Don't derail your power factor workout.In the last few years I haven’t spent much time talking about the Power Factor Workout. However, since discovering the success of the people on the Mass Gain Study I’ve been spending more time refining the method.

But no matter how you train you can learn something from what we have discovered from nearly two decades of experimentation with training tactics.

So although these are the three most common mistakes we’ve seen from Power Factor workout trainees they certainly can apply to almost everyone else.

1. Using Weights That Are Too Light

I have never supervised a workout of a new trainee using strong range partial reps where he or she did not select weights that were too light.

People always seem to underestimate their true maximum strength in their strongest range of motion. I’ve written about this before (Why Don’t You Lift 200% of Your One-Rep Max?) and I still have to remind readers to experiment to find their real upper limits.

Despite this we still hear from the occasional person who says, “I started your training doing 200 lb full range bench presses and after two months I was doing strong range 300 lb benches, but then I tested my full-range strength and it was still the same! Your training doesn’t work!” The truth is – he didn’t work for the training.

A person doing 200 lb bench presses should be doing 300 lb partials on his first or second Power Factor workout. Same with static contraction. After two months he could be doing 500-600 lbs. That stimulates serious new muscle growth. When a trainee plays around with sub-maximal weights he is wasting his time and energy. And when he tests his full range strength he finds that out.

Both the static contraction and Power Factor workout use only strongest range partial reps because we have tested this method thoroughly and determined that it generates the highest possible intensity of muscular overload. Nothing a person can do will exceed the intensity of a 5-second static hold. As you extend the time the intensity drops off.

The Power Factor workout allows a person to add more volume (more time) to workouts but uses two measurements to monitor the momentary and sustained intensity. That is the only way to ensure that a workout is still productive despite being of longer duration. It also ensures that a trainee does not fall into the trap of consistently using weights that are too light.

2. Not Keeping Track of Power Factor Workout Numbers

Some people read a bit about this training to ‘get the gist’ and head to the gym to try it out. They do a few workouts with strong range partials but they don’t time their exercises and they don’t do any calculations of their performance. (Math phobia.) These people are ships without rudders. And what is worse, they soon replace conventional overtraining with Power Factor workout overtraining. So they go nowhere.

The value of knowing your Power Factor workout numbers is that you can instantly see what combination of weight and reps is delivering your best performance. That’s huge, because it helps you squeeze every bit of muscle growth stimulation from every exercise. But you also immediately see when you start to overtrain and make zero progress.

So not knowing these numbers can keep you from getting the most out of a workout and adjusting your training frequency so every workout counts. Not keeping track of those numbers is just crazy.

That’s why it has been such a breakthrough to have the Engineered Strength Gym to track these measurements and some new ones that are very complex.

Keeping close track of your performance and progress is critical. Yet how many people do you see in the gym who jot down their weight and reps after an exercise? Zero? This is the sad state of strength training today.

3. Workout Too Often or Augment With Other Techniques

Static Contraction is the ultimate in minimalist training. Five exercises of 5 seconds each. Some people think that isn’t satisfying enough psychologically so they tack on some extra conventional exercises. Even using the Power Factor workout, which is more volume than SCT but still lower volume than 90% of other training systems, some people add on more work. Even more commonly they add in other workouts between their SCT or Power Factor workout.

Hey, if any of that worked we’d be the first to recommend it.

– We tested adding more workouts per week, it reduced results.

– We tested adding more exercises per workout, it reduced results.

– We tested mixing full-range and partial-range exercises, it reduced results.

The central issue for getting muscle growth is intensity of muscular output. When you focus on that things become crystal clear. When you have a way to measure intensity it’s a piece of cake. You just walk step by step toward you goals.

It’s a tragedy how many irrelevant topics spring up along the path to physical improvement that take trainees in wrong directions. If you avoid the three most common mistakes above, your strength and muscle gain are guaranteed to increase.

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68 Comments. Leave new

  • Brandon

    Pete, thanks for the explanation. Nowhere else can trainees get this kind of explanation about the system from the man who wrote it…weekly. It’s a big help. My question is related to point #1 Using Weights that are Too Light from the “Three Biggest Training Mistakes” article. I started using Power Factor with a rep range around 60-80reps. I am working on finding the “sweet spot” where I can generate my highest PF and PI numbers. For me, I am finding if I increase my weights 20%, I can’t get enough reps to show an increase on my graphs..from what I produced with the higher reps. I understand this is what finding your sweet spot is all about. I seem to generate my best numbers with higher reps. I wouldn’t plan on going higher than 80 or 90 reps but I have tried increasing the weight and lowering the reps. but have trouble making an increase. If I only increase the weight small amounts and generate my numbers with high reps I seem to increase my numbers every workout. I can see what I have to accomplish before I ever head to the gym by using your spreadsheet. I punch in some numbers I think I am capable of and check the result on the spreadsheet. If the graphs show an increase I know it will be a valuable set. Therefore if I plan to increase the weight on an exercise, I know ahead of time how many reps I need to achieve to show an improvement. I question if I am following your advice correctly by keeping my reps up that high over 2 mins? Should I be driving the weight up as high as I can and seeing how I do to get the most our of the Power Factor Training?
    Thanks, Brandon.

