There are hundreds of thousands 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 let’s 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!

Overheardat the Gym


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

Recently I was showing a person how to do some Static Contractionexercises in a gym and, as often happens, a few people stopped theirworkouts to see what we were doing. Some had the honest curiosity towant to learn more and some just wanted to defend conventional trainingagainst any new ideas.

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

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

Larry: About 185 pounds.

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

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

Larry: It’sno problem at all! It feels pretty light.

Me: OK, nowI’m going to load some more weight on the bar andwe’ll see how that feels.

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

Me: How’dthat feel?

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

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

Me: OK, I want you totake three deepbreaths; in through your nose and out through your mouth. When youexhale the third time do it with a yell and hoist the bar up an inchand then hold it there for 5 seconds while still exhaling and notlocking out.

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

Me: You just hoisted375 pounds withthe chest muscles you usually train with 185. So if you are capableright now of making those muscles lift 375 why would you train themwith 185? Why would muscles that can lift 375 grow bigger lifting 185?

Larry: Errr…

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

Larry: About 350 or 400pounds.

Me: OK, well Ican pretty much guarantee youcan 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 asoften. So workouts are shorter and you do fewer of them. That’s a bigwin.
At this point a bystander says: Yeah, but he only lifted it acouple of inches. You have to use a full range of motion.
Me: Really? Are yousaying a fullrange of motion is a requirement for muscle growth? Because there hasnever been a study to prove that. Not one.

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

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

The conversation goes in many directions from here but there is neveran objection that holds water and some people gradually realize theytrainvery inefficiently with needless workouts using weights that are asmall fraction of what they could and should use.

It often ends like this:

Bystander: If thisreally worked everyone would be doing it.

Me: I’mworking on that.


Trainwith yourbrain,


 

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi there Pete,

    Recently I have discovered your older articles on Bodybuilding.com, about training to failure, mistakes beginners fall for (the article about why you sympathize with teens, which I just happen to be 18 !) bodybuilding myths, and so on, and it has come to my attention that I have been wasting my time at the gym. I fell into the trap that quite a lot do; of following conventional training with 12-20 sets per body part and what have you, and I haven’t any progress at all. I truly believe you really do know your stuff; after reading what you have wrote in articles my training is going to turn the complete opposite direction, and i plan to do short intense workouts with only around 3 exercises per workout, and one workout per week. I remember seeing you write about how you had athletes who trained one half of their body every 6 weeks, and i believe i will give this similar method a go to see how it works for me.
    The one thing I am still stuck on however, is how working a muscle at the partial angle that it is strongest at, brings muscle strength and size to the whole muscle? I have seen it written in many articles where doing this only increases what you can lift in that one particular angle, and I was just wondering what you can inform me of this.
    I do remember reading that a muscle either fully contracts or it doesn’t. Is this exactly why your method works? I’m guessing what i was reading elsewhere was just another pile of rubbish wasn’t it?

  • Thanks, Lee. Yes, a muscle fiber contracts 100% every time it operates. So to lift more weight you need to involve (and therefore stimulate growth in) more muscle fibers. Welcome to SCT – watch your numbers, as you progress you won’t even be able to train once per week and see all your numbers go up on every exercise. Your training frequency is a moving target.

  • John Stephan

    Hi Pete,

    I find this new blog to be fascinating and great for learning how the muscles in the body actually work. Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to field questions and voice our opinions and observations in the field of strength training.

    Being the type of person I am, I am always curious and interested in the details of various aspects of how and why things work in our world. Exercise and SCT are no exceptions to that curiosity.
    Even though SCT/PFT employ a very small range of movement there are many important aspects that come into play that demonstrate why SCT/PFT are superior to orthodox training. Things like leverage and sheer force as it relates to our joints and bone structure (which happens to be a series of 3rd class levers) are vital to understanding ourselves. Nociception and the way your brain and muscles communicate to each other are yet another important aspect as to why SCT works better than any other training method to gain strength.

    A wonderfully vivid example of PFT/SCT occurred right beside my house that underscored leverage and strong range training that gave me an hour plus of entertainment from a window in my house.

