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Static Contraction Training

Static Contraction Training

Working out with weights is a good way to build muscle mass and strength.  No one would argue that.  Most of us lift using methods taught to us in high school, 3 sets of 10, or warm up sets in excess of 12 reps, rarely if ever lifting our max!, the maximum amount of weight we are able to lift in any one exercise.

The basics of weightlifting break down to the fact the we are tearing down muscle tissue, and then allowing it to build up again, but stronger than it was before an exercise or series of exercises.  This is good, weightlifting is good!  Many people who use some form of a weightlifting regime to enhance their health usually encounter one of two problems during their path to better health.

A plateau is often discovered where it is difficult to continue to develop strength and power, or injuries are encountered which again slow down the muscle growth process as one waits to heal the injury and return to exercise.

In general when we are younger, teens or early twenties, we don’t seem to have to be as specific with our training to obtain growth and stave off injury, but as years pass we do have to more deliberate in how we exercise and weight lift in order to obtain our goals.  Bring forth static contraction training.

Static contraction training involves close to no movement when lifting for an exercise.  There is also considerably more weight used to make gains.  Most free weight exercises should be performed in a cage, exercises like: bench, military press, squats, and shrugs should be done this way.

The cage also needs to be set up to perform the static exercise, for example when performing a static bench press I remove the 2 separate pieces that hold the bar in place prior to a full range movement.  The spotter bars are then put in place, you need to measure where they need to be for your arm length.  Lie down on the flat bench you will use and extend your arms straight up.  When the bar is lying on the spotter bars it should be as close as possible so that you can lift the bar off of the spotters without locking your elbows.

Consider that when you do a test run without any weight on the bar it will be pretty light, (45 lbs for a standard Olympic bar.)  When you add weight to that bar it won’t be as easy to move the bar what should be about 3-5 inches, so you might need to reconfigure once you have weight on the bar.  The average person might bench press for a full range exercise of 10 repetitions 135-185 lbs.  It’s typical to start doing the static bench press with 315 lbs.  That’s 3 45 lbs plates on each side, after time that 315 lbs could easily become in excess of 405 lbs, that’s 4 45 lb plates on each side!

Doing a squat is the same concept, set up the cage so that you lift the bar for the static only a few inches, and the spotters should be in place so that you only lift the bar from the spotters those few inches.  The idea is to lift as much weight as you possibly can, so the less you have to move the weight in the exercise to get into the correct position the more you will be able to lift, and the greater gains you will see.

You can also use a Smith machine in place of a cage, the disadvantage being that you are working fewer muscles in a Smith machine, because you are just moving the weight straight up, no balancing required.

You can use practically any non free weight machine to do a static contraction.   Depending on how you set your goals you might find that you will max out the machines and they will not provide you with enough weight to allow you to gain the muscle and strength that you want, but all types of non free weight machines are a good place to start doing static contraction exercises.  Using these machines will teach you what you need to know about statics without having to worry about putting on the weights, or finding enough 45 lb plates if you work out in a public gym.

Warming up is extremely important for static contraction training.  Do something to get the blood flowing in your body, and break a sweat so that you don’t begin performing your static contraction exercises with cold muscles.  You must be warmed up, ride a stationary bike, use a treadmill or elliptical machine, something that will warm up your body prior to beginning your static exercises.  Very important to keep some form of a training log, writing down the exercises you do, how much weight you lift, and how many seconds you hold that weight in place.

When lifting this way, does the strength gained from not moving much transfer to being able to run, bike, swim, climb, or do whatever faster, and with more strength and power?  Yes it does, many sports and movements are static exercises themselves to begin with.

Riding a bike is a static exercise for the triceps for example, hockey is a static exercise for the lower back as another example.  Then again full motion exercises are considerably stronger than prior to doing statics regularly, whether that’s road biking through the mountains, or lifting your kids, or bags of groceries.  Fat also burns off of the body using this method of weightlifting along with a proper diet.  You can go back and try some of your full range weightlifting exercises and monitor for yourself the gains you have made doing statics.

One of the most important elements of proper static lifting is to give yourself enough time to recuperate and grow between your lifting sessions of the same muscle groups.  You might want to begin lifting 1 time a week per muscle group, maybe upper body one day, and lower body another day, and try to lift for upper and lower body at least one day apart.

Good luck, and happy lifting!

Raw paelo diet, work out daily, counter sitting at this computer almost all day!


  1. Project Swole

    November 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Really? You are really going to say that it is OK to use the smith machine for static contraction training? Interesting.

    • Fingerman

      November 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm

      Statics are all about giving people options, a cage with the spotting bars in place within an inch or two of where you hold that weight is the best way to perform a static. Smith machines and machines that do not use free weights are a good way to begin doing statics if one needs to become comfortable handling considerably more weight than usually handled in a typical full range movement exercise. Smith machines for statics are a disadvantage because there is one simple up and down movement, muscles are not needed to balance the weight, and it is not as safe as with a cage. The bar has to be twisted to stop the weight, psychology some focus will be lost for the set. Good way to start though.

      • Say Gale

        March 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

        Finally people are catching on. I have done short range and statics since I LISTENED to Tony Robbins speak shortly with Sisco and Little about there and others discovery. Really all the years in Martial Arts the great Bruce Lee and his friends were onto this training… not today forget others pioneers like Lou Ferrigno. They just never published the SCIENCE…ie, Math of there results. I know some like minded would find Mr. Ferrigno far more fascinating than I Schwarzenegger… he was cool but there is an underlying legacy! 1″ punch…

        • Fingerman

          April 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm

          Glad to hear you know the history. Statics build more power than any other type of weighlifting, most people don’t want to use weight heavy enough to bring the growth that is possible, or they don’t know they need to lengthen recovery times the stronger they get, working out a muscle every 2 or 3 weeks is unheard of. I stopped doing statics once or twice over the years, and both times strength decreased dramatically. Keep doing your statics, its what really works.

  2. xenastar

    November 28, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    During static contraction, do we need to hold our breath?

    • Fingerman

      November 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      Very good question, for a full range movement exercise you would inhale before the rep, or during the negative, and exhale during the rep. For statics, you should exhale getting the weight into position for the set, during the set of 5-15 seconds you shouldn’t really hold your breath, breath the way that allows you to have the greatest amount of power, so that you are lifting and holding as much weight as you possibly can for that set!

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