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Exercise - How Little Do You Need?

By Pete Sisco - Developer of Static Contraction Training

Most people workout way too often.

I'm talking about lifting weights here, not jogging or cycling or yoga. The primary function of cardio exercise (despite its name) is to simply burn off excess calories. Since fat gain is a result of calories in versus calories out, running or cycling provides a way to increase our output of calories and keep our weight in check.

That's why even walking, which barely taxes the heart, is still productive for weight loss. This type of low intensity activity can be performed every day.

Yoga and stretching can also be performed every day. Flexibility is probably the most neglected aspect of fitness. How many people in your gym are stretching compared to those doing cardio and pumping iron?

So it's very ironic that when it comes to lifting weights and building muscle, virtually everyone is training far too frequently! You'd be amazed at how little high intensity exercise you really need!

Our Study

We recently conducted a study using eight middle aged golfers. We wanted to determine how little exercise could not only result in increased strength but also how it would transfer to athletic performance. We chose golf because swinging a club uses a very exaggerated range of motion and our abbreviated workout used no range of motion. That right, no movement.

The subjects were given a workout that consisted of six exercises perform on one day and six different exercises done on a different workout day. Each exercise involved a 10 to 20-second static hold. A weight was lifted into position (sometimes with assistance) and then held statically without locking out.

These workouts had an actual exercise duration of only 60 to 120 seconds. Over a six week period these subjects performed between 4 and 9 workouts, averaging 6.6 workouts in the six week period. So that's as little as one minute of actual exercise about once per week for six week.

So what happened?

Their Astonishing Results

Measurements of their strength in twelve muscle groups were compared for before and after calculation of improvement. The results of their fourteen minutes of exercise over six weeks were as follows:

Chest +58%
Lats +60%
Shoulders +57%
Quads +86%
Hams +78%
Abs +170%
Lower Back +58%
Calf +51%
Triceps +133%
Biceps +72%
Forearm (Flexors) +87%
Forearm (Extensors) +93%


Compare the above results with a conventional training protocol. Most people do at least two exercises per muscle group, perform three sets and perhaps 12 or 15 reps per set. Allowing just five seconds per rep, that makes for at least 36 minutes of exercise per workout. This is usually done three times per week. So in six weeks a conventional program would involve 648 minutes of exercise. That's 42 times more than the subjects on our study! Are your results in the last six weeks 42 times better that their results? I doubt it.

Performance Improvement

Remember, these golfers were exercising in a way that did not involve stretching or moving the weight over a full range of motion. So how did this affect a full range of motion activity like a golf drive?

Every one of them showed an improvement. The increase in drive distance varied from 5 to 31 yards! Keep in mind that these subjects had been golfing for up to forty years and had handicaps as low as eleven. So getting any improvement in golfers who already play at this level is impressive. Getting it with 14 minutes of exercise spread over six weeks is truly revolutionary.

The fact is, every sport, even a finesse sport like golf, is improved by an increase in strength. Muscles are responsible for all movement in the body and stronger muscles will deliver more power to every aspect of movement, irrespective of its range of motion.

Since this study we've gone on to improve this method of training. Further research showed that static hold times could be reduced to even less that what the golfers used. Workouts can be spaced further apart as a trainee gets stronger. I work with advanced trainees who train once every six weeks! Yet they gain in strength on every exercise each time the work out. The weights they hoist are enormous.

We believe the time is coming when most people will have a better understanding the role of proper, efficient strength training methods and frequency. For the guy who wants maximum results with minimum time invested, an ultra-brief but ultra-intense workout will be performed about as often as he gets a haircut. Anything more is just lifting weights as a busy-work hobby.

All the best,