long term I believe the negative emotions are doing more harm than good so it’s not for me.
    The second method I’ve used is to think of something that turns me on. A few seconds of focusing in on a visual image of someone that I find very attractive, and then I lift a lot better when I do this.
    The third method I’ve used is a bit more like something out of the film Highlander. I imagine a lightning bolt, running a million volts through my body from the weight right through to the point of contact with the ground. That works for me too.
    All the best with your training,
    Phil

  10. Those are interesting, Phil. I think part of the reason these things can work with static contraction is that it’s all over in 5 seconds. Techniques like these would be hard to sustain for three sets of twelve reps.

  11. kurt at #

    Interesting — could Eli or Pete or whoever knows please describe the one-handed lat pull technique? I’m thinking that you’d change out the long bar to a small ring-style hand grip,
    then pull down like a train whistle. Is that accurate? I, too, am closing in on the last plate in the stack.

  12. Brian at #

    Hi Eli,

    Great info from an anatomical standpoint. I am a fan, practitioner of SCT, plus I teach Pilates so I have a pretty good base when it comes to anatomy. I realize that this conversation is a little outside the box for SCT, but I became keenly interested in your comment about unilateral leg press movements being better for the SI and lumbar complex. I was not taught that way. In fact, when someone has SI joint instability we try to stay with a light bilateral load and encourage working evenly through both limbs. I always was a bit confused by this concept. On one hand, it makes sense that you can access one side to counter any muscle imbalance, but on the other I would think that the one side press would put lots of stress on the working side spine. I was glad to hear that you had a different view of this concept.

  13. Brian at #

    LOL! Wow, we are lifting trucks now! Our universe is our gym! Seriously though, congrats to Bela for the effort and innovation.

  14. charlie sanders at #

    i bet if you could get under the axle and push there you would not be dealing with suspension that way.

  15. I saw a guy do that, Charlie. He dug a hole in his yard and drove over it.

  16. Bela at #

    It’s funny that you say that, Pete. I have been toying with that idea–that or stacking landscaping timbers to pull it up on.

  17. Bela at #

    LOL Thanks, Brian.

  18. Sean at #

    Dude that’s an awesome Idea. I have limited room and I just might try that. You could load all kinds of things in there to make it heavier when you get the truck off the ground. I didn’t read the next post until I wrote this. But I think if you jack up the bumper first which brings the springs up then you could lift it. Of course have jack stands and all kinds of things underneath just in case it slips..

  19. Anonymous at #

    You could stack those olympic plates into the truck once you can lift it off the ground.

  20. Brendan at #

    WOW you guys are cool all these ideas are mean keep up the good work train smart and sweat man sweat.

  21. Kyle Simlat at #

    Hi guys,

    Was wondering if any guys with shorter legs here have my same problem and have figured it out. Basically I have maxed the leg press and have to do them one leg at a time.

    The problem is that from 520kgs, the compression on my joints, seat and shoes have taken up enough slack that it feels like I am literally at the beginning of lockout. I had my girlfriend check from the side and she stated that my legs are literally at lockout. I feel she is correct, given that it feels like the load of the weight decreases as I move the sled up even by a few millimetres. I have been stuck at that weight for months with no progress.

    The only solution I have is a power factor routine to decrease the weight and make some progress and/or create custom made steel soled sandals with a rubber coating to create additional length and eliminate shoe compression. Any idea simpler than my drastic ideas would be great! Thanks everyone!

  22. Kyle, if this is the only machine you have access to I would try pushing a few partial reps and then going for the static hold.

  23. charlie sanders at #

    you can make a pad for your pelvis, you only need a couple inches more, get a 18″ by 10″ piece of 1 inch plywood. and wrap a big tri-folded beach towel around it so it is 3 inches thick at least. set it behind you and you will be in business. maybe 12″ instead of 10″

  24. Kyle Simlat at #

    Thanks for the tip Charlie, I’ll make one up in the shed tomorrow. I mostly wanted to avoid placing anything foreign behind my pelvis in fears of damaging the seat, but your suggestion has made me want to try it regardless. Thanks!

  25. Kyle Simlat at #

    Yeah I had initially thought of something along those lines. My real goal was create a means to take up space so that I did not have to sacrifice weight to see improvement, only to run into the problem once again later using a different method. Charlie’s idea seems like a logical solution as it eliminates space. Thanks for the tip anyway!

  26. Just curious if I can start each exercise with a static hold and then move right into the new power factor set.

  27. Why would you want to do that. Just go straight for the power factor set. This way you can give it your all for that set.