  • Willie Belter

    I am going to delete the Biceps and triceps from my Power Factor workout where these exercises are grouped with the traps and shoulders. I am going to then do the bi’s tand tri’s with the forearm workout.

    Thanks for the feedback!!

  • Willie Belter

    Hi Pete!

    Had another question.. I have been going up on my Power Factor trainingexcept my chest (Slight Incline Bench) went down a little from last time. Here are the numbers:
    6/1/11 385#’s X 88 Reps
    6/20/11 395#’s X 105 Reps.
    7/11/11 425#’s X 92 Reps.

    Even though I went up on my weight the reps were down a little and showed a drop in my Power Factor. Should I wait approx. the same amt. of days to workout and use the same weight (425) or should I increase the weight a little and rest another 3-5 days or so before I’m due to work on this again? I rested 19 days between the first and second workout and 21 days between the 2nd. and 3rd. workout.

    Thanks so much for your time!!

  • paul


    I am new to weight lifting and started the power factor workout not too long ago. I got through the first 7 weeks and was down to training once per week. I made great progress (300% overall average increase) but I was given medication I found out I had an allergy to and got very sick. I ended up taking 7 weeks off, not by choice but because I was taking the medicine for a few weeks before ending up in the hospital where they told me I was allergic. Coming back into training I started the P.E.S workout so I trained every 3 days. Once I got to the second workout “A” I increased the weight by only 10% but could barely handle it. Should I have given myself more time to recover because of muscle memory? I’ve taken the rest of the week off but I’m not sure how to begin again?

  • You’re going about it the smart way. Plugging in weight/reps for you next workout and looking at the effect is what I call “engineering your workouts”. The challenge is that you are aiming at a moving target. In your first 2 or 3 workouts you might successfully add 15% to your weights. A few workouts later you might only manage 8%. Or 8% on your shoulders but only 3% on your biceps. I don’t want to sound like a philosophy professor but the fact is what your absolute peak is on any day is unknowable. All you can do is press for SOME increase. Make sure you are pretty much exhausted at the end of the two minutes. That’s the way to cheat yourself – just breeze through the time and stop when the clock runs out but still have lots of gas in your tank. Don’t do that. Make sure it’s a tough two minutes wherein the lat few reps really take it out of you. Then you know you are working at the edge of your limit and THAT will stimulate maximum new muscle growth.

  • Here’s how to integrate the workouts. Drop the bi’s and tri’s from the P.E.S. workout. Do an A/B/C/D split where D is the PF Arm workout.

  • I think you just increased the weight a bit too much. Try 405 or 410 next time. Your frequency is likely still fine.

  • Recovery from illness is extremely draining to your body. So decreasing your training frequency is the wrong way to go. Try training once every 10 days and work your way back up to the numbers you had. As it is I’m, amazed you could still train once a week after 7 workouts, had you have continued you would have needed to train once every 10-14 days to get good improvement.

  • Chris

    Hi Pete

    if you don’t mind i have some questions about PFT and SCT.

    1/with both PFT and SCT you say one of the biggest problems is not using enough weight. I and my training partner have used both protocols over the years, but we agree that when our Bench press hits around the 400 pound mark, that this is enough for our joints, particular shoulders. Now we are both way over 6′ and ectomorphic, so maybe that’s just the way it is.
    Problem is however that this weight for bench and corresponding lifts else where, does not correlate with increased normal range strength.
    Any ideas ?

    2/ with both protocols one lifts in the strongest range. However being able to support heavier loads in the strongest range, is a matter of favourable mechanics, not necessarily the muscles working harder, – ?
    Have you ever considered doing static work in the middle or weakest range, so the loads are less on the joints., – ?

    Please note, i am not being critical here, as assure you i have trained with statics near exclusively for several years

  • Hi Chris!
    1. Transference to full range strength varies a lot between individuals. Some people get nearly 100% transfer and some get nearly 0%. I don’t know why that is. Is there some reason you need peak full range strength? e.g. are you a competitive weightlifter? Also, your tendons, ligament and joints will also get stronger allowing you to surpass 400 lbs.

    2. Lifting in weaker ranges is worse for joints, tendons and ligament, not better for them. Maybe you mean using light weights in weak ranges. But light weights don’t build muscles the way heavy weights do. Save the full range stretches for yoga class. Use very heavy weights in the safest possible range to build lean mass and strength.

  • Bob Sowder

    I have now progressed to waiting 8 weeks between workouts A and B. Question – Is it possible to do both Workouts at the same time and then wait for 16 weeks, or is that too much to do in one session? Thanks

  • The problem is not all 10 exercises will improve every time. What will you do when 7 improve and 3 do not? You end up right back on a split routine.

