We went over the fact that it is of primary importance to workout/exhaust both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers to gain size and strength, in the posts on “Super Slow” training and in the regular, “15 reps, increase the weight and do 8 more reps, increase the weight and do 4 reps, and finally increase the weight again and do 4 negatives “ routine.
We simplify muscle fiber types, as we have done above, but there are actually four.
- I SO (Slow, Oxidative; S (Slow)
- IIA (Fast, Oxidative; FR (Fast, Fatigue Resistant)
- IIAB FOG (Fast, Oxidative-Glycolytic);
- IIB FG (Fast, Glycolytic; FF (Fast, Fatigueable).
For our purposes, suffice it to say that fast twitch fibers are the ones that give you strength and slow twitch fibers give you endurance.
Max Contraction Training Exercises must be selected in such a way that one enables a targeted muscle group to be moved into a position of FULL MUSCULAR CONTRACTION AGAINST RESISTANCE and held there for 1 to 6 seconds.
You’re probably thinking “hey that should be easy, just 1-6 seconds”. Keep in mind that the weight has to be heavy enough that you cannot hold the fully contracted position for more than 6 seconds.
From my experience, the maximum weight on some of the machines in our gym would not be enough, so I had to do the exercise uni-laterally, i.e., one side (arm, leg, etc.) at a time.
So, there are no reps, just hold the weight at the fully contracted position for 1-6 seconds and move on to the next exercise.
If you have the mental discipline to use the proper weight and totally exhaust your muscles, you should give yourself plenty of time to “recuperate” and do the routine JUST twice a week. This is for beginners. If you are serious about this routine and have completed about 6 sessions, I recommend once a week.
Sit on a leg extension machine and place your feet behind the roller pads so that your knees are snug against the seat. Keep your head and shoulders straight, slowly straighten both legs until you reach the fully contracted position pictured below. Hold for 1 to 6 seconds, until you can no longer contract against the weight.
- Leg Curls
Lie face down on the leg-curl machine and place your feet under the roller pads with your feet just over the edge of the bench. Slowly curl your lower legs up until they are almost touching your buttocks. Hold this maximum contraction for
If your gym has a sitting, rather than lying face-down type of leg-curl machine, do the exercise as explained above.
- Standing Calf Raise
Emphasis: Gastrocnemius (calves)
Place your shoulders under the pads. With the balls of your feet firmly on the platform, slowly rise on your toes until your calves are in a fully contracted position. Sustain the contraction for 1-6 seconds.
You can also do this on a leg-press machine.
- Max Strap Pulldowns
Emphasis: Lower lats, upper back, chest, and upper abdominals
Position yourself in a lat pulldown-machine and insert your arms through the Max Straps so that the bottom padded part of the strap is over the end of your upper arm (nearest the elbow joint) and your hands are resting against the side straps. Don’t close your hands on the straps, as this will unnecessarily fatigue your forearms and biceps. Using only the strength of your latissimus dorsi muscles, draw your elbows down and back until they are just to the sides of your lower ribs. Sustain this full contraction for 1-6 seconds.
If you don’t have access to Max Straps, use the machine pictured below, and pull down with both arms and sustain the full contraction with just one for 1-6 seconds. Then do the other side.
Emphasis: Trapezius, shoulders, forearms
I find it easiest to use a barbell power rack and set the pins that will be supporting the barbell at midthigh height. Grab the barbell (I suggest using straps as the weight should be quite heavy) and stand up straight. Your back should be flat and arms fully extended. Using only the strength of your trapezius muscles, shrug your shoulders upward. Hold the fully contracted position for 1-6 seconds.
A better picture:
- Pec Deck
Adjust the height of the seat so that when you place your upper arms on the pads they are parallel to the floor. Using the strength of your pec muscles only, slowly draw your elbows together in front of your torso. When you’ve reached the fully contracted position, hold for 1-6 seconds, or until you can’t keep your elbows together.
- Lateral Raises
You can perform this exercise on a deltoid machine or use dumbbells. Pick up the dumbbells and stand up straight. Slowly raise the dumbbells out to your sides (keeping a slight bend in your elbows and a tilt where your thumbs point slightly to the floor) until the dumbbells are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for 1-6 seconds.
- Bent-Over Laterals
Emphasis: Rear deltoids
Take the dumbbells and bend forward until your torso is at a 90-degree angle. Slowly raise the dumbbells into a position slightly above and behind your shoulders. Sustain the fully contracted position for 1-6 seconds.
- Max Strap Kickbacks
With the ring at the end of the Max Straps attached to the hook at the end of a floor pulley, bend over at the waist so that your torso is at a 90-degree angle to your legs. Place your hands through the Max Straps so that the pads are across your waist. Maintaining the bent-over position, draw your arms behind your torso as far as you can move them and your arms are fully locked out. Hold for 1-6 seconds.
If you don’t have access to Max Straps, there are many machines that you can improvise on.
- Palms Under, Close-Grip Chins or Steep-Angle Preacher Curls
If you choose to do the palms-under, close-grip chins, begin by standing on a chair and placing your hands on the chinning bar with an underhand palms-up grip. Assume a position where your eyes are level with the bar and your biceps are in a fully contracted position. Now, step of the chair until your biceps contract fully, thus holding you up. Hold for 1-6 seconds and slowly lower your body to the fully extended position.
To perform the steep-angle preacher curl, pick up a barbell or have a training partner hand you the bar once you’ve placed your arms over the top of a 90-degree preacher bench. Contract your biceps maximally and sustain the contraction for 1-6 seconds.
- Max Strap Crunches
Attach the Max Strap to an overhead pulley (ideally on a lat-pulldown machine that has a seat and a knee pad). Sit down on the seat and place your arms through the Max Straps so that the pads are over the bends in your elbows. Lower your elbows to a point and out to the sides so that the base of the Max Strap is touching the back of your neck. Now, slowly bend your torso over while drawing your elbows downward until your elbows are almost touching your knees. Once you’ve hit the fully contracted position, sustain for 1-6seconds.
Use the thick braded ropes that are standard with pulleys, in no Max Straps.
- Longer hold times for beginners. It is advisable that during your first 4 to 6 workouts hold each contraction for 60 seconds.
- Keep a training log.
- Exercise caution. If you don’t have a training partner, you must use extreme caution when commencing any exercise using Max Contraction. Lift the resistance very slowly until you get to the fully contracted position. In this position you will NOT now lower the weight, like in regular workouts, but hold the fully contracted position for 1-6 seconds.
- Training partner. If you train with a partner, they can lift the weight to the fully contracted position for you. THIS IS A MUST FOR ADVANCED MAX CONTRACTION TRAINING.
- The nature of high-intensity exercise. You may notice that your target muscle group might begin to shake rather violently at the 1-6 second mark, but that’s fine. It simply indicates that your muscles are firing more and more fibers to maintain the contraction.
- Workout frequency. Beginners should structure their workouts 48 hours apart. Intermediates 96 hours apart and advanced trainees once a week.
- Strive to increase intensity. Add seconds until you get to 6 seconds and then increase the weight.
That’s it. If you want detailed information read the book.
There is also a book on Advanced Max Contraction Training and both should be available on Amazon and the iBooks store.