Friday, April 6, 2007

Exercise Static Contraction Training

Q. Isn't Static Contraction Training the same as the old Isometric training?

A. Isometric refers to exercise involving no movement. Using the bench press as an example, an isometric contraction would involve holding the bar in a stationary position with no up or down movement. Conventional exercise is isotonic and employs concentric and eccentric movement. Pressing the bar from your chest to the full extent of your reach is the concentric movement and lowering it back to your chest is the eccentric movement.

Fifty years ago Charles Atlas made isometric training famous. His mail-order courses to help '90-pound weaklings' from getting sand kicked in their faces in front of their girlfriends showed trainees how to get strong without using weights. His Dynamic Tension method involved pressing your arms outward against the frame of a doorway or grabbing a doorknob and trying to lift up on it.

Soon the York Barbell Company offered a special power rack that trapped a barbell between two hold-downs and allowed trainees to generate much higher power using isometric movements. But both of the above approaches had a serious flaw.

How do you measure?

If you pull up on a doorknob as hard as you can on Tuesday, how do you know you are pulling up harder next Saturday? And how much harder…8%…17%? The same problem exists pressing a barbell against hold-downs…exactly how hard are you pushing?

In 1999 I co-wrote Static Contraction Training after doing some experiments with bodybuilders. In a nutshell, we had them hold heavy weights in their strongest range of motion and measured the effects on their muscle mass, measurements and static and full range strength. The results were startling. Mass gains up to 29 pounds, an average of 51.3% increase static strength after only 10 weeks doing workouts consisting of 2 ½ minutes of actual exercise.

What made this accuracy of measurement possible was that Static Contraction Training used real weights that could be quantified whereas the old Isometric systems could not be quantified from workout to workout.

The other very significant difference is that we've conducted continuing studies to determine the optimum hold time for a contraction. We started out using 20 to 30 second hold times, which did work…but we've improved results remarkably with reduced hold times.

The latest form of Static Contraction Training offers something the old Isometric methods never did: ultra-high intensity and consistent, measurable results. I recommend you give it a try. What have you got to gain?

“It works! It is fantastic! It's revolutionary… It's a fantastic way and I discovered it a few months ago.”

Actor Anthony Hopkins talking about using Static Contraction on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien

“A month ago I began doing Static Contraction Training…I've gotten a lot stronger in every area. Most notably, my thighs have grown two inches in circumference while the muscles in my quadriceps developed ripped separation for the first time--and it only took two leg workouts!”

Adam Ferrari, Customer

Discover Your Optimum Training Frequency and Unleash Huge New Growth

Want to know the #1 mistake made by people lifting weights? This single mistake inevitably causes long training plateaus and frustration that saps your motivation. Needlessly.

OK, you probably already guessed the answer from the title of this article. The #1 mistake is training with the wrong frequency. Frequency refers to the number of days per week you perform weight lifting workouts. The most common training frequency is “3-days-per-week” often performed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If this is your training frequency, I've got some great news for you. You can do far, far better!

Knowing the proper amount of time off between workouts is the single most misunderstood concept in strength training. The truth is, even if you do everything in the gym perfectly – number of reps, number of sets, optimum weight, proper rest between sets and proper exercise form – all of it can be worthless if you aren't training with the right frequency.

The Dirty Little Secret of Strength Training

Fixed training schedules are insane. Every fixed training schedule, such as 3-days-per-week, will ultimately fail you. Here's why. As your strength increases, your workouts are more demanding and require more time from which to recover.

The average guy sitting in front of a computer has the capacity to increase his muscular strength by 300-400 percent. However, recovering from physical activity puts demands on many of the body's organs, such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas, to name three. These organs do not have the capacity to increase their metabolic functioning by the same 300-400 percent your muscles can.

When you think about it, this is something you already know from experience. If you do a light workout it hardly takes anything out of you. Your recovery is swift. But when you do a grueling workout involving heavy weights and a high intensity of overload, it can take days to feel fully recovered.

And since the indispensable key to strength training gains is progressive overload, you must find a way to increase the intensity of every workout and allow more time to recover from that workout.

Why “Splitting” Your Routine Won't Avoid Overtraining

To keep workouts less demanding, it is a common practice to “split” workouts, such as: Monday – upper body, Wednesday – lower body. While this is a sound tactic (one I recommend) it alone will not solve the problems of a fixed training schedule. The reason is stated in Sisco's Maxim: “Every day is kidney day.”

