Efficient Rapid Muscle GainRapid Muscle Gain


There are a lot of ways to get rapid muscle gain. You could lift cinder blocks or dig ditches or swing a sledgehammer. Those all work.

Lifting dumbbells, doing push-ups, and lifting lighter weights through a full range of motion all build muscle.

If you wanted a rapid muscle gain of 20 pounds and lose to 20 pounds of fat, any one of the above tactics could work.

But . . . how long would each one take? How many workouts would you need? How many exercises would you need to do? How much time would each workout take? And is it really rapid muscle gain if it takes months and months?

So what is the best way? That is the question that has fascinated me for nearly 20 years.

Once we start to measure a few things the answers to achieving rapid muscle gain become clear.

If we define “best way” to get rapid muscle gain as the way to get the “most muscle for the least amount of time invested” – which seems like a fair definition of ‘best’ – then we can measure all the related elements

When we measure we discover a lot of great information:

  • does 5 reps deliver 500% more new muscle than 1 rep? No.
  • does lifting 100 lbs 3 times deliver more muscle intensity than lifting 300 lbs once? No.
  • does doing a biceps exercise with 20 lbs generate more muscle intensity than doing a different biceps exercise with 80 lbs? No.
  • does working out 3 times a week deliver a greater rate of increased intensity than working out once every 10 days? No.
  • does a 45 minute workout deliver more intensity to the targeted muscles than a 5 minute workout? No.
  • do most people do all of the above despite the facts? Yes.

The whole point of lifting weights is to create an artificial overload to the muscles to stimulate them to grow. The greater the intensity of that overload, the greater the muscle growth stimulation and therefore more rapid muscle gain. That’s why we try to keep increasing the weights we use. Or should try.

Static Contraction training is engineered to find the heaviest exercise for each major muscle group, then to perform that exercise for the minimum time necessary (thus allowing the absolute maximum weight to be used) and then taking the longest time between workouts that still ensures progressive improvement.

So . . . that’s ultra-brief exercises, ultra-high muscle intensity using isometrics and infrequent workouts. In other words it’s the “least time invested” portion of the “best way” definition.

OK, so it’s hardly any time invested. But does it put muscle on you? Is there rapid muscle gain? Well, you could look at the testimonials page but here is a recent favorite story from 57-year-old Carl about his experience.

Carl’s Rapid Muscle Gain

Here is part of what he said: “I began a little skeptical since I had tried static contraction training before and stopped after a couple sessions because I couldn’t believe such a short workout would work.”

Starting weight            179.8 lbs
Ending weight             186.8 lbs
Beginning body fat      27.4% (approx 49.3 lbs)
Ending body fat           22.8% (approx 43.0 lbs)
Total mass gain            13.3 lbs
Total fat loss                   6.3 lbs
Average strength gain across all exercises   49%

Carls says: “Not bad for a male aged 57yr 9mo. I feel as strong as when I was a 21 year old Marine. Probably would have done better, but I had just recovered from an injury sustained with H.I.T. full range training, so I started off very carefully with the weights chosen and held for 10-15 seconds.”

So, because he was nursing an old injury, Carl’s workouts actually used 10-15 second static hold times with lighter weights than he could have held for 5 seconds.

Nevertheless his actual exercise time was about 1 minute per workout and he gained 13.3 lbs of muscle in 10 workouts. That’s 1.3 lbs of muscle per workout and per minute of actual exercise. That’s training efficiency! (Carl said his workouts took about 30 minutes because he had to set them up on several conventional machines. But his time actually lifting was about 1 minute per workout. Amazing, what rational, engineered training can do, isn’t it?) I’d say 1.3 lbs of muscle per workout is very rapid muscle gain.

I can’t promise you will increase your overall strength 49%, lose 6.3 lbs of fat and gain 13.3 lbs of muscle in only 10 workouts, but you are bound to see measurable improvement.

My Favorite Line

Even with all those numbers I love to look at and compare, do you know what I liked best about Carl’s story? It was this: “I feel as strong as when I was a 21 year old Marine.” When a 57-year-old guy says that it makes my day. Seriously. It’s one thing to have bigger biceps or to bench press a personal record, but to have the feeling of youth and vigor restored is a magnificent thing for anyone. And to feel like a young marine again is high praise indeed. That’s not just rapid muscle gain – it’s rapid well-being gains!