  28. I was curious because I love SCT but want more endurance. I static hold 16 plates on bench, 14 plate shrug, 44 leg, etc. & didn’t want to lose any alpha strength by dropping so much weight to last two minutes. Was thinking maybe PFW could be my endurance training for the muscle group after a lil rest from the hold. Maybe my question is will I lose any alpha strength by stopping SCT for the PFW. Thank you!!

  29. If you really want more endurance strength you have to train that way. If you are on my mailing list you should have received something this week about Power Factor endurance training. That would be the way to go. If you didn’t get it send me an e-mail.

  30. I received an e-mail to get the new PFW ebook package. I grabbed it of course because I get all your great products. If that’s the e-mail you’re referring to. I’m happy with my alpha strength and am excited to start the new PFW after my rest from last PCT workout! I thank you for the 25 lbs I put on last year from the original PFW!!!

  31. Bingo. And I’m happy to hear you put on 25 lbs of muscle already.

  32. Leighan at #

    25 lbs?!?! is this general weight, or all muscle?

  33. Brian at #

    Just wanted to state that I just purchased Pete’s new edition of Power Factor Training. It is awesome! It compiles Pete’s usual excellent information on the why’s and how’s of SCT and his method, but provides a great way to calculate progress for each workout plus terrific variations of sets/reps/times/graphs etc. It is worth your purchase!

  34. Tom Strong at #

    Thank God for the last minute; for without it nothing would ever get done! I purchased the new PFW almost at the last minute and finished reading it today. Looks interesting as I was beginning to think of myself as a hard gainer.

    Going from SCT to the new PFW should I start with the recommended time off between sessions or would you recommend longer? I was thinking of a week.

  35. Keep the same frequency. If you’re now training, say, once every 9 days, do the same with PFW when you start it.

  36. charlie sanders at #

    kyle, how did it go with the pad?

  37. Stuart at #

    Woah Derrick, 765 on the bench?That’s incredible!I am looking forward to working my way up to that kind of weight.

  38. Ditto. Let us know when you hit 800 lbs. Right away. Haha.

  39. Garrett at #

    Pete. I purchased and read several of your books and was curious about both PFT and SCT so I decided to try them both…I did the PFT for a while and saw the gains you described, but I really liked the idea and efficiency of SCT, so I started it a few days ago with workout B. I have to say I have never before output 100% from any muscle and it felt great. Every lift went great (5-10 second holds with far more weight than expected) except for one, and I don’t understand why. On the leg press I worked my way up to about 810lbs (I started at 500, you were right about guessing way too low). I was in my strong range, and when I did the lift it only moved off of the stops about an inch and a half (perfect as I understand it), but I held the weight over 15 seconds so I put it down and added 25lbs more. I took three deep breaths, exhaled loudly and pushed but could not get the weight off of the stops, and it really hurt my lower back. I went back to 810, and once again it took everything to get the weight off of the stops I held it for about 40 seconds and decided I would try again with more weight next time.

    I have tried and tried to find a lifting partner but none of my buddies want to pay for a gym membership…I figured I could just use both legs to get 400 plus off of the stops and just hold it steady with one leg but wanted to see if you had advice first. I can’t help but feel like the leg press machine has some static friction that needs to be overcome and that same friction helps me hold the weight for such a long time after its off of the stops. It’s a fairly new machine though so I don’t know. Thanks in advance.

  40. It does sound like an issue with that leg press. If you can hold 810 for a whopping 40 seconds I’d say you’re good for around 900 +/-. So maybe it is getting hung up somewhere in the range you are using. Maybe management will lubricate it for you. Or you could smuggle a silicone rag into the gym. Just an idea.

  41. Will Dunn at #

    First off, thanks Pete for the SCT workout – I have been on SCT for 2 months now and have had consistent, amazing gains. Heading to the gym today for the B workout.
    Some feedback for Garrett, I noted a similar challenge on my last B workout with the Legpress machine – at 675, getting the weight off the stops was an effort but once I had it in position, I knocked out 15. I attributed the “heaviness” coming off the stops to a couple things, 1) more weight than I have traditionally worked with – just not having a mental frame of reference for that heavy weight and 2) not getting assistance from my partner. Today, I hit legpress for 855 and plan to get my partner to give me an assist coning off the stops.
    Maybe you could hook-up a partner at the gym – since I started SCT, I have a surplus of interested people – you need a no-excuses, hard charger that is reliable and commited to train on schedule – how hard is that when your doing one workout a week for about a half hour?
    Best of luck with your SCT – it works. Regards, Will

