Overheard at the Gym

There are hundreds of thousand of people who receive my e-mails and visit my website and sometimes I wish every one of you could be with me to hear some of the conversations I have with people in gyms.

Recently I was showing a person how to do some Static Contraction exercises in a gym and, as often happens, a few people stopped their workouts to see what we were doing. Some had the honest curiosity to want to learn more and some just wanted to defend conventional training against any new ideas.

One of the ways I like people to experience the benefit of SCT is by setting up a bench press in a power rack so the bar rests in the person’s strongest range of motion; basically the last few inches of his reach. Once that was done and the guy was in position on the bench, the conversation went like this:

Me: OK, Larry, how much do you normally bench when you work out?

Larry: About 185 pounds.

Me: So lets load 185 on here and see how that feels.

Of course, I know exactly how it’s going to feel. Like a feather. So when it’s loaded up I ask him to do a couple of reps and tell me how hard it feels.

Larry: It’s no problem at all! It feels pretty light.

Me: OK, now I’m going to load some more weight on the bar and we’ll see how that feels.

I love getting people beyond 300 pounds on the bench because so few people have ever done that. So I load 315 on the bar and then ask Larry to lift it up an inch or two and then put it down right away.

Me: How’d that feel?

Larry: Wow, I can’t believe I lifted that. I even feel like I can do a bit more.

I slap another 60 pounds of iron on the bar and coach Larry how to get the most out of himself.

Me: OK, I want you to take three deep breaths; in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you exhale the third time do it with a yell and hoist the bar up an inch and then hold it there for 5 seconds while still exhaling and not locking out.

Larry did it exactly that way and when he let the bar down the guys looking on gave him cheers and congratulations.

Me: You just hoisted 375 pounds with the chest muscles you usually train with 185. So if you are capable right now of making those muscles lift 375 why would you train them with 185? Why would muscles that can lift 375 grow bigger lifting 185?

Larry: Errr…

Me: I could take you over to the leg press right now and show you the same thing. What do you normally use on the leg press?

Larry: About 350 or 400 pounds.

Me: OK, well I can pretty much guarantee you can leg press 1,000 pounds right now and perhaps a lot more than that. Plus, when you train with that intensity you don't need to work out as often. So workouts are shorter and you do fewer of them. That's a big win.

At this point a bystander says: Yeah, but he only lifted it a couple of inches. You have to use a full range of motion.

Me: Really? Are you saying a full range of motion is a requirement for muscle growth? Because there has never been a study to prove that. Not one.

Bystander: But you’ll develop a short muscle if you don’t use a full range of motion.

Me: How would the muscle get shorter? Wouldn’t it need to detach itself from the tendons, creep along the bone and reattach itself? How else could a muscle get shorter?

The conversation goes in many directions from here but there is never an objection that holds water and some people gradually realize they train very inefficiently with needless workouts using weights that are a small fraction of what they could and should use.

It often ends like this:

Bystander: If this really worked everyone would be doing it.

Me: I’m working on that.

Train with your brain,



In the spirit of well-rounded self-improvement and spending fitness time wisely and efficiently, this Static Contraction article was brought to you by the Latin proverb:

 Ne Jupiter quidem omnibus placet.
          "Not even Jupiter (supreme God) can please everyone."

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