Rapid Muscle Gain + Efficiency = 10+ lbs of Muscle in 10 Workouts

Many people would be impressed with the above achievement, and rightly so – 13.3 lbs of new muscle in 10 workouts! But it’s the efficiency of it that is really the impressive element. Those gains were achieved with 10 minutes of actual exercise. Ten minutes! (It would have been about 2.5 minutes but Carl was recovering from a previous full range injury and used slightly lighter weights and longer static hold times.)

So if a busy person can achieve rapid muscle gain like that in 10 minutes of training time spread over a month, why on earth would he choose to do 60 minute workouts 3 days a week for 52 weeks a year?

Aren’t You a Busy Person?

I don’t claim to be a historian or a cultural anthropologist but it seems to me that we live in the busiest, most hectic time in man’s history. Recent studies reveal many people get inadequate sleep, most households have two wage earners, families don’t eat together, commute times are high and even when people are supposed to be relaxing they are sending text messages, talking on their mobile phones or otherwise multitasking.

It seems like common sense that efficiency should be the most sought after element of almost every endeavor. People literally don’t have time to waste and if something can be done in 5 minutes, why would they spend an hour doing it some other way?

Efficiency and rapid muscle gain is what Static Contraction training is all about. This isometric workout is hands down the most time-efficient way to build strength and muscle mass and to garner the health benefits that go along with increased fitness. Ten exercises – five seconds each – and once or twice a month workouts leading to the most rapid muscle gain you’ve ever experienced.

Why would anyone choose not to train this way?

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  • Mike Bateman

    I started your older version of static contraction training from the book you wrote a long time ago and have gone through four weeks of it and am already amazed by the results i've been getting. i started at 177lbs at 4.66% body fat and not even half way through it i way 183 and have maintained a 4.6% and my static hold on the bench press has already gone up 100lbs from when i started at 400lbs last bench hold i did 500lbs for 12 seconds. i'm really enjoying the results!

  • Austin

    I am very interested in this type of work out. I want to be big and am unfortunantly a hard gainer. I also have never really been bigger than i am now. Will this be very effective on me. also is there a certain type of diet i should be on. high protein low protein….should i take protein to help with the muscle building?

  • Thanks, Mike. Six pounds of muscle in four weeks is good progress. But I'm surprised your bench hasn't gone up even more. A 12-second hold might be the reason. Try jacking up the weight so you can only hold it 5 seconds and no more. That will generate more intensity. Let us know how you make out.

  • Austin, the principles work on any healthy human. If you truly are a 'hardgainer' you might have to work harder for the same gains that come more easily to someone else – but all muscle grows in response to being literally forced to grow. That is always done by lifting heavy weights. On the subject of diet, one of my sons is a classic ectomorph and – to win a family bet – he put on 29 pounds of muscle with SCT, but I was amazed at the groceries he had to eat to do it. He has ultra-low bodyfat (get's that from his mom, not me. haha.) and did not gain any fat in the 14 weeks it took him to put on the muscle. If you're like that it's easy to track your progress with a scale and bodyfat measurement. As long as you aren't gaining fat, keep eating well and keep hoisting the heavy iron. In a few days I'll be introducing someone who can give more insight on the nutrition side of things. Stay tuned.

  • I just purchased Train Smart. Over the years, as a result of a variety of injuries, I have lifted lighter and lighter, and as a result became smaller and smaller. I was able to do do light conditioning work, so luckily at 44 I am relatively lean (about 11-12% bodyfat). Now for the big blow. December was not a good month. Nasty case of bronchitis followed by a bad car accident (not my fault, thankfully), has left me down to a low of 118lbs at 5'7". And, I have completed two workouts so far, albeit a little modified due to the injuries. I already see and feel the difference in the two workouts! This technique is fast! I am looking forward to my future results and will post them accordingly.

  • Thanks. Keep us posted on your progress.