  42. Jim at #

    Hey Pete,
    I’m doing the Power Factor workout and for the most part making good gains on every workout. I like pushing myself and setting new personal bests each time I work out. Currently I’m doing workout 3 weeks apart (9 weeks between the same workout). My problem is the soreness I feel for days after the workout. The day of I’m feeling a little sore after the workout, but it really get worse the day or 2 after. I know before starting this program, when I tried new exercise, I would sometimes get sore and then it really would not go away until I did the same exercise again (When I was using the 3 or 4 times a week conventional schedule). I’m wondering if going back to the gym and doing a much lighter version of the workout I just did two day ago would help with soreness, and not hinder the progress made. Any thoughts? I drink lots of water daily and eat pretty healthy. Any thought on this would be appreciated. My primary interest in doing the workout is for fitness, health and to feel better by being stronger, but when I’m feeling sore for the better part of a week after the workout, it calls into question one of the goals. Also I started off with the static contraction, but found it took quite awhile in the gym do to loading and unloading weights and having to guess and retry how much I’d be able to do on any given day. Or another thin I wonder is if it would feel better breaking it up into 6 workouts instead of 3 and doing them every 1/12 weeks instead of every 3 weeks (Thinking that at least I wouldn’t have as many muscles screaming at me at the same time.)
    PS I have lost about 17 lbs in 6 months on the program, staring at 155lbs. I have also changed my diet to eat lots of healthy type foods too so it hard to say which has the greater influence, but fat I didn’t know I had has been replaced with muscle.

  43. Hi Jim!
    1. You can read more about soreness here: http://www.precisiontraining.com/what-about-soreness/
    2. Go ahead and try 6 different workouts, but don’t be surprised if you still need the same amount of time off between them. The lower volume per workout might be less painful for you.
    3. If you can, get a bodyfat scale so you know for sure what you fat loss and muscle gain really are. It’s very motivating to know the good news.

  44. Jim at #

    Just an update on this…. I went back to the gym after 2 days, and was feeling quite sore. I went through my workout again, this time with using weights approx 1/3 of what I did during the real workout, and doing only about 25 – 30 reps, untimed, but realitely fast.. These seemed to warm up my muscles, and the soreness dissipated quickly.
    The following weekend I discovered I have a hernia, and will likely need to have surgery for it according to my doctor. He asked me if I’ve been lifting anything heavy lately. I do focus on breathing properly during the workouts.

  45. Leighan at #

    Hey everyone.

    I did my first PFW today after a lay-off of almost 8 months. I found a few nice tweaks whilst I was at it too. I thought I’d share them here because they may be able to help some people.

    1) On the lat pulldown, the bar is too high for me regardless of seat height (because the padding that goes over your knees to keep you in place is not adjustable, whilst the seat is. What the heck’s up with that?) So I decided to try it stood up. This meant that the bar was in the perfect position for doing either a static hold or reps for PFW. I found it to be the best workout EVER for my back. It felt on fire.

    2) For my biceps, I won’t go near the barbell because it puts way too much pressure on my wrists. So instead, I do a static hold on the lat pulldown machine. I do the palms up pulldown, and do it so it’s just my biceps pulling it. I stand up (it could also be done sat down but I get more weight stood up) and tilt my body slightly, then go on my tip toes, and I get it perfectly in the strongest range. I managed to do 70kg on it and my arms felt like exploding.

    3) I also experimented a bit and discovered the straight arm pulldown could probably be done in this way too.

    Just thought I’d post this incase it could help others.

  46. Rama at #

    Doing the lat pulldown while standing sounds like a good idea. I had contemplated about doing it that way before, but I never got around to actually doing it.

    As for the straght arm pulldown, you did for a back workout right? Did you do PFT or SCT on it?

  47. Leighan at #

    Hi Rama,

    I certainly found it to be much better doing the pull down stood up.

    And yes the straight arm Pulldown is for back workout and you’d more than likely Need to do that as PFW because it would be extremely hard to pull the weight down if it was as heavy as a 5 second max hold.

  48. Rama at #

    When you do the pull down while standing up, your biceps would be in a slightly bent position right? Do you really not feel your biceps to be working at all?

  49. Leighan at #

    Absolutely not at all.

    The range is so perfect for me that I literally pull down around an inch and its in the perfect spot. The biceps don’t get involved what so ever, it’s just the back muscles 100%. The biceps don’t even get CHANCE to get involved, because the movement is so little that they barely even move.

  50. Leighan at #

    Sorry just to clear that up a little:

    YES the biceps ARE in a bent position, pretty much 90 degree angle.

    BUT, the biceps don’t even get CHANCE to get involved, because the movement is so little that they barely even move. It’s the back muscles 100% even though the biceps are bent 90 degrees.

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