  • Malik

    Pete, thanks for detailed explanation . I got to take aerobics classes for one or one and half hour ,first in the morning and personally perform vigorous cardio.There after I go for weight training /sct/pf . Is it advisable to do so ? Thanks for time and feedback.

  • Chris

    Hi Pete,

    thanks for the quick response, it really is quite mazing to talk direct so to speak to someone who’s work you have read for years.

    My questions, –

    1/ No i dont need peak full range strength.
    I feel transference maybe linked to limb length. I.E the same partial range say 4″ would represent a greater percentage of ROM for a shorter limbed lifter, and that may influenced carry over, – ?
    Who knows, to be truthful i asked out of interest, as i know my static strength does carry over to real World.

    2/ i think i explained weaker range wrong. I am not advocating the prE-stretch position of a movement, where muscles and ligaments are in a poor position, but a few inches higher.
    Yes lighter weights don’t build muscles as good as heavy, but heavy is relative. If you can contract against 400 pounds in strongest range of a bench press, but only 220 in the bottom third, would the strongest range build more size/strength. Your body only knows energy requirements, and will recruit muscle fibre as needed.
    Therefore would not training to failure statically in either range work similarly. The heavy weight lifted in the strong range is due to favourable mechanics, not muscle fibre recruitment/stimulation.
    I have to admit i did not dream this up. Ive followd both you and John Little for years, originally when PFT and then SCT came out. John moved on to Max contraction, due according to one of his books to fears over the compression of joints under really heavy loads.Now his working on a protocol called Max Pyramids, which is a further refinement of max con, where he states again he is looking for a way to stimulate muscle growth with the least wear and tear.
    Sorry for the long post, however i would like to hear your thoughts.

  • Bad positions that demand lighter weights is not a good tactic. If you put your arm behind your back and try a dumbbell curl you’ll see you can do it but you have to use a much lighter weight due to the twisting torque on your joints. You can max out with a lighter weight and if people always did curls that way I’m sure there would be vociferous defenders of “back curls” in the gym, but it’s dumb on its face and there is no good reason to believe it would make more muscle than any other tactic. What makes sense is to always maximally overload a muscle in it’s strongest and safest range of motion. To argue otherwise (and I know you are not) is to argue for less safety and using less strength.

  • Chris

    Sorry Pete, but I’m not talking about bad positions {not pre-stretched}or exotic exercises, just the plain old bread and butter basics you recommend, but just in a less advantagous position “mechancally”.
    Yes i believe your at far greater risk tearing your pec’s with a heavy barbell touching your chest than say in the same exercise 2″ from lockout, but is holding 500-600 pounds for a 5 sec hold near lockout safer on your joints compression wise, than holding 250 – 300 pounds, 4-6″ of your chest for the same 5 secs, – ?

  • Well, I don’t know what else I can say. We’re talking about a spectrum from bad to better to OK to good to best. I say do it in the best (safest + heaviest overload to muscle) position. What is your attraction to weaker ranges of motion? What is the bonus you see there?

  • Rene Kittelsen

    Great article again!

    I’ve waited 12 days from my last Workout A, and I managed barely to lift the same as last time. So I should wait 15 days until next time?

    It works great! I just got a little eager 🙂

  • Chris

    The bonus i am looking for is less wear and tear on the body.
    Static training for me is best way to go, for effficency and safetey.
    However super heavyweights in even the strongest range still argueably comes with a high chance of injury. Ok the super heavy weight is offset by the frequency of workouts, but could the stimuls be tweaked.
    If we stay in the strongest range, and hold for longer with lower weights to reduce joint compression, we reduce intensity and therefore effect/stimuls.
    So why not hold a reduced weight {less compression] in a less mechanically advantaged position [but still safe], so the intensity and muscular work stay just as high.
    I just wondered if you had ever considered this, as John Little has who you worked with on the original PFT and SCT.
    Have you tried/experimented with different static hold position, and what were the results and views etc

  • 50% is usually a safe rule of thumb. So say 18 days.

  • The intensity is not as high. Your effort might feel the same but you’re doing less. I measure intensity and I know where the maximum is. Also, joints get stronger too so there is no reason to fear “compression”. So lifting lighter weights still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Are your joints giving you trouble? Did a heavy weight cause an injury for you? Weaker ranges are less safe – not more safe – so I still don’t see what you get from the risk of increasing the shear forces on a joint. You are asking me to justify something I don’t recommend; it seems like you should be asking John these questions if he’s the one who says it’s a good idea.

    It seems like you have a personal preference that is searching for a justification. I focus on high intensity of muscular overload and I go where the numbers show that. And I don’t know any method that has less wear and tear on the body than a 5-second static hold.

  • paul

    Thank you for the quick reply.

