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Started By dafortae (a, a, U.S.A.)

Started on: 2/5/2004 11:20:56 PM, viewed 9016 times
Full Muscle Contraction

Mike often talked about the important of reaching full muscular contraction when training. He even went so far to discuss the myotatic reflex so that the maximum possible contraction could occur. We briefly discussed this topic elsewhere on the forum, but I wanted to get deeper into it now.

He claimed that leg extensions, pec deck flies, machine pull overs, calf raises, etc., were all super exercises because of the full contraction that could be obtained. However, Mike ALSO said that the deadlift is THE best exercise overall because of the bulk amount of muscle mass involved. So which way is it? Which is more important?

When we look at the size that can be obtained from heavy compound exercises void of any isolation exercises, it appears full contraction is NOT required. In fact, one′s hamstrings can grow by a huge amount by JUST doing stiff-legged deadlifts, where the range of motion is almost zero. Also, one′s forearms can get huge from just static holding of heavy weights.

I′m beginning to believe movement when performing exercises has little to do with increases in muscle mass. Anyone want to throw in their 2 cents?


This Topic has 115 Replies: Displaying out of 115 Replies:

Chain (Anyw^here, Any, Any) on 2/6/2004 1:41:27 AM

The Myth of the Position of Full Muscular Contraction

Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus, has often stated that the only position in which one is capable of contracting and thus stimulating all of the fibers in a particular muscle is the position of full muscular contraction. This is incorrect for several reasons. First, unless a person is a genetic freak possessing a neurological efficiency of 100%, they will never simultaneously contract all of the fibers in a given muscle regardless of position. A maximal contraction does not mean every single fiber in a muscle is involved, it means that on has recruited all of the motor units or groups of muscle fibers one is capable of and they are firing at the highest possible rate. It has been assumed that average neurological efficiency is between 20-30%. Second, there is a difference between a motor unit firing, or attempting to contract, and actually being in the fully contracted position. Maximal fiber recruitment is not dependent upon maximal muscle shortening.

A motor unit, or group of muscle fibers sharing a common innervation, can be firing at an extremely high rate and producing force, without actually shortening, the same as you can apply a maximal amount of force to an extremely heavy object without actually moving it. A muscle can contract with the same amount of force in the mid-range of a movement as it can when completely shortened (possibly more due to interdigitation of myofibrils in this position), which would indicate that an equal percentage of motor units would be active in both positions. Due to leverage and other factors the muscular force output would be different in those two positions, but the actual force of muscular contraction and thus fiber recruitment would be the same, and that′s what counts. There is nothing special about the position of full muscular contraction.

Position Specific vs. Full Range Strength Increases

Based on these arguments it would appear that isometric exercise protocols such as TSC and SH would result in full-range rather than position or range specific strength increases. However, the fact that many exercises involve multiple muscles or groups of muscles whose relative involvement may vary considerably over the full ROM complicates the issue somewhat.

Compound (Multi-Joint or Linear) Movements

Isometric exercise protocols may not produce full range strength gains in some compound movements. Unlike many simple or single joint exercises, during compound exercises significantly more muscles are involved and the relative involvement of those muscles changes continuously from position to position throughout the range of movement. Depending on the degree of change in muscular involvement from position to position, isometric exercise in some positions of a compound movement may provide inadequate loading and stimulation for muscles that are not involved to some minimal necessary degree at that position, but may be involved to a greater degree in other portions of the ROM. As a result, there would be a disproportionately low strength increase in those parts of the ROM.

For example, during the front grip pull down, the chest is involved in shoulder extension during the first 30 to 45 degrees of movement. If a person performs TSC or SH on the front grip pull down in a position past that portion of the ROM involving the chest, the resulting strength increases will not be proportional over the full range of the exercise. They will be lower over the ROM involving the chest.

Realize that in such a situation although strength increases may not be proportional over the full ROM, they would not be limited to the specific position trained either.

In exercises where this is a problem, one should either perform the exercise at a position in which all of the muscular structures involved in the dynamic version of the exercise are meaningfully loaded or address the inadequately loaded muscles with a different exercise.

by Andrew M. Baye

jimpaul (zanesville, ohio, U.S.A.) on 2/6/2004 1:44:14 AM

Interesting thoughts that seem true. In which, would help account for "some" of the gains made by bodybuilders who have some of the worst possible lifting techniques known to man! Bertil Fox was one of the most massive bodybuilders in the world and was known for lifting in a very "loose" fashion, as an example. Now since we know that hamstrings and forearms do receive benefit from not actually contracting per se, and we also realize in deadlifts that biceps get development, the question is what can that possibly tell us of other muscles and movements? How does all this relate to statics?

Get Stronger


NeuroMass (zanesville, ohio, U.S.A., Philippines) on 2/6/2004 2:07:31 AM

NICE work guys ! I totally agree with you on that pont. PEACE .

HIT (northwest, wa5, england) on 2/6/2004 9:04:13 AM

Hi Guys,

I would just like to mention the pre-stretch technique. This is one of the main reasons why I personally do not lift in a extremely slow manner. I find to achieve the best contraction and the production of the most power does come from lower quite slow then a couple of inches from full extension speed up the movement just a little sets up a strong contractional impulse, where I change direction and drive as hard as I can through the full positive part of the rep I keep pushing as hard as I can until the rep is completed, even though I push as hard as I can the reps are still quite slow if the weight is heavy. I find this is a natural way to lift, lifting any other way does not seem to produce the same results in the force of the contraction. I have tried super slow reps – they are very tedious and it seems hard to be highly motivated and eager to train then you proceed to lift the bar which takes 10 seconds which for me seems to reduce my concentration and power. I hit the positive rep hard and continue to push as hard as I can until a couple of inches from completion of the rep were I ease off.

I don′t use momentum. Look at it like this, if you were to roll a massive rock the initial push to get the rock moving would require extreme effort, but once moving you could literally walk along applying little effort to maintain the movement, but as I do with my sets, as the rock begins to move keep applying the intense effort by pushing it faster and harder so the effort required never drops off – just keep driving as hard as you can, makes the contractions harder not easier. Also super-slow limits the weights which can be used which effects my motivation I like a heavy plate loaded bar which physics me to the max!!!! I feel my adrenalin rising just by looking at a plate loaded squat bar, to go over and lift this bar at a speed to 20secs per rep is just unnatural to me I lower under control speed up at the last couple of inches then drive out of the bottom of the rep as hard as I can, which is probably quite slow even though I am pushing as hard and as fast as I can, this seems natural to me produces a good contraction I believe the best contraction and allows alot of weight to be moved, AND ALOT OF GROWTH TO BE STIMULATED!!!

Give some of your thought on rep speed and how they effect muscle contractions…


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