The fact is, whether you work your chest, arms or legs today doesn't make the slightest difference to your kidneys. They still have to filter all the metabolic waste products out of your blood so you can fully recover. And remember this – until you are fully recovered you will not grow new muscle. That's a physiological law. So a split routine helps reduce the amount of work your kidneys and other organs have to perform, but as you get stronger and hoist heavier iron, your kidneys will need more time to perform their job.

Amazing Progress by “Doing Nothing”

Once you understand how to adjust your personal training frequency, your results will soar. Here's an example of what happened for a very tough-minded client of mine named Stanley.

After we discussed his training and lack of progress – particularly in the barbell shrug exercise - I told Stanley to take three weeks off of all training. He said there was no way he could stay out of the gym that long. Actually, this is a common problem with serious bodybuilders. Psychologically, when you want to make progress, it is very difficult to do what seems like 'nothing.' Not training feels like throwing in the towel or admitting defeat in some way. But the truth is your body needs time to recover. Time off is not wasted time; it's time that is critical to the growth process. It took a lot of talk to convince Stanley but, to his credit, he took three weeks off of all training.

Two months later he called me back with results that will shock you. His strength increased in every area of his body and his shrug power had skyrocketed. His first workout after the layoff was a personal best. Now he's training once every nine days. That's 18 days between workouts for the same bodyparts, because he uses an upper/lower body split. Before this correction in his training frequency, Stanley was training four times in just nine days. Look at the numbers that he sent me.

October 11

November 8

December 17

365 lbs. 20 reps

405 lbs. 20 reps (easy)

405 lbs. 20 reps

400 lbs. 20 reps (very tough)

455 lbs. 20 reps

505 lbs. 20 reps

505 lbs. 16 reps

600 lbs. 12 reps

Stanley did not include his times for lifting so I don't know his Power Factor or Power Index numbers but his total shrug weight went from 15,300 lbs per workout to 25,280…after doing nothing for three weeks. When was the last time you had a three-week period that was that productive?

Think about that. Three weeks of no training whatsoever, nothing but sitting on his ass for three weeks and his progress outpaced everybody he trained with! His training buddies couldn't believe their eyes. There's Stanley, who found it 'very tough' to do 20 reps with 400 lbs. now hoisting 505 lbs. for 16 reps - after doing 455 lbs. for 20 reps! Next time back in the gym he's playing with 600 lbs. And as far as his bonehead buddies are concerned he's 'missed' the previous 20 workouts! That's what I mean when I talk about 'training smart.'

How to completely and permanently avoid overtraining.

The key to avoiding overtraining and finding your optimal training frequency is to closely monitor the progress you make on each exercise in your workout and identify any sign of slowed or arrested progress. Not progressing in one exercise out of 5 is a yellow flag. Not progressing in two or more is a red flag and means you need to add time off.

  • 3 Quick Measures of Overtraining:

  1. The weight used on each exercise did not increase. Strength training is all about progressive overload. That means you should return to the gym fully recovered and able to lift slightly heavier weights than you did last workout.
  2. The number of reps or the static hold time on each exercise did not increase. If your weight on an exercise did not increase (see above) then your reps or the time of your static hold should have. (Note: recent research suggests that static holds beyond 12 seconds yield less benefit than increased weight with shorter hold times.)
  3. It took you longer to do the same workout. Progress is driven by intensity of muscular output. Intensity is a function of time. So even if you do the identical workout today that you did three days ago but manage to do it in less time, your intensity has increased. But the reverse is also true, so watch out for taking extra time to do the same routine. Lower intensity can not build new muscle.

Try This On Your Next Workout

Try this simple test on your next workout. On each exercise multiply the number of reps you do by the poundage. For example: bench press 175 lbs 12 times and you get 2,100. Next time you do the bench press see if that number has increased. If it hasn't, you have not fully recovered and need more days off between every workout. I work with advanced trainees who do one workout every six weeks. That's not a misprint. That means it takes them twelve weeks to get back to training each bodypart. And they make progress on every exercise on every workout and they lift enormously heavy weights. You can too.

How long have you been training with the same frequency? Look for the yellow flags that indicate your training frequency is not optimum. Adding an extra day or more off can turn a stale workout into a fantastic mass and strength booster.

Have a great workout!

Pete Sisco

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