    I was doing the original PF training with the 5/5 split A/B routine. I plan on starting the new PF 2 min set A/B/C and including the extra arm D routine. Should I still be resting the same amount between workouts now, even when each workout involves less work?

  • Yes, don’t reduce your rest time. Soon it will increase anyway.

  • Rene Kittelsen

    Should I jump over from 5 sec SCT to PFW next time I workout?
    I’m waiting for my 1tonhooks and newgrips, maybe wait until that arrives?

  • Chris

    No Pete i have no personal preference, in regard to the position where i do my static holds, or am trying to justify different positions then the protocol dictates, but i just just want to do them as safely as possible, and therefore am seeking the truth.
    If in your opinion, shear forces to the joints are less in the strongest range irrespective of super heavy {relative} weights used, then i will run with this.
    I’m sure you have done the research, and tweaked the variables over the years, to validate this.
    IF i could speak to John as i am with you, [something i am most thankful of} then i would.
    Have you got his email, – ?
    As for injuries lifting heavy the answer is yes, and it was with PFT, many years back when the protocol first emerged.
    However i feel this was more to do, with my application then the protocol. Similar weight work with the statics generally caused few problems.
    At present i’m playing with a beta type PFT approach for arms and shoulders and SCT else where, and all’s going fine.
    Thanks for your time Pete

  • Shawn


    Any chance you have a spreadsheet that has the arms and abs split added into the P.E.S. workout? I have all the books and want to do P.E.S. as I get back into training but would like to focus on arms and abs slightly more. I think the A/B/C/D split is exactly what I am looking for but would love to have that in a single spreadsheet for tracking.

    As a side note it would be great if someone developed an Android app for tracking this as well. I found another one I am testing that might work out but it would not work for the SCT only the P.E.S. and that’s with some fudging. It is called JEFIT, but like I said it is nowhere near as accurate as your spreadsheets. I just like using my phone to write my numbers down and track quickly.

  • If your routine is working for you now, stick with it.

    For future reference, this page will show you the differences between SCT and PFW:

  • I have no contact info for John. It’s been a decade since we worked together and he’s written books about several very different training methods.

  • I don’t have a consolidated spreadsheet. I’m working on an abs specialization (by popular demand. Haha.) and it gets complicated to include all the combinations of what people choose to do. One day I’d like to move it all online.

  • Shawn

    Online would be great as well. Especially in a format readable on mobile devices for those that like to use our smart phones for training.

  • brian

    hello pete.. I have read many of your articles and have 2 of your older books. I love your work and research however I never seem or have missed any info on how to incorporate your training methods into specific sports or activities. For example say for instance the navy seals came to you and wanted to incorporate your methods into training?? I am sure you are farmiliar with how they and others like them train. They do a ton of high intensity cardio as well as endless push ups , sit ups and chin ups. Now clearly their type of training will not allow for maximum strength or size however I have seen and and Know some seals who are quite muscular and would never be confused for a marathoner at least in appearance. I know they promote the crossfit type of training in addition to the traditional training they do. So how would you advise them in their weight training knowing that there would be no chance of them not continuing their traditional training. Granted I know it will be impossible to get maximum results with all the endurance training but if they can do all that training as well as crossfit type weight training and still see gains? then there has to be a way to adequately use static contraction or power factor training instead of the more taxing crossfit or any other weight lifting methods that seals, or any other athletes for that matter , add to their traditional or sports specific training? Look forward to your reply…kind regards, brian.

  • 1. Thanks for the kind words.
    2. I don’t subscribe to the common hypothesis that a Navy Seal’s biceps need to be trained one way, an Army Ranger’s biceps another way, a pro football player’s biceps another way and a pro hockey player’s biceps another way. They all have the same muscles and the same physiology. (Yes you can create drills for each of them that build neuro-muscular efficiency for certain, specific tasks) but building more Alpha or Beta strength is done the same way for all of them and all of us.
    3. Anyone’s strength training comes down to building muscle for the functional purpose that the individual wants. Do you want absolute peak strength for a brief period? Or do you want to exert yourself strenuously for a longer period of time? If so, how strenuously and for how long? Once you know those parameters you can build a workout for any individual. 99.8% of us just need the health benefits of fitness, not the ability to haul a 50 caliber Browning 20 kilometers uphill. So we don’t need extreme training routines.
    4. In general, the single biggest thing I would avoid is the macho, saturation training that makes good TV documentaries but probably takes years off a person’s life. Near-death exercise experiences are just stupid unless you think people are expendable assets and/or giving up their health for a greater cause than their own well being. Again, 99.8% of us don’t fall into that category.

  • Rene Kittelsen

    I’ll continue my routine then.

    This question maybe a little off, but I have a indoor bicycle and how to get the most out of that without compromising my SCT?

