What Can A Tiny Amount of Exercise Do?

A few years ago we conducted a static contraction training study using eight middle-aged golfers. We wanted to determine how little exercise could not only result in increased strength but also how it would transfer to athletic performance. We chose golf because swinging a club uses a very exaggerated range of motion and our abbreviated Static Contraction workout used no range of motion. That right, no movement exercise to see if it would improve a full-range sport like golf.

The subjects were given a workout that consisted of six exercises performed on one day and six different exercises done on a different workout day. Each exercise involved a 10 to 20-second static hold. A weight was lifted into position (sometimes with assistance) and then held statically without locking out. This was back in the days when we still thought a person needed to hold the weight 10 to 20 seconds. Now we know that is not only not necessary, it also means using a much lighter weight.

So these workouts had an actual exercise duration of only 60 to 120 seconds. Over a six-week period these subjects performed between 4 and 9 workouts, averaging 6.6 workouts in the six-week period. That is as little as one minute of actual exercise about once per week for six weeks.

So what happened?

Their Results

Measurements of their strength in twelve muscle groups were compared for a before and after calculation of improvement. The results of their fourteen minutes of exercise over six weeks were as follows:

Chest             +58%
Lats              +60%
Shoulders         +57%
Quads             +86%
Hams            +78%
Abs               +170%
Lower Back    +58%
Calf               +51%
Triceps           +133%
Biceps             +72%
Forearm Flexors    +87%
Forearm Extensors +93%

OVERALL         +84% after 14 min of exercise spread over 6 weeks

Compare the above results with a conventional training protocol. Most people do at least two exercises per muscle group, perform three sets and perhaps 12 or 15 reps per set. Allowing just five seconds per rep this makes for at least 36 minutes of exercise per workout. This is usually done three times per week. So, in six weeks a conventional program would involve 648 minutes of exercise. That’s 42 times more work than the subjects on our study! But are conventional results 42 times better? How could they be? Look at those improvement numbers again. When was the last time you had 6 weeks even equal to that, never mind surpassing it?

Performance Improvement

Remember, these golfers were exercising in a way that did not involve stretching or moving the weight over a full range of motion. So how did this affect a full range of motion activity like a golf drive?

Every one of them showed an improvement. The increase in drive distance varied from 5 to 31 yards! Keep in mind that these subjects had been golfing for up to forty years and had handicaps as low as eleven. So getting any improvement in golfers who already play at this level is impressive. Getting it with 14 minutes of exercise spread over six weeks is truly revolutionary.

The fact is every sport – even a finesse sport like golf – is improved by an increase in strength. Muscles are responsible for all movement in the body and stronger muscles will deliver more power to every aspect of movement, irrespective of its range of motion.

Since this study we’ve gone on to improve static contraction training. Further research showed that static hold times could be reduced to even less than what the golfers used. Workouts can be spaced farther apart as a trainee gets stronger. I work with advanced trainees who train once every six weeks, yet they gain in strength on every exercise each time they work out. The weights they hoist are enormous.

We believe the time is coming when most people will have a better understanding of the role of proper, efficient strength training methods and frequency. For the person who wants maximum results with minimum time invested, an ultra-brief but ultra-intense workout will be performed about as often as they get a haircut. Anything more is just lifting weights as a busy-work hobby.

Static Contraction Sustainable Workouts

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22 Responses to What Can A Tiny Amount of Exercise Do?

  1. frank at #

    Hey Pete,
    Thanks for the Info. I’ve been doing SCT for a month now and I am also on a cutting diet this time of the year. I normally lose about 2 lbs for every inch. off my waist, but your training has change all that! last two weeks, 2 inches off my waist and no change in weight. All fat loss and muscle gained! Could not be happier! I work out at home and have run out of weight already and I have alot! I thought that would never happen. Nice problem to have! Can’t wait untill you come out with equiptment for SCT. Please keep me on your list for info on that. Again I can’t thank you enough , SCT is the greatest traning ever !

  2. Thanks, Frank. I can’t tell you how many people think that what you just did is “impossible.” But it’s just smart training.

  3. frank at #

    If I can gain muscle and lose fat on a cutting diet, and I’m 62 yrs old! I can only dream of my results when on a matenance diet or better yet bulking diet this fall! I’m spreading the word as fast I can about SCT to alot of friends and family! Well I’m going out for that walk on this off from training like you suggested.
    Again I can’t say it enough, Thanks

  4. aimo at #

    4th of January I SCT-squatted 220 kg ( 484,6 lbs ).
    Next time was 16th of March, 230, 240 and 250,7 kg ( 552,2 lbs )!
    That is to say, that in over 2 months I did not train SCT-squats.
    Still 30 kg ( 66 lbs )plus… Last June 24th I started with 136 kg ( 300 lbs ).
    I have been training only 8 times thereafter your system-squats.
    If I had been training more often, would I have raised my record more?
    I think, that either I have been very weak earlier, or perhaps your system
    has made a miracle in my muscles and mental determination…
    Thanks anyway, Pete, thanks a lot!
    aimo, 73 y. 9 m. 18 d.

  5. David Dressler, BA, RMT at #

    Impressive, Pete! I am going to send this information to my patients and friends.

  6. Pete,

    Been doing SCT for over a year now. At age 57 and 160 pounds I can military press 225 pounds. Never thought in my wildest dreams I could get there. At what point do you go to a workout to just maintain what you’ve got? Don’t want to risk an injury.