  • Michael


    I have been doing your workout for about 18 months now i love the time savings and the ego boost. i am 54 years old, 5'7", weighed 152@20%BF when i began, my last weight was 169@24%BF i was really hoping i could get to around 165@12-15%BF but wow this is going slowly (compared to some of your other followers). My bench has gone from about 245 to my best SC of 545 (awesome). any advice you can offer to help gain more muscle?

  • You're up about 7 pounds of muscle so that's good. You've also gained fat so you aren't starving yourself and preventing additional muscle growth. So I wouldn't look to dietary solutions. Are you only lifting weights that are so heavy you can only hold them for 5 seconds, not more? Are you seeing improvement every workout? Have you modified the program in any way?

  • Rama

    Hi Pete

    I love your programs, but recently I had to leave a gym because its owner wouldnt let me train with SRMs. He said "it would be a greater risk of injury trying to lift weights you cant lit in your full range", and he cant have me injured in his gym. Learning from you, I know all that he is saying isnt "right". But I had to keep quiet and not be a smartass because he has a 20+ years experience and a university degree..whereas I am a 163 pounder at 10% bodyfat with just 1-2 years of experience.

    In the end I had to leave the gym, but do you have advice on what to do in case I go to another gym and have to deal with guys telling me I cant lift in SRMs? Thanks in advance.

  • Christian


  • What irony. He'll let a guy lift the heaviest weight he can lift in his WEAK range – and thereby maximize his chance of injury – but he won't let you lift your heaviest weight in only the strongest and safest range of motion. Most of these guys just never think – they repeat what they were taught and never go any farther.

    Lifting in your safest range should be a no-brainer – but it's unconventional so people resist it. I call that phenomenon 'cogniostasis'. See this article: http://www.precisiontraining.com/4-questions-that

  • Thanks, Christian. (Hey, your caps key is stuck on.)

    Don't get me started on programs that brag about being "insane" or "extreme". Would you take a blood pressure medication that was "insane"? That said, any program where you lift more weight than you usually do will put muscle on you. You can lift cinder blocks and gain muscle. You can lift kettlebells and gain muscle. My concern has always been finding what is the most efficient way to gain muscle – the least time/effort for the most gain. Once you start measuring for that all roads leads to Static Contraction training. Pure and simple.

    What they don't tell you about those P90X and similar programs is how many people just can't sustain 90 minutes of vigorous exercise for 60 days in a row. They also don't tell you that the "back end" on these "insane" products is a sales contract for monthly nutritional supplement billed to your credit card. That's where the money is. "Can't sustain these workouts, Mr. Jones? You need Miracle Workout Sustainer – only $69.96/month!!"

  • Michael

    To answer your questions, yes when i do SC it’s all out. I do SC about 14-21 days apart and usually see gains in at least 3 of 5 exercises and not always the same ones, which tells me some groups need more rest/ recovery. I start with a warm up set of 15-20 reps at about 30% then one rep at 60% then one rep at 80% and finally one at 5-10 pounds abouve my last max. I recently added some of the extended rep exercises (one exercise, one set to failure) between the SCs to improve overall endurance which resulted in some really good gains in my SC rounds. I'm in the gym for 30 min a day 5 days including 10-15 min on elliptical then about 2 hrs when I do SC.

  • Well, you are basically doing three warm-ups and I have to wonder how much that is pre-exhausting your target muscles. And if 3 out of 5 exercises improve you seem to be right on the edge of training too often. And 5-10 lbs of increase might be fine for biceps but for the big lifts it seems like a pretty small goal. (I am thinking of the people who leg press 1,000 lbs and above or even on, say, the shrugs where people are over 500 lbs.) You might want to try taking more time off between workouts, doing an abbreviated warm up and shooting for 5% increases. See what happens. And remember, if you can hold the weight 6 or 7 seconds it is too light.

  • Brian here. I have done 4 workouts now. I have gone up 10-20 lbs on everthing. While that may not seem too exciting, I am the guy who was in that bad car accident on 12/16 so I had to be very cautious. Interestingly, I found that it did not matter where I started ( I had no choice but to start light). As long as my weights went up each time, I saw immediate changes. How amazing is that! I am up almost two lbs (no visible excess body fat). Again, may not seem too exciting, but if I continue that pace over the next several months up to a year, that’s key! Another factor of my quick gains is I gave up high intensity metabolic conditioning for walking on the treadmill (30 min) and a few cycling sprints on the recumbant bike. Worked like a charm!