  • brian

    although i agree with what you say as far as the necessity I dont feel you answered exactly what I am asking. I’ve seen you advocating aerobics in low intensity such as walking and I think but am not sure that you may have at some point that you think the future of fat burning will be in short insense cardio such as wind sprints or sometning like this?? not sure if I am correct if I read this quote from you. but say whatever activity or sport you choose you have absolutely no way to avoid a lot of high intensity cardio and repetition?? Say a pro or even college soccer or football player? with soccer there is no way to avoid all the high intensity running and the football player cant avoid a regiment with a lot of wind sprints and drills on sleds, hills etc.. walking or low intensity aerobics will do nothing to help their conditioning for their sport. So in circumstances of necessity or say by choice? do your newer books such as train smart or the new version of pft explain how to incorporate this type of training with your methods? thanks again

  • Brian, I incorporate high intensity interval training along with my static contraction training with no detriment. You can continue on with the interval training along with the power factor training.

  • Todd

    Hi Pete I am 46 yrs old and have been training for most of my life, in my early 20’s I was a bodybuilder, I have tried most types of work outs, and I started training with your S.C.T. work out this past January, I am very impressed with my progress as far as the increase in weights that I am using, I also have decreased my joint pain, I have not changed my diet at all since I began this work out ( do I need to? ), I am now at 3 weeks between my A and B work outs and still albeit slow I am making progress as far as the weights are concerned. My question is this, I am not seeing a major change in my physique can you give me some pointers please.

  • Thanks, Todd. Size gains always lag strength gains. It helps to know your bodyfat percentage so it’s a good idea to have a scale or device that measures your fat. Knowing you gained 5 lbs of muscle while losing 5 lbs of fat is very motivating – especially when the scale hasn’t moved and you might think you’ve made no progress. You didn’t mention whether you are trying to lose fat to alter your look or whether you are trying to add muscle to an already lean body. In the latter case some people reduce their muscle gain by dieting too hard and starving muscle growth. Also, this article might help you with some of the challenges:

  • Brandon

    I have small legs but my upper body is a good size. I want them to “catch up”. In your Power Factor e-book you write on page 54, “Always perform these workouts in the order A,B,C…A,B,C, etc. I am wondering if it would be sensible to perform an A workout (upper body), then a C workout (legs)…then a B workout, then C (legs) again? Effectively altering the sequence to something like A, C, B, C, A, C, etc. to train my weak body part more often. I am currently training for size (strength) and taking off 9 days between workouts. Those 9 days are enough right now to allow for full system recovery between workouts as evidenced my consistent strength gain. I only get around to legs half as often as my upper body.

    Could you provide me some guidance?
    The Human Lightbulb (Brandon)

  • I understand what you want to do, but here’s the roadblock; your legs only recover so fast and just because you train them more often doesn’t meant they recover faster or better. In fact, it means the opposite, you will soon overtrain them and progress will stop dead. The way to avoid that is to train my the numbers. The order of exercises is irrelevant, just train by the numbers and when they don’t improve, give yourself more rest.

  • Stuart


    How often due you do your cardio? Do you arrange it so your HIIT workouts are seperated from your SCT workouts by a period of several days?
    I am integrating cardio to develop a more lean physique but I don’t want to compromise my strength gains. Any advice?


  • I train cardio 4-5 days a week. I don’t do my SCT workout on my cardio days. I split those up. I also make sure I get 8 hours of sleep or so to recover from my workouts. Sleep = recovery. Lack of sleep = no recovery and no progress eventually. At this point I only train with SCT once every couple weeks so its pretty easy for me to schedule.

  • Ben

    Hi Pete,

    Could you, please, advise on (I think one of the toughest questions) regarding the range of reps for finding of the ‘sweet spot’ (and I did order and read your Power Factor Workout ebook which by the way is a great book). Is it in the range of the 60 to 70 or 70 to 80 or higher reps (or some other number)? It would save me time and energy If I knew the approximate range of reps to start with.
    Thank you very much,


  • Hi Ben! I don”t think you’ll like this answer but, here goes. We are dealing with a moving target. Asking what the right number of reps is is really the same as asking what the right weight is. The weight you lifted last week is not the weight you should lift this week. And when the weight changes the reps change. To complicate matters, one of them does not even need to increase – just one or the other. It’s all about the total weight lifted per minute.

    I don’t know if that will make you feel better or not. But the truth is what was the perfect combo for you in July isn’t the perfect combo in August, it’s a moving target and you just have to shoot for some improvement each time.

  • Brian

    Hi Ben,

    This is a tough one indeed. However, what I did to simplify it is use some logic in terms of say a 10 rep max. If you start with a weight that would be closer to a one rep max (like traditional SCT), you’ll be lucky to get the weight off the rack a few time in two minutes. To me, that does not make sense in terms of what the PF program is for. It makes more sense to use a bit of a lighter weight. I found that getting around 30 reps per the two minutes was about right for me. Then, as Pete says, increase your weights and then I aimed at getting thosee 30 reps. It worked!. It made a nice performance challenge, but kept it simple mathematically.
    Here is what one exercise could look like:
    deadlift starting weight = 225 X 30 reps/2 min, PF is 3375
    deadlift 6 months later = 325 X 30 reps/2, PF is now 6750
    Also, if you have any bodyfat to lose, expect terrific results. I know Pete has not measured this as of yet. However, there are now studies that training protocols like PF not only increases lean muscle, but burns fat like a blowtorch. According to the studies, it is the production of lactic acid that increases HGH production (human growth hormone). HGH is a factor of having a lean body. Good luck!

