Respect for Your Intellect - Ranking Chest Exercises

Have you ever seen one of those exercise machine infomercials that brags “You can do over 150 exercises on this machine.” I just cringe when I hear that being sold to the public. It’s partly based on the bad advice that you should “mix up your routine” to keep it from getting stale or that you should “confuse” your muscles. The only thing mixed up and confused is the rationale of that advice.

First of all, in order to know your workouts are productive you have to be able to measure progressive intensity. So if last time you did 12 dumbbell flyes with 30-pound dumbbells and this time to “mix it up” you did 15 cable crossovers with 45 pounds, how do you know which one had more intensity? Especially when the cables run through three pulleys so you aren’t really lifting 45 pounds?


Now are you confused or, more specifically, are your pecs confused?

And how do you ‘confuse’ a muscle anyway? Is it contracting but it thinks it’s not? Is it relaxed but thinks it’s contracted? Muscles are very simple devices, they contract and they relax. That’s it. And do you believe your biceps somehow knows that today you are lifting a concrete block but last week you were lifting an iron dumbbell? And that it would matter anyway?

This is the sad state of exercise science today.

Now lets talk about the 150 exercises on a machine. Most full body workouts are going to work about 10 major muscle groups. (e.g. chest, shoulders, upper and lower back, triceps, etc.) So, for the sake of this argument, that’s 15 different exercises per muscle group. Gee, that’s wonderful variety, right? Yes, one or two good exercises per muscle group and many really crappy ones. That's variety nobody needs.

Let me show you the ranking of the most popular chest exercises. We measured these using dozens of subjects who lifted the most they could in two minutes of full range exercise. We added up the total weight they could lift for each exercise and divided by two to get the intensity per minute of muscular output. And remember, high intensity of muscular output is the reason we lift weights in the first place. High intensity is the objective.


Chest Exercises         

% of PEAK
Straight arm Barbell Pullover
Flat Bench Cable Crossover
Dumbbell Flye 
Incline Barbell Press  
Nautilus® 10 Degree Chest 
Unilateral Cable Crossover 
Bilateral Cable Crossover 
Decline Barbell Bench Press 
Flat Barbell Bench Press


Once you know these measurements, what on earth would be the value of selecting any chest exercise other than the one with the highest intensity? How can any personal trainer justify telling you to do three sets of fifteen reps with an exercise that is 45% as effective as the best exercise? What would be the objective? At best, it would be to maximize the time in the gym for people who lift weights as a hobby and don't want to do anything else with their time. Otherwise, it's just disrespectful advice. But either way, a crappy exercises is a crappy exercise that will extend your recovery time without stimulating new muscle growth. What kind of bargain is that?

Frankly, this is what sets Static Contraction training apart from every other strength training method – respect for your intellect and for the value of your time.

Do you know why training routines “get stale”? It’s because people don’t have a clear idea what they are trying to do and they flounder with conflicting principles and myths. But when you use the same exercises each workout you have a clear indication of whether you made progress or need more recovery time.

And no two workouts are actually the same because the weights are different. Each workout is a fresh challenge with 5 very clear goals. (SCT workouts use an A/B split with 5 different exercises in each workout.)

Static Contraction workouts stimulate maximum gains in ten major muscle groups of the full body using ultra-high intensity for just 5 seconds. Nothing is more efficient and nothing is less stale or confusing – to you or your muscles.

This is no accident. It was engineered this way out of respect for you.

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:

Vox audita perit littera scripta manet
"The spoken word perishes, the written words remain."

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