  • Well done. Keep going and try for more on the leg exercises. The leg exercise weights should be at least 5-10 times what your biceps are lifting so the increases should be way beyond 10-20 lbs for you legs after four workouts. Always make sure the weight is so heavy you can’t hold it more than five seconds. (I understand you are nursing injuries for some exercises so you might not be able to hoist maximum weights, but if you use lighter weights and don’t gain muscle it wouldn’t be fair to blame SCT. It would be due to not being able to follow the SCT protocol.)

  • Jack

    Hey Pete, question regarding superrep arms-
    With superrep arms there are the two bicep exercises. I whichever one I attempt first, I lift a heavier weight than the second bicep exercise. I know I should be attempting heavier weights for every exercise, but is it likely that I am still making the progress I should be making if only the weight on the first exercise increases while the second stays the same? Or should I try to split the difference and pick the same weight for each bicep exercise and try to increase both weights each workout?

    For example, last workout my 1st bicep exercise weight was 125lbs and my 2nd bicep exercise 115lbs, because my biceps were exhausted a little from the 1st. Next time I workout, should I shoot for 125lbs with both exercises? or 135lbs with my 1st, and then whatever I can handle with my 2nd exercise?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is – Is it important that all weights in every exercise increase? I want to lift as much as I can my 1st exercise but that increased intensity may cause me to lift the same weight I lifted last workout for my 2nd exercise. If you could clear this up for me i’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  • Any increase is good. First, second or both. When it gets difficult to improve it’s time to take more time off between workouts. One way to keep track is to add up the total weight you lift, so you can see if the total went up, irrespective of which ‘rep’ it occurred on. I hope that helps.

    Biceps are extra difficult because the increases are small numbers. Hoisting 110 lbs then doing 115 is a very respectable 4.5% jump – and you can only do that when your gym has 2.5 lb plates to add to the bar. Sometimes those are the smallest plates in the gym – so a 2% improvement can’t even be attempted.

  • Jack

    Sounds good, thanks.

  • Points well taken Pete. And yes, some readers or users of the method would not understand or make that connection and place undue blame. However, whether someone has an injury or use of only one leg or arm, your method works! I have already began referring colleagues (I am a Pilates Instructor) and clients to your site to buy your programs.

  • Jayesh

    I am 18 year old with a very skinny base. I am currently training my top half (shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps and forearm) on one day and the bottem half (legs and abs) the next day. After a day rest, I have continued this cycle. Some of my friends have told me that this is not good, and I should focus on 2 muscle groups a day. I was wondering if it is more better to train like that?

  • Jayesh, your question is very broad. The “way” to train is the way where you make progress on every exercise during every workout. If the intensity of your lift did not increase what was the point of doing it? To do that you need a way to measure – apples to apples – whether or not you improved. That is what Static Contraction training is about. Measuring improvement in intensity for each target muscle group and then scheduling your workouts far enough apart to keep that improvement going consistently. If you are not doing that, what are you doing?

  • Kregg

    I’m currently training to be a navy SAR swimmer, so the demand for long distance swimming/running is a staple in my training. with the countless pushups, pullups, and situps I’ve done, I’ve gotten very lean…but too skinny. Is SCT a safe addition to training, and how likely is the long distance type training to affect the muscle growth time/amount?

  • Kevin

    That’s a great recommendation from a 57yr old trainer. Awesome to hear us older guys can get another chance and that it isn’t a matter of training harder but training smarter. Efficiency is a great thing. My own Stats: @ Age 31(1989). Body Weight: 65kg (143 lbs). Best Deadlift (full-range of motion.) for one-off lift: 120kg (264 lbs). Then @ Age 51 (2010). Body Weight: 90kg (198 lbs). Best Deadlift (short-range motion): 210kg (462 lbs) N.B. I was using the same lifting belt & similar gloves both times. Only difference in 2010: I used cheap lifting straps with double loops. Result: No soreness, no injuries. Oh, By the way, I had the flu really bad that day in 2010 when I bested my previous deadlift the safe “SCT” way by 90kg (198lbs) = Overall Gain of 75%. I hadn’t trained for years as I do strange work hours and don’t like gyms, mainly because of the misinformation and erroneous theories they teach. Great thing is I felt I could lift more with better lifting hooks because my legs are stronger now than in 1989. My 1989 best Leg press was 220kg (485lbs) for 3 reps full range motion. Cheers to you Pete and the team. Thank you heaps.