  • Ben

    Hi Pete,

    Thank you for your quick reply.
    It looks like I cannot escape from experimenting with weight/reps for some length of time. Perhaps I can accelerate it by using a calculator beforehand (when I’ll know my weight/reps variations) and using it as a target to shoot for.
    Thank you,


  • Ben

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you for your comments. I certainly can make use of it, although being again a beginner (due to personal circumstances I wasn’t able to do weightlifting for quite some time) the weights I’ll use will be quite lower than yours (but I hope some day to catch up with the weights you lift today). Thank you again and best wishes,


  • Kaustuv Bhattacharya

    Hi Pete,

    Just got your Power Factor Workout E-book. Great information! I’ve just got a few questions I was hoping you / some of the other forum members could please share your thoughts / inputs.

    I understand the approach of PFW – use a limited strong range to maximize weight lifted, minimize the potential for injury, and allow for the maximum work to be performed in the minimum time possible.

    However, the exact implementation of PFW is something that confuses me. While performing an exercise should I ?
    1. Do a weight in a the limited range to failure, record all the details and input the data to calculate the power factor and power index?

    2. Perform multiple sets to failure with 60 to 90 seconds rest between sets, record all the same data and calculate the PF and PI for the exercise as a sum of 3 sets?

    3. Set a time limit of 2 minutes and terminate the set(s) once a total of two minutes have elapsed (Including inter set rest for the exercise) irrespective if whether failure was achieved on ALL the sets performed?

    It occurs to me that since going to failure is essential, approach 1 or 2 seem to make the most sense. However, I could have misunderstood the exact application of the principles.

    Would really appreciate your thoughts / guidance.

    Thank you,

  • I assume you have the newest PF PES workout. It is build around timed sets because we discovered timed sets help people generate their highest intensity of output.
    While ‘going to failure’ is not a requirement of building new muscle it is a way of know you exerted yourself to your limits. Ideally, if you are doing a two-minute timed set you would want to chose the weight that would cause you to be at failure in 1:59.9 but how do you know what weight that is? You don’t and never do. Plus you need to know that weight for 10 different exercises.

    So what you do the first time is to make your best estimate then count the reps in your 2-minute set. Next time you have to engineer your workout so you lift more total weight in that same time. You do that by lifting a heavier weight or more reps or both. No matter where you started, in a few workouts you will be working at the limits of your power on every exercise and forcing new muscle to grow.

  • Kaustuv Bhattacharya

    Thank you for your quick response!

    I did workout A this morning. It left me absolutely floored I don’t think I’ve felt that spent after training in a long long time. I especially like how times sets allow you to do multiple maximum effort sets within the given time frame. It squeezes a lot of heavy lifting and metabolically demanding work beautifully into a 2 minute window from hell. Haha

    Performance for this workout A (0) was
    Smith bench 375 lbs x 29 reps time taken 2 mins
    Single arm lat pulldown 187lbs/arm x 27 reps/arm time taken 2 minutes per arm
    Barbell deadlifts 405lbs x 15 reps time taken 45 seconds

    At the end of that I was floored I couldn’t have done more if I wanted to. It’s absolutely amazing that systemically I was so tired inspite of only lifting 1/10th of the range of motion but with 1.5x to 2.0x my usual weights. Even now as I’m typing this 10 hours post workout my arms are getting the shakes from the lat pulldowns.

    I cannot wait to see how the charts in the provided excel sheet develop over time. More so, can’t wait to see how my body comp % changes over the coming weeks especially since I’ve started cutting calories.

    Best wishes,

  • Be careful cutting calories. That can reduce muscle growth if you push it too far. You might be better served by spending 3-4 months building maximum muscle then diet off the fat you want to lose while maintaining the muscle.

  • Kaustuv Bhattacharya

    Hi Pete

    Thank you for your advice. I currently weigh in around 210lbs at ~18% bf @5’10. I’d ideally like to be a solid 185 to 190. It took me years to realize but now I finally have – that at 5’10 and a lean 185 to 190 isn’t a small person I fact that’s a great height and weight to be at if your body fat is 10% or lower. In terms of calories I use an IF protocol which is working nicely (I already have to tighten belts) and get around 2,100 calories a day with ~180 to 200 grams of protein per day.

