Proper flexibility training never requires using heavy weights.
Proper flexibility training never requires using heavy weights.

I really like the photo accompanying this post. It’s a beautiful illustration of what healthy flexibility really is.

Apart from the comments and innuendo I’d hear from my male friends, what I think of when I look at this model is how dedicated to flexibility she must be. Look at the position of her chin on her chest and the way she can extend her arms behind her. And the way her legs are so straight. It’s amazing and it’s inspirational. The last time I was able to do that I was 4-months old getting my diaper changed.

There are three recognized benchmarks of fitness; strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because so many overzealous strength trainers try to represent weightlifting as a sort of panacea that can build all three aspects of fitness. That’s dumb. And it’s irresponsible too. There is no place for heavy muscle-building weights in a flexibility workout. So telling people they should do heavy squats all the way down to the basement while their knees creak and scream or do flat bench dumbbell flyes using heavy weights that nearly pull arms from their sockets is an invitation to a serious and completely unnecessary injury.

This is why it always irks me when somebody says, “Static Contraction might build a lot of muscle but you need a full range of motion to build flexibility. So SCT is only good as a part of a full range lifting regimen.”

Why don’t these guys think this through better? Do you see the women in the photo needing a really heavy weight? Do you ever see a book or class on flexibility training where they issue everyone a heavy barbell? It reminds me of the occasional stories in Popular Science magazine of a flying-car-boat that is a convergence of all three vehicles. But what it really is is a crappy car, a crappy boat and a crappy airplane all in one. There is no need to try that with your fitness training.

And one more thing. When you injure your muscle, tendon, ligament or joint doing heavy, full-range movements – you lose flexibility! Sometimes permanently. More trainers should think about that before giving advice about lifting and flexibility.

For strength – lift very heavy weights under the safest conditions possible. For flexibility – bend your body without forcing it artificially. For cardiovascular endurance – do your favorite prolonged exercise. There is no reason for any one of the above to claim to make the others obsolete or unnecessary.

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18 Comments.

  • Gyla Demetrak

    Hi Pete, Just bought your books, but I have to tell you I did speak to you some years back when you had the equipment. I love your honesty on flexibility, I feel the same way. I am glad you have this format where we can reply to you and as of yet I have not started the program, but sure I will have questions when I get myself going. Keep the suggestions coming. Gyla

  • Thanks, Gyla. Enjoy your training.

  • Brian T

    Well said Pete.

    Logical good advice.

  • Sally James

    Hey look again! I know people, even myself, who can really straighten their legs in that position. Have a look at any yoga practice class and you will be amazed.

  • My point was that it doesn’t require heavy weights.

  • Jerome

    Hello Pete,

    Will Static Contraction training affect my flexibility ? Is SCT good for dancers and martial artists ?

  • Hi Jerome! I talk about that issue on these pages:

    http://www.precisiontraining.com/what-about-needing-a-full-range-of-motion/
    http://www.precisiontraining.com/full-range-of-motion-lifting-and-bmw-limp-mode/
    http://www.precisiontraining.com/proper-flexibility-training-means-using-no-weights-not-heavy-weights/

    Also, Greg Karr has been a martial artist for 16 years, 8 of those using Static Contraction. You can read what he says about it as well.

  • Mark

    Hello Pete,

    I think it’s very much a case of getting the right tool for the job. To build strength use weights intelligently using your SCT program. For developing flexibility use a support such as a “Stretch-a-Flex”. It helps support you while you do the stretching and as you say no weights required. It was produced by a New Zealand martial artist, and I’ve found it most helpful. I gave one to my nephew who is stuck with weight training three days a week (as you say Monday, Wednesday and Friday), 2hrs a workout. I’ve told him about SCT and how much more free time he’d have to pursue other interests. Hopefully one day he’ll get it. I like your new blog format.

    Best wishes,

    Markr

  • Thanks for the kind words, Mark. Maybe your nephew should talk to Greg Karr about SCT and martial arts.

  • William

    Great points! I can still remember pictures of Tom Platz bouncing squats off of his heels getting people to believe that this would give them his type of quads (never mind genetics and drugs). I wonder sometimes of how many blew their knees out, pinched their nerves and cannot over the years squat their own weight today because of making the mistake on flexability and weight training.

    Pete, I never tire of your true wisdom. My leg training (PF) today is intense and amazing. At 50 I am still setting personal records (injury free).