  • Hi Kregg, and congratulations for being in the elite physical ranks of SAR swimmers. You can add Static Contraction training into your workouts and it will add muscle to your body. (Assuming other obvious factors, such as inadequate calories being eaten, are not preventing growth.) But you will need to pay close attention to your numbers. Where many people might be able to workout, for example, every six days, you might find that those six days are so packed with other exertion that your body has not fully recovered. So you might need ten days between SCT workouts. The good thing is you will know immediately because you perform only 5 exercises and if at least 4 of them did not improve you have your answer as to whether you need more time off. I’m sure you’ll be very impressed with what SCT does for your overall strength and power.

  • Hey Pete –

    I love your work and do hold many of the ideas you do on heavy weights for best muscle growth. But I have a question. Have you seen this paper by Dr. Ralph Carpinelli:


    I was curious to know what you thought of it and how it pertains to SCT.

    All the best,

  • Thanks, Fred. Nice to see you here. (Fred has a successful gym in NYC training executives and other busy people.) That paper is pure academia – 86 pages to make the point that you don’t need heavy weights to build maximum strength and muscle. Ha! I’ve always said you could lift cinder blocks or swing a sledgehammer or any of a hundred other things and develop great muscularity. But the whole point of Static Contraction training and isometric exercises in only the strongest and safest range of motion is . . . efficiency! One 5-second lift that stimulates muscle growth so that when you come back next week you’ll be stronger. Yes, you could instead do 3 sets of 20 reps with 25% of that weight but you give up efficiency by an order of magnitude. Same deal with all the other exercise variations that get foisted on trainees – they work, but mean 1,000% more exercise time than SCT. And when you factor in the ‘three-days-a-week-in-perpetuity’ that conventional training always sells people you lose another order of magnitude of efficiency over the course of a year. The 86 pages didn’t mention that huge price people pay in low efficiency for using minimum weights.

  • Fred, I wanted to piggyback on what Pete said. I actually read through that article and I have many issues with the assertions that author has made. I’ve seen many research articles on a various number of physiology topics say contradictory things. While making a point by point rebuttal of what this author claims would not be appropriate in this blog, I can say this: the proof is in the pudding. What Mr. Capinelli doesn’t have access to is the data we have from hundreds and hundreds of clients who have training on our digital strength coach site and have shown major strength increases. In addition, he doesn’t have the feedback that we have from our clients who’ve experienced the transforming power of SCT. If it works for you, does it matter what some researcher somewhere says?

  • Brian T

    Can you mix alpha and beta workouts? I’ve never heard you say this.

    For example, can I lift sct for 5 seconds then take off 20% of the weight and then do a beta hybrid for 3 minutes. Could I even add another set using even less weight and just lift a normal beta workout for 3 minutes?

    And then move onto the next exercise until I am done?

  • You could, but you have to ask yourself why. The Beta workouts were created to help the small minority of people who seem to need more volume in order to get results. If you’re making progress with Alpha workouts why add 400-500% more wear and tear and draining of your energy? Also, Beta workouts are not about using declining weights. They use the same weight as Alpha workouts.

  • Brian T

    I thought you stated in the beta hybrid workout to use 80% of your max?

  • Nope. Use 80% and you’ll be doing 40-second holds. Don’t want that.

  • Tom Strong


    I have found on my Super Arm Reps and CNS workouts that I am adding weight for the second set; almost like I am doing a warmup for the warmup which I know that you, Pete, get tired just writing about. I had found that when I add weight to my previous dates exercises that I am unable to lift it; but if I do the same weight for the first set and then add on to the second set I am able to lift the heavier weight.

  • Brian T

    The extra endurance training of the muscle on top of the power will help me at playing soccer though Pete. So in that sense it is advantageous for my training, unless I’ve taken something up incorrectly.