    The empty lot next door to my house is currently being developed for a new home and the construction company brought in a big excavator to dig the foundation for the basement. (In Southern Ontario where I live in Canada all houses have basements) and for those who don’t know what an excavator is, its a giant metal arm/hoe with opposing hydraulic cylinders attached atop of a powerful diesel engine that drives a series of pumps which in turn sits atop of very wide caterpillar tracks that it rotates on 360 degrees . Located on the end of the arm hangs huge bucket bristling with large metal teeth on the outer edge enabling the bucket to penetrate the hard ground.

    For me this was a golden opportunity to vividly observe outside of our own bodies an excellent example of strong range training and 3rd class levers at work. What I noticed was that once the hoe was extended out strait the hydraulic cylinders responsible for bending the arm back toward the machine was extremely limited and therefore had only a fraction of the digging power it is capable of as evidenced by scraping up only token amounts of dirt at the beginning of the movement. What I also noticed during the outstretched part of the machine’s arm was the hydraulics stressing as the the hydraulic pump safety valves activated due to the stress imposed during full extension. However once the arm was bent at 45 to 90 degrees the bucket sank into the dirt like it was soft butter. Absolutely an amazing example of shear brute power. Hard clay mixed with rocks and stone were scooped up from the earth with ease.

    Noticeable however was the decrease in speed of the bucket was brought toward the cab of the excavator from 120 to 90 degrees vs when the arm was extended out from 120 degrees to just under 180 degrees in which case the arm accelerated exponentially. What I seeing at work in essence was a giant arm designed much like our own doing incredible feats of strength in the strong range of the movement. It literally blew me away! There it was right before my eyes; a machine performing tasks in the strong range…PFT at work if you will!

    The question is this…what is it about the strong range training using PFT and SCT that makes it so effective at lifting substantially heavier weight? The simple reason is leverage and as our skeletons are a series of 3rd class levers we must consider the speed of movement at the outer circumference when lifting an object starting from the weak range moving into the strong range under the same load and using the same effort.

    Understand when you are lifting a very light barbell in a biceps curl exercise the speed at which the bar will move is faster at the bottom than it is when your arm is bent at 90 degrees. so the closer we can get the resistance to 90 degrees in the biceps curl for example the slower the weight rises if your biceps muscle shortens/contracts at a constant rate as when it first started. Its like starting out in 10th gear on a ten speed bicycle and having the gear ratio drop down to 4th or 5th gear as you are climbing a hill. The taller the gear the faster you can go but the less power you are able to generate. Your arms or legs for that matter are merely a transmission with the transmission starting out in top gear during the weak range and ending up in low gear in the strong range. Speed is quicker in the weak range and slower in the strong range. in the example above the opposite is true when extending the arm under load ie the triceps.

    It is that simple and it can be proven in physics. Take two Popsicle sticks and fasten the ends together with a thumb tack so that the ends are overlapping each other. then about an inch up from the joint fasten a length of string using another thumb tack. ON the other end of the string attach a small object such as a coffee mug. Set the lever down so it wont move on a table or surface and then articulate the joint starting from a 90 degree bend to 180 degrees (straighten it) You will observe two things. One will be the cup will be easier to move once the joint goes past 90 degrees moving toward 180 degrees and secondly the cup will start to slow down as you move the lever closer to 180 degrees. The exact opposite of this experiment is happening when your muscles are contracting from where the string is attached. The outside of the Popsicle stick has to travel farther to move the object the same distance as it was during the 90 degrees.

    Excavators and backhoes have a similar design to our own arms and work pretty much the same way when it comes to lifting an object. The metal arm of a hoe has a joint just like our elbow and the hydraulics act very much like the muscles attached to our arms.

    When it comes to training for strength don’t train in your weakest range; train in the range where your muscles and joints can enjoy the safety benefits of leverage and have 100% muscular efficiency.
    Don’t ever give someone the satisfaction of saying you are “strong like bull and smart like tractor” do like Pete says and “Train with your Brain”

    All the best!

    John Stephan

  • jim

    isn’t this how the old time strongmen acts were years ago? Like Saxon, sandwo, Cyr, etc? Full lock outs, partials with HUGE weights often using people, horses, etc….not doing things like full squats, military presses etc.

    I guess if you do things like “the tomb” you can also lift a few cars/horses with a bit of training?

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