Assessing Unusual Weight Training Technique

Partials and Isometrics at Peak of Contraction

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Thank you very much for your great site. I've been coming back to it for a few years - and always found what I was looking for. Keep on doing this great job!

Lately I've come across the strange writings of Pete Sisco - he is opposed to most of what I've heard at the gym and from several trainers. Have you seen his work? Could you refer me to some studies that corroborate or refute his approach?

He suggest exercising the muscles at the peak of their contraction, moving the weights for a 2 inches or so and holding the contraction for 10 secs. This enables you to hoist even 200% of the max weight you hoist in a full motion. He maintains that this gives maximum stimulation to the muscles - and then to wait between exercises for long periods of recuperation - up to 6 weeks between sessions.

My trainers say they never heard of this approach. Have you?

Calves can be tough muscles to developI have not heard of Mr. Sisco, but I am familiar with somewhat similar techniques. Since I have not seen his work, I cannot say the information he provides is necessarily inaccurate or misleading. However, you should beware of individuals selling unusual courses online with no scientific studies to back up their claims. I can only suspect this could be one of those cases, but out of fairness, I cannot say that for certain.

On many exercises, performing an exercise only through the end range motion would allow you to use much more weight than performing an exercise through its full range of motion, but that does not mean you are applying more force to the muscle. For many, but not all exercises, the end range of motion involves the resistive force travelling closer to perpendicular (as opposed to parallel) to the muscular forces, meaning, it's easier at the end ranges of motion, so more weight could certainly be used at the end range of motion on many exercises (see Angle of Pull)

The end of a contraction also typically produces less muscular force. See Tension Potential and Muscle Length-tension Relationship.

Vascular occlusion occurs when a contraction is held more than a few seconds (see The Burn) which acutely inhibits muscular force, but chronically promotes a specific type of muscular endurance in the muscle groups being exercised regularly.

I can imagine how that sort of training would be quite challenging. I have spoken to and observed a few high level bodybuilders who use very short jerky movements when weight training, but I do not know of any that hold the contraction as a fundamental principle of their training, although isometric type training as well as partials sometimes have their place with specific applications.

Most any reasonable changes of workout variables will elicit a training response for a time. So I would predict, this sort of training would also bring about a training response as well. I do not know of any study necessarily that would refute that particular claim. But I cannot imagine the result would be superior to other training methods that also incorporate changes to training variables.

But whatever the claim is, the results should be reproducible which typically means their claims should be validated through scientific study. The question I believe you are asking is how you can determine if Mr. Sisco's program is more effective than any other change of protocol or if it is merely a scam. The claim of a scam almost always lack real scientific backing, although these programs are commonly marketed by substantiating their claim by either citing pseudo-scientific studies or scientific findings presented out of context. Marketing campaigns of many nutritional supplements and certain exercise gadgets are notorious for such practices.

A PubMed search can be a good starting place to see for yourself if a claim, whether it be a specific program or nutritional supplement, has scientific validity. You will just need to use search terms that would likely be in a scientific study to find articles testing certain hypotheses. Just go to our Free Online Journals page and click on Pubmed (under the 'Various' header).

The best book I know of, that does an outstanding job of reviewing and analyzing scientific studies on the efficacy of weight training variables is Designing Resistance Training Programs by Fleck and Kreamer: They also offer another good book for designing effective periodized workouts, Optimal Muscle Training.

It is very difficult to substantiate a claim without strong scientific proof. Although it is true that scientific information is continually evolving and what we understand today is sometimes, somewhat different than our knowledge of the past. Likewise, we can assume what we will know in the future may be somewhat different than how we understand it today. And certainly there remain cases where our science knowledge pool has been tainted with studies using poor scientific practices often motivated by political or monetary gain and perpetuated by ignorance. Nevertheless, our current scientific knowledge base along with our ability to discern pseudo-science from real science is the best criteria for substantiating a marketer's claim.

The next best thing is what you have evidently been doing, asking other experienced trainers and experts of their understanding and personal experiences. I would also encourage to consider posting your question on our forum for other experienced visitors to answer.

Thanks for the pointers you gave me. I'll do some research there. Mr. Sisco's approach requires very intense exercises, with a very limited range of motion and with very long recovery times (up to six weeks) between training sessions.

The approach is so revolutionary that it should change the whole gym and fitness industry - just think of a gym being capable of taking care of thousands of customers, coming in for 10 minutes every 6 weeks....

However, since beginning in the early nineties, 20 years after I'd expect he'd be recognized as an innovator - or be dismissed as another snake-oil peddler. I am afraid his recognition is still lagging...


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