    The DOMS I have today after yesterday’s workout isn’t even funny my back rear delts biceps and traps are thrashed. Chest and triceps feel fine but I think that’s because with the lat movement I’m getting about a 3 to 4 inch range of motion whereas with chest due to the smith machine settings and my awkward arm length I’m only getting about 1 to 2 inches on the ROM. Will up the weight next A workout and see how it goes, I’m erring on the conservative side and upping weights at 8% to 10% per workout because at the current resistance levels I’m being forced to do the two minutes as 3 to 4 mini sets with quick breaks during the two minute countdown. I wouldn’t want to jump weights too fast and then get 5 reps and in 10 seconds and then be shot for the remaining 1:50.

  • Kaustuv Bhattacharya

    Hi Pete and Greg

    Another follow up question. Research had shown that fiber type and it’s distribution acors the body varies for instance a trainees back might be slow twitch dominant their arms might be fast twitch dominant etc. I understand that without conducting exhaustive biopsies there’s no way to be certain. However a lot of trainees can attest to the fact that certain strategies for certain body parts have worked better than others for instance higher reps or legs ensured faster progress whereas anything above 6-8 reps for shoulders made progressing difficult.

    If a trainee has sort of figured out his / her ideal mix through experience would you say it makes sense to have different timings for power factor sets for different body parts? For example 2-3 minutes for back whereas 30 seconds to 45 seconds or chest? So it’s basically mixing and matching times sets to discover hat combination is ideal for progression or alternatively which body parts respond to more or less volume best?

    To take this idea further would it make sense to perform SCT for some body parts and PF for others? Have you ever experimented on these lines?

  • joe


    I was wondering your thoughts on Sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar growth…
    I’ve read where people disagree on there even being two different types.
    But, there are a lot of people in the gym that swear there is a difference.
    They get big “balloon” or “puffy” muscle with little or no strength gains doing higher reps/ higher volume/ short rest work..then when they go heavy with longer rest they get stronger with less mass gains…

    Not being a scientist I don’t know and I’m not aware of any studies that were done to find this but there seems to be a lot of gym and life results suggesting a difference… I’ve seen some instances where gym guys couldn’t do the “man” labor a regular strong manual labor guy could do… like carrying a load over a particualr distance or catching and throwing a bag of sand repeatedly before wussing out…

    Also, the whole explosive power (I guess plyometrics or something) aspects vs. just conventional bodybuilding… how does your program address this or is there really a difference at all?


  • joe

    Btw..I realize that this is probably abstract like most things in life and there isn’t a such thing as training for pure myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic growth but I believe there is evidence (in life examples that I gave) that you can get more of one than the other by adjusting your training.. I like your common sense approach to training and wanted to know your thoughts…


  • Joe, I have always avoided the controversy of muscle composition on the microscopic level. The reason is that, whatever ratio your personal muscles are composed of slow twitch, fast twitch, fast twitch glygolytic, sarcoplasmic, myofibrillar fibers and however your personal central nervous system’s efficiency at firing those fibers and feeding them with a complex cocktail of nutrients and oxygen, it’s all going to come back to the physics of what you can lift in the gym and how to increase the intensity of that over subsequent workouts.

    Not many of us can do tissue biopsies after every workout to see how this or that tactic is affecting the composition of our muscle fibers. And without that exact feedback all the tactics amount to speculation. I’m not saying that some day we won’t discover that lifting at 74% of your peak output for 94 seconds really does increase the size of sarcoplasm, I’m just saying we don’t know that yet and I don’t see anybody taking the measurements to get there.

  • Kaustuv


    I’m training once in 3-5 days depending on how recovered I feel, I’ll sometimes take more time off if needed. Those numbers aren’t great compared to what I’ve been reading on this site. However I think I set myself up for failure, it was only upon re-reading the PF PES e-book that it occurred to me that i had made a mistake with weight selection. The weights are too heavy. I need to lighten the load a bit to get closer to what Pete calls the sweet spot and begin working my way up from three 5 lbs at a time each workout. For example I did ~375lbs x 29 / 2 mins = 5,437PF if inad been a little more realistic and began with 290 -300 I would probably gotten 80 to 90 reps = 13,500PF. That’s my plan of action to lower the weight to enable higher rep ranges and get closer to the sweet spot. As I understand it the sweet point is that weight and rep combo that allows you to generate the highest PF. Drop the weight too much and you can knock out a lot of reps, but it’s unlikely you’ll rep enough in 2 minutes to generate a high PF, use a weight that’s too heavy your rep numbers will crash and you’ll be unable to push out enough reps in 2 minutes to generate a high PF. Besides I think what PF does more than anything is put you in the strongest range of the movement allowing for heavier than conventional weights to be used and then allow you to rep out higher than you conventionally could in a full range. In short the heavy weights will recruit more fibers and the high reps will provide cumulative fatigue – as we know hypertrophy is multifactorial and this system addresses many of those stimulating factors while focusing on safety. Try to replicate the same level of cumulative fatigue with conventional training and you’ll be using very light weights or do set after set try to replicate the PF weight with conventional training and you’ll barely get more than a couple of reps. Sorry I went off topic that’s my two cents.

