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?

Hmmm.

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

EXERCISE
% of PEAK
Straight arm Barbell Pullover
12.8%
Flat Bench Cable Crossover
43.9%
Dumbbell Flye
45.5%
Incline Barbell Press
53.8%
Nautilus® 10 Degree Chest
57.5%
Unilateral Cable Crossover
70.2%
Bilateral Cable Crossover
91.5%
Decline Barbell Bench Press
96.9%
Flat Barbell Bench Press
100%

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.

15 Comments.

  • aimo

    Hello again, Pete!

    Thank you for taking so good care of people, who want to be stronger. I have been testing your advice especially in squat, dead lift and shrug + bench press.

    Day before yesterday I squatted 220 kg, which is 84 kg more than 24th of June.

    Dead lift has gone up 70 kg, shrug 40 kg and bench press 39 kg.

    As I am 73 y.o., I try to be as careful as I can, not to hurt myself. If not, I could have done a little better, but my goal is to be a lot stronger in 2012 June, when I will, hopefully, be 75…

    My overall health has been lately almost perfect; I use no medicine. No need to that.

    Thank you very much for your help, Pete!

    Your pupil and loyal customer, Aimo Ruoho, living in Spain.

  • Amio, I love it when a guy who is 73 can talk about the 150+ lb increase he's had on his deadlift! You're an inspiration to the rest of us.

  • Farhad Ghorbani

    Hi Pete,

    I agree with you that using heavy weights is a necessary element achieve muschle growth, however, isn't it only one of the measn of achieving high-intensity contractions?

    I have found that performing a set of cable flyes (50lbs) to failure is more stimulative than a set of 155lbs of flat bench-press to failure, even though the latter is heavier. Basically what I am asking is that just because you are using a heavier weight doesn't mean it is more intense. It is how you perform your reps (??) Also, isn't the main function of the pectorals to bring the arms together (i.e flyes). Doesnt the cable flye also have the advantage of achieve full contractions as the bench-press doe not?

    Thanks for your time,

    Farhad G

  • James Stanmore

    Hi Pete

    Really like the new innovation and look it should help with the skeptics out there.

    Loving the SCT every six weeks looking forward to interacting with others on their progress and insider info.

    Many thanks

    James

  • Cable flyes are a pretty good chest exercise. But when you say "more stimulative" you have to have a measurement of the "more". Are they 11% more stimulative? 37% more stimulative? The way to settle all these opinions is to measure the amount of weight you lift per minute. That's a real measurement of intensity. We measured over a dozen chest exercises and the one that allowed the most weight to be lifted per minute for the most people was the flat bench press.

    I hear you on the chest vs. arms aspect of these exercises. I think the world has yet to see a perfect chest exercise machine that utilizes maximum pecs and nearly no other muscles.

  • Thanks for the kind words, James.

  • Thank you Pete but it is said that lifing more weight increases strenth while less weight with more reps (say 8 to 12) builds muscles and further more reps then goes to endurence. Would you pl clarify? thank you……Malik from India

  • OK, but I want to make it clear that you're asking me to clarify something that I did not say. You're saying other people tell you this. I've also heard variations on this: "heavy weights for mass, light weights for strength." etc. People just don't think this through. If it were possible to train one way for "mass" and another way for "strength" you'd see some guys walking around with a 19-inch arm who couldn't lift much weight. And you'd see guys with 12-inch arms bench pressing 400 lbs. Doesn't happen. Muscle is like a steel cable, if you want it to be stronger it has to have more cross-sectional area, more diameter, more size. So stronger is always bigger and there is no way to train for one and not get the other.

    Endurance is another matter because it requires muscle and cardiovascular elements. It involves the ability to sustain strength output for extended time. Long story short, this improves by taxing a muscle at, say, 15% capacity instead of 90% capacity so that muscle can be supported by the rest of the body's systems for a longer time. But again, if you want a muscle to improve for an endurance activity it means strengthening that muscle so that it only operates at 8% of capacity and can therefore go longer. If a guy's legs are really weak he can't run a marathon – no matter how good his cardio became from swimming.

  • Tyler

    Thank you Pete for working so hard to get your information out there, I have been reading your information since 2005 back in high school. I wanted to let you, and all else on this blog, know that I applied what I learned and can now do a one arm pull-up, and bench 315 lbs. I only weigh 147 lbs and am training for the 2012 Olympic trials for the marathon! At the university I am studying exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry. I now understand, scientifically, why your training was so effective, i.e. neurological adaptations of recruiting a higher muscle fiber percentages, hyperplasia, testosterone stimulation, and strengthening of ligaments bones and tendons.

  • StaticContrac

    Thanks for the kind words, Tyler. Doing a one-arm pull-up puts you in rarefied company. I once read (can’t remember where) that only one person in 1,000 can do that. Good luck with your Olympic training and – please! – let us know how you are progressing. Good luck.

  • Rama

    Pete, I am wondering though if everyone works out with SCT, there would be no jobs for personal trainers?

  • StaticContrac

    There will always be a role for personal trainers. If “everyone” used SCT the business model would change. They would have 5-10 times more clients but spend less time with each one. Trainers also serve the role of teaching and explaining exercises and proper form. And if they had a greater body of data and knowledge available to them (as they would with SCT machines that actually measured something) they could truly tailor programs to every individual.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the appropriate explanation…though i have benefited a lot through SCT.. but as Mr. Rama said above SCT would kick in the belly of the trainer for it is so simple and fruitful at the same…..thank you again ….Malik

  • CHRISSIE

    Good afternoon, Pete,
    As a newcomer to SCT, I find your articles very interesting.It makes sense, and your forthright and at times funny way of dealing with this actually very serious topic, I find extremely refreshing. As a 48 year old female who has been in Gyms for the last 29 years training with more than the average can of baked beans, and sustained various mechanical injuries in the process, I am looking forward to closing the book on my old training patterns and seeing great results with SCT. Thanks for the ray of sunshine.

    Chrissie – Spain

  • Gracias for saying that, Chrissie. And welcome to the group.