If you are just hearing about Static Contraction Training (SCT) you might want to try a few of the exercises at your gym just to satisfy yourself that there really is a difference.
The basics of SCT are to, a) limit the range of motion to only your strongest and safest range then, b) for just 5 seconds lift the heaviest weight you can within that range.
The exercises themselves are common ones you likely already do using your full, weakest range of motion. They can all be performed on regular equipment found in almost all gyms. You will also (happily) need quite a lot of iron plates.
Below are three great examples from the Train Smart e-book.
When you try these you will suddenly realize how much your muscles really can lift and how many muscle fibers must be dormant and unstimulated during your normal, weak-range exercises.
This exercise is performed inside a Power Rack, as pictured. Position the bar within 4 inches of your extended reach. Place 30-100% more weight on the bar than you normally use. Press the bar up one inch (do not lock-out) and hold for a about of 5 seconds while exhaling. Experiment to find the most weight you can hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 days later with 10-30% more weight and again 5 days after that with another 10-30% more weight. Always use a weight that is so heavy you can only hold it 5 seconds. If you can hold it longer, it is too light. This applies to all three exercises on this page.
This exercise is performed inside a Power Rack, as pictured. Position the bar within one inch of your grasp while standing. Place 30-100% more weight on the bar than you normally use. Lift the bar off the support and use your trapezius muscles to raise the weight just slightly. Hold for a count of 5 seconds while exhaling. Experiment to find the most weight you can hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 days later with 10-30% more weight and again 5 days after that with another 10-30% more weight.
This exercise is performed with safety stops engaged at ALL TIMES. Position the seat so the sled is within 4 inches of your full extension. Place 100-200% more weight on the press than you normally use. Press the sled up one inch off the safety stops. Hold for a count of 5 seconds while exhaling. Do not lock out. Experiment to find the most weight you can hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 days later with 20-50% more weight and again 5 days after that with another 20-50% more weight.
After you’ve followed these instructions you will discover that not only do you lift more weight, you can exactly measure your progress with a meaningful number for each exercise. When you train with SCT you simply “train by the numbers” and can always see progress or lack of progress and know whether or not you are fully recovered with mathematical precision. The full Train Smart workout consists of 10 exercises that are divided into two different workouts using just five exercises. An SCT workout consists of going into the gym and performing five exercises lasting five seconds each and then either leaving the gym or spending your time working on some aspect of fitness other than strength training. If you’re a person who wants measurable results and doesn’t like to waste time, SCT is made for you.
Some Exercise “Cheats”
Those of you who have been training with SCT for a few months often write me to say that you are now so strong that you are max’ing out the equipment at your gym. In other words, SCT has literally made you too strong for normal gym equipment. The first thing I like to tell people who write me about this is, “That’s a great problem to have!.”
Here are a few things you can do to cheat the machines and get more intensity out of the exercises.
Lat Pulldowns: Most of these machines operate by lifting a stack of plates held in place by a locking pin. Sometimes you can add one or two dumbbells to the top of the weight stack. Obvious Warning: make sure the dumbbell isn’t going to fall off the stack when you lift it. This can work for SCT because you only perform a 5 second exercise, never try it for multiple full range reps. Also, using a single grip handle you can perform lat pulldowns using one arm at a time, thus effectively doubling the weight.
Ab Crunches: Can use the same cheat as above on the weight stack.
Biceps: If you are using a machine, rather than a barbell, you can use both hands to pull the weight into your strongest position then release one hand and hold that position statically with only the other hand. This basically doubles the amount of weight and intensity compared to using both arms.
Leg Press and Toe Press: You can also perform these exercises using one leg at a time thus doubling the weight. Be very careful not to torque your pelvis and spine – if you feel even a slight twinge of pain don’t do it. My preference is to place an empty barbell across the sled and then load it with additional plates. I’ve used machines that can accommodate two barbells.
The sad thing is that most humans are capable of getting too strong for conventional weightlifting equipment yet the same machines get built year after year. Worse, the common advice is to risk a serious injury using a full range of motion just so these machines can appear to have adequate weight for most people. (There is a reason you never see weights in a yoga class – heavy weights and flexibility training don’t mix.) The world needs machines that provide adequate intensity for people lifting in the strongest, safest range of motion. Static Contraction: building muscle without maximizing joint and tendon injuries – what a radical concept!