    Thanks,
    William

  • Nice post Pete!! Logical and to the point.
    Oh, that lady has a wicked bod. 🙂
    She exudes FITNESS in every imaginable way.

    Cheers!

  • R.R.B.Dam

    Dear all,
    I have had good experience of yoga of these exercises for 19 years. We can feel happy for some years with these asanas. But after long time practice our discs wills be degenerated due to forward bending of these exercises. Spinal muscles may be stretched well. But much harm will be caused to discs. It is very clear from spinal mechanism. We should not be liberal in this regard. We should refer to science but not to individual practice and experience. It will damage the discs.
    Be careful,
    R.R.B. dam

  • I have a problem that may or may not be self-defeating. I don’t presently belong to a gym, but when I did the staff there was not disposed to spot for stuff like SCT, given that in the Bay Area I believe it was done wrong, but nonetheless coaches and chiropractors took those failures as evidence that it does not work.

    I also do not do ‘buddy’ workouts. I suspect I know the answer to this but am I correct in assuming that unless you can have access to heavy gym weights (I am in no position financially or residentially to acquire a private gym) this is just not feasible? I have bands of different thicknesses and am not someone who wants to be massively fit, but I’m 50 and still have great flexibility and energy and know that weights are imperative for health. Surely though, you have come across folks who had no access to weights? Do you just tell them that until they do this is simply not an option?

    I respect that, just want to not feel as if I’ll never have strong muscles again unless I do this.

    Thank you and apologies if it was a tedious letter. 🙂 I admire your dedication to improving, implementing and disseminating your progress over the years.

  • Thanks for the kind words, Jeannie. Another person also asked about access to weights. This is my answer: You need to use heavy weights. There is no way to get around the physics of that. Because Static Contraction training is infrequent some people just pay the daily (visitor) rate at a local gym. This makes sense if you only visit 2 or 3 times a month. SCT uses common exercises that people can also do at home. But they need a power rack to limit range of motion and they need heavy weights. In a gym you don’t need a ‘buddy’ or the gym staff, you just need a simple power rack. (Rubber bands will work for about two workouts. Then you are stronger than they are and there is no way to increase the overload.)

  • Tom Strong

    Just a quick note to Jeannie and backing up Pete’s advice.

    I am sure that there a plenty of gyms in the Bay area that have the equipment that you need! Just ask for a tour of the gym before you sign up either for an extended membership or for the daily as Pete sugests! I am a member of LA Fitness; they have all the equipment that I need as I’m sure others do as well! They will try to you to sign up for Personal Training you don’t need, they don’t need to know why you don’t want it.

    Be good to yourself, live life passionately and always, always expect success!

  • Thanks for your truthful and reasoned comments on flexibility.Your use of humour also is much appreciated re the comment concerning a crappy car,boat and plane all in one.I have never thought that any form of exercise no matter how good can do everything and always taken issue with those fanatics who think that it can.This usually involves pushing their system as the best ever.I have always tried to be fair and open minded about the value of different approaches and thought it worthwhile knowing that other methods may be the most appropriate re what I call a tool to task basis.On the other hand mindless eclecticism{your car,boat,plane} is not a solution.I had to laugh at a new exercise system that billed itself as Yoga Boxing-hard to imagine what that might have been.I joked to some friends about being hit with a heavy chakra punch under the chin.Never heard anything about it afterwards so it must have died the death maybe beaten to the post by something else equally silly.

  • I think Yoga Boxing lost out to Meditation Wrestling because it had a way cooler infomercial.

  • nintygaming

    Pete,

    Something I would like to add is that, although we should not lift in an exaggerated motion (because of the injuries and myths involved), we should acknowledge that building muscle also builds flexibility.

    A larger muscle is a more flexible muscle. Its kinda like a rubber-band. The thicker rubber band has more flexibility than the thinner one.

    I think that when people like Mike Mentzer state that building muscle increases flexibility, he’s not taking about using an extended range of motion, but rather, just simply the fact that, a larger muscle is more flexible than a smaller muscle.

    Also, don’t forget that a stronger muscle, has more endurance than a weaker muscle! For example, if a strong wind is blowing against 2 different trees, one small and weak, the other one large and strong, which one of them is going to “endure” the wind longer before bending, breaking, or getting up-rooted? I think we already know the answer.

    So in that sense, building muscle is the solution to not only more flexibility, but also more endurance. Go figure!

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