  7. William Chavez at #

    Back in 1999, a co-worker lent me a pamphlet, which was probably one of your early works. It was very well written and made it easy to understand the concept. In early 2000 I decided to experiment with it, but I had access only to full-range Nautilus equipment (horror!). I figured out a technique for leg extensions that involved lifting max weight with two legs then holding with each leg in turn for as long as possible (weak leg first, then strong leg for same time). Long story short: over 12 months I did this exercise nine times and multiplied my full-range strength by ~2.35X (!). I have since applied this method to any machine that allows it (most don’t), and I find that it takes relatively little time to reach the machines’ max weight. Last year I finally gained access to a Smith machine and am enjoying freaking out trainers while doing bench presses and shrugs.

    Thank you for this amazing technique! I am passing it along to my children, who will reap the benefits I only wish I had when I was a teenager.

  8. Steve, you can maintain at whatever point you feel is enough for you. I say you have over 300 pounds in you before you do that 😉

  9. Dennis Peters at #

    Question for Pete. I have had arthroscopic surg, two times on left knee and once on right. Both knees will probably need knee replacements in next couple of years, per MD. When I do one legged presses, my right knee begins making cracking noises after one workout, my knee was very sore. You could hear the noises, it stopped when the pressure of the exercise stopped. Next workout I tried one legged squats with my back up against an exercise ball and placed up against a wall. My knee again cracked when I was in a strong position, close to locking out. I tried lowering myself closer past 45 degrees, almost 90 degrees, femur to floor and the creaking stopped. I was holding fifty pound dumbbells in each hand and held the position for 5-6 seconds, three reps. Any advice for a leg exercise for me.

  10. Thanks, David. I wish everyone would. 🙂

  11. Hey, it’s great to hear that a second generation of SCT has begun!

  12. Hi Dennis! I’ll tell you exactly what I’d tell my best friend. Don’t look for medical advice on the Internet. If you have a physician and a surgeon who are closely familiar with your exact circumstances and have the relevant knowledge and experience you can’t do better than to listen to their advice. Guys on the web will shoot from the hip (no pun) and tell you to do this or that exercise. They have zero stake in you worsening your condition or ending up with a problem that no surgery can fix. In your situation a working, pain free knee is more important than an extra inch of quad muscle. Not to be flip, but that’s also ‘training smart’. Good luck.

  13. charlie sanders at #

    Let’s make a study of sct that takes self-proclaimed veteran(10yr.+) weight-lifters off
    their workout routine for 10 weeks. use 2 categories of 10 men and 10 women each. 40
    total. Baseline- 5 rep max weight on 3 lifts. video record baseline, final, workout and
    documentation. each participant should also have a cardio/bp monitor and step-counter
    throughout the study. also interviews should be conducted with lie-detection
    technology. one week no training after baseline test and before 1st sct workout.

    Baseline outputs – measure a 5 rep. maximum weight on 3 ROM compound lifts;
    seated cable row, bench press and leg press.

    video record – baseline output test, final test, workouts, physique documentation;
    before and after and water treading

    cardio/bp monitor
    step-counter
    tread water – throughout the study at least 2 per week 5 min. total with in 15 min.
    minus rest.

    The workout – lifts to be done in strong range in only a 1-2inch range as a static hold.
    up to 10 seconds per hold 3 attempts made in only one minute. 5 minute gentle
    warm-up as needed. workouts completed in under 15 minutes.
    shrug
    bench
    lat pull
    leg press

    group 1 works out starting with 1 rest day 4 times then 2 rest 3 times then 3 rest 2 times then 4 rest then 5, 6, 7, etc to 55 days total of workouts 13
    group 1 days 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 17, 21, 26, 32, 38, 46, 55

    group 2 simply increases one rest more rest day each time – total of workouts 10
    group 2 days 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, 55

    final test
    repeat of baseline tests with same weight for max number of reps on same exercises.

    imagine what could be learned from this basic study…
    my guess is it would put the world on its ear…
    most of these plateaued veterans would complete 10 reps on the final test each lift.

  14. charlie sanders at #

    i am so happy for this guy, and his kids

  15. Works for me, Charlie! Now let’s find 50 grand to pay for it. Haha.

  16. Tom Strong at #

    There are several versions of the military press, I’m assuming that SCT’s version of the military press is the seated shoulder press. If so I just did 295 pounds this morning. I am age 70, 175 pounds and have been doing SCT for just over 5 months. I expect to lift a lot more before going I worry about maintaining what I have. I don’t worry about injury, if the weight is to heavy I can’t lift it, but it doesn’t hurt!

  17. charlie sanders at #

    maybe if we came up with a drug to integrate into the study then we could get paid to do the study, haha

  18. Right. Or a supplement.

  19. Hey Pete,

    This is great info. Did you collect any data on lean mass gain too?

  20. Hi Chris! Not on these subjects. This test was about increasing static strength and how that translated to the distance they could drive a golf ball. We measured some other subjects for muscle gain and I’ll talk about that in another post.

  21. Tom,

    Yes, it’s SCT military press. Your achievement is outstanding! Puts me to shame, but also gives me some motivation. I’ve been holding out a little. Don’t want to blow the shoulder out.

  22. Tom Strong at #

    Hi Steve,

    There are a lot of people who can lift more than I; no shame in it. We are all at different points; all working towards getting stronger. I haven’t had any shoulder problems; but for sure if I did I would be taking it easy! As Pete recommends if you are worried about your shoulder talk to your Doctor!