  • Actually, Mark, there is still no disagreement between us because I’ve never said any exercise is better done the PF or SC way. I only say they both work.

    It takes a lot of testing to determine differences. We are doing some testing this year and should have some good data soon. But a lot of these “better” debates come down to personal priorities. EG. If one min of exercise will yield 2 lbs of new muscle but 10 min will yield 3 lbs of muscle, which is better? It depends on your personal priorities regarding time vs gains.

  • Hehe. The truth is I did get a bit burnt out about a year ago and took a break. (Which I expected to be longer than it was.) While I was away I kept thinking of ways to make training better and now I’m back.

    Strength training is such a proven boon to good health that it deserves to come out of dungeon gyms where people are berated for not training daily with saturation workouts. The 99% of us who don’t want to lift weights as a permanent hobby need guidance as to how to get the most benefit for the least time investment. The health rewards are too great to just let strength training remain the realm of muscleheads and gym rats.

  • Anonymous

    I was trying to find the best place for this question since the article on aerobics was closed.

    This is for Greg, but Pete if you have anything to add I’d like to know your thoughts on it too.

    How do you schedule your cardio and martial arts..and what type cardio do you do..intensity and all?

    I want to do interval cardio but don’t want it to affect SCT or PES (whatever one I decide to start doing).

    I will walk on days I’m not doing any other type of training but I would like to do intervals to speed fat loss and lung health etc.

    I also want to start martial arts up again…


  • Anonymous

    I just read some of the comments here..

    So Greg you do Interval cardio 4-5 days a week?

    And is that with sprints or other stuff.. I used to do sprints a lot and want to do it again..
    I usually just sprint and rest til I’m winded then walk for 15min. Should I be measuring my progress with distance to time and adding days of rest in between like with weightlifting or does it matter?

  • It’s common for people to do other exercise than weightlifting. The trick is to keep track of your numbers (weightlifting) so you can immediately spot when you are not fully recovered. Then you just add more days between lifting workouts. As a rule, the higher the intensity of your other activities the more recovery time you’ll need. Walking doesn’t make much impact but running hill sprints with a weighted backpack certainly does. (Personally, I think HIIT is the future of cardio training.)

    The new ES Gym give you all the numbers you need to make progress on every workout.

  • Dennis Peters

    What do you suggest for myself and othes with arthritic joints and replacements. I have a knee replacement, two hip replacements and a shoulder with arthritis and frayed rotator cuff tendons. Ortho strongly suggests high reps. Fears the heavy weight will wear out the artificial joint. I have been doing wall sits and goblet squats with dumbbells, dumbbell rows, lat pulls, pushups, and dumbbell bench press with light weights. I used your system to my satisfaction for years until my joints needed replacing, not your problem. Sports injuries. Have worked out with HIT, Arthur Jones, Mike Mentzer for many years before discoverying your system.

  • Thanks for asking. My honest answer is to do exactly what your surgeon says. I don’t know anything about the stress limits of artificial joints. And what good would it be for me to help you put 20 lbs of muscle on your body but cause you to have to go back under the knife for 3 joint replacements? Yikes. Work within the limits your surgeon gives you and pay attention to your recovery and the mathematical progress of total load. You might have no option but to replace intensity with volume.

  • JIM

    I have become far too attractive to the female sex since doing static contractions. My wife is going mad. Every where i go i see the looks of pure pleasure. One women talking to me even asked me to sit with here and have a coffee. My wife was there! If i was single it would be great. But alas my wife is not open to the idea.

    How do I reduce my muscle size? Go lighter weights? Desperately trying to save my marriage.

  • JIM

    Be careful cutting calories. That can reduce muscle growth if you push it too far. You might be better served by spending 3-4 months building maximum muscle then diet off the fat you want to lose while maintaining the muscle.

    Only below about 10% B.F. Anything more as long as you eat 100g+ protein and lift weights you will only lose fat…heck diet as hard as you can until you get to 10% B.F. The quicker the better. Then go maintenance.

  • Ralph Ryan

    I can confidently say, that without a basic “aerobic” fitness level, you cannot optimally progress in your weight training from workout to workout whether you practice PFT or SCT. As you get stronger in your lifting routine, the weights get heavier and heavier, resulting in more warm up sets. These heavy warm up sets in addition to the simple act of adding hundreds of pounds to the bar (or machine) can wear a person out if they are not in good aerobic condition.
    I now have first hand experiences with having both poor and good aerobic fitness while doing my PFT routine. Your legs get affected the most when you are in poor condition. Your recovery also suffers, both in between workout sets, and even between workouts. Your overall PF and PI will also go down as a result of poor fitness.
    My current aerobic routine is called PACE, I use in on a stationary bike doing up to eight 30 second sprints. This aerobic routine is IMHO very well suited to conditioning you for progressive PFT / SCT workouts. Thank you very much.

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