  • Tom, that means you are improving. I’ve found some people do lift heavier on the subsequent sets. I think its basically because the muscle comes up to “operating temperature” and becomes primed to lift even more. I’ve found that 3 sets is pretty much it though as far as it goes because after that the strength usually diminishes. Have fun with it!

  • tony

    Hi Pete got a question for you with SCT bicep curl what is the best position to have your arms when doing this is it…..
    A elbows bent at around 90 degree angle?
    B arms contracted as much as possible ie hands and palms nearly touching/at shoulder height?

    Also apart from the obvious whats the difference/benifits between sitting bicep curl and standing biecep curl?

  • This is the only tricky exercise. If you bring it to the top of the motion most of the load comes off the muscles. It’s closer to a 90 degree angle, it’s the point where your fully-loaded biceps can hold the most weight.

  • Shawn


    I am getting back into serious working out and had a question. I am eventually training towards some MMA work (I am not sure I will compete or not) and am starting back into my boxing/kick-boxing workouts. I was wondering how to integrate and maximize an SCT workout into this routine? Should I go with Beta workout instead? So far I am finding it difficult to pick a day to get in an SCT workout as my muscles are wiped after every boxing or kick-boxing workout. I really want to add additional strength to my “body-weight-only” workouts for a stronger punch/kick and always enjoyed your SCT workouts. Thanks in advance.

  • Shawn, a lot of martial artists do well on a Beta routine but it’s not mandatory. I’d say start with Alpha and see how you do. As hard as a martial arts workout is the intensity of muscle overload is a very small fraction of what you will do with SCT, so you can mix them easily. Just pay close attention to your SCT numbers as your guide to how much rest you need between workouts while still doing your MA routines.

  • tony

    Ah this is where I have been going wrong I have been using top of motion, I can lift heavier here but its obviously not the correct way.
    Have been using this method for ages, this then probably explains why my bench press is not what it used to be, if I have lost strength in my arms I will also have lost power on the bench press would you agree?
    Any other excersises that are tricky?

  • Any exercise can be done improperly and to limited benefit. Follow the instructions to the letter and make sure your muscles are doing the lifting and you’ll be fine.

  • Les

    Hi Pete, How does one measure muscle? Also is it normal for the circumference of your waist to increase as you grow muscle? I notice my waist is increasing although I’m eating at maintenance. Is it possible for a 68 year old to grow wider shoulders? I want to put another 2 inches round my shoulders and just wondering whether I am maybe maxed out.

  • Rene Kittelsen

    Greg, would it not been useful for us to show your clinical results to even better the understandings of people out there?
    Only argument I see after discussing with people who swear to traditional training is documentation that it works, so would it not be wise to show some findings?
    I think it would be beneficial for SCT…

    For me after using SCT only 7 months I get hammered as being a novice and stupid and what not. I don’t mind the fight cause I know this works 🙂

    I say again, some kind of documentation of proof to slap in their faces would make things a lot easier…

  • Brian Tye

    Hi Pete,

    I am 55 years old, will be 56 in March. My martial arts instructor got me going on PFW last August. This a fantastic program. I’ve gain 10 pounds and none of it is fat. One example of the proof that this works period. In August my bench/chest started at 155 pounds. I am now at 3 weeks between workouts for each A,B and C. Last Wednesday Jan 11 2012 that same exercise was at 245 pounds. I highly recommend the PFW.

  • Rene Kittelsen

    I wanted to add something on another thread, but it has been shut down… Maybe make a thread based for questions only?

    Anyhow, I just for fun of it trained my forearms and backhand (back arms?) in october, and here is my results.
    I tried some PFW ARMS exercises and I started with 33 lbs on my forearms, and 77 lbs backhand, and this was heavy the first time, and with 5 sec hold x 2, pretty exhausted…
    I thought maybe this would affect my workout A and agreed on not doing it until a later date.
    Then in 26 of december I did the exercises again and suddenly I managed 62 lbs on my forearms, and 150 lbs on my backhand! I was astonished how this could just happen, just resting!
    I did it again today 25 of january (just over 4 weeks rest) and managed to hoist 70 lbs forearms and 165 lbs on my backhand!

    Really amazed by this 🙂 and I love it!