MAX Contraction Workout

MaxContractionTrainingThe MAX Contraction training is also a high intensity training like the Big Five Workout I mentioned in the previous post. The book was written by John Little who was also a coauthor of the Body By Science book.

In short, the MAX contraction training emphasizes the fact, that during the full range of a muscles motion only one position stimulates the fibers more than any other. This position is the “Max Contraction Position”. Due to this fact the conventional repetitions in a set are not very effective. In the MAX Contraction training you perform only 1 repetition to stimulate the muscle.

The new goal is not the number of repetitions you can do but the Time of Contraction of your muscle which should be between 1 and 6 seconds for each exercise. That means that you should choose your weight so that you can hold the resistance in the Max Contraction position for a minimum of 1 second but no longer than 6 seconds.

If you want to build muscle mass you have to train for short periods of time so that you’ll be able to train intensely.

The Exercises – We only do ONE rep

Below is a summary of a possible whole body workout. It outlines all exercises and methods. The workout consists of 11 exercises for the different muscle groups.

View the below videos to get an impression of the exercise, however remember this is not a demonstration of the MAX Contraction method! As we only do one rep!

1. Leg Extensions – Quadriceps

Seat should be in a 75 degree angle (not 90). The feet pads should be right above your ankle. Feet should be straight. Keep head and shoulders straight. Slowly straighten your legs until you reach the fully contracted position. Hold for 1 to 6 seconds until you can no longer contract against the weight.

2. Leg Curls – Hamstrings

Knees just over the edge of the bench. Slowly curl your legs up until they are almost touching your buttocks. Hold the maximum contraction for 1 to 6 seconds.

3. Standing Calf Raises – Gastrocnemius

Use Dumbbell for extra weight. Sustain the contraction for 1 to 6 seconds.

 4. Close-Grip or Parallel-Grip Pulldowns – Latissimus Dorsi

Grab hold of the lat pulldown bar with a close, palms up grip. Begin to slowly pull the bar down toward your chest.; however only take the resistance to the halfway point in this exercise as it’s not a direct lat movement and will, if carried through to complete contraction, cause the weak-link biceps muscles to give out first. Once you’ve hit the halfway point, sustain the maximum contraction for a full 1 to 6 seconds.

 5. Shrugs – Trapezius

You can do the shrugs with dumbbells or a barbell. Stand up straight with your back flat and make sure to keep your arms fully extended. Using only the strength of your trapzius muscle, shrug your shoulders upward. Hold the fully contracted position for 1 to 6 seconds.

 6. Pec Deck – Pectorals

Adjust the height of the seat so that your upper arms are  more or less parallel to the floor. Draw your elbows slowly together just with the strength of your pec muscle. When you’ve reached the fully contracted position, hold it for 1 to 6 seconds or until you can’t keep your elbows together.

 7. Lateral Raises / Side and Rear – Deltoids

You can do it with a machine or with free weights. Slowly raise the dubbells out to the sides (keeping a slight bend in your elbows to relieve pressure from your joints) until the dumbbells are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 1 to 6 seconds.

 8. Bent-Over Laterals – Rear deltoids

Bend forward at the waist until your torso is at 90 degree to your legs or use a bench. Slowly raise the dumbbells into a position slightly above and behind your shoulders. Sustain this position for 1 to 6 seconds.

 9. Tricep pulldown (or free weight variation) – Triceps

Use a cable station and attach a single hand attachment. Lean slightly forward and grab the attachment with an underhand grip (palms up). Slowly extend your arm downward until your arm is fully locked out. Hold this fully contracted position for 1 to 6 seconds or until the full contraction can no longer be maintained. Switch arms.

10. Concentration Curls – Biceps

Pick up a dumbbell in your right hand and bend over at the waist with your left hand braced upon your left knee. With the elbow of your right (or curling) arm braced against the inside of your right knee, slowly curl the weight up until your biceps muscle is fully contracted. Hold this position for 1 to 6 seconds or until you can no longer maintain the full contraction. Then switch arms.

11. Pulldown Ab Crunches – Abdominals

Use a close grip attachment on a pulldown station. Sit opposite in the chair and grab the handle overhead. Begin crunching downward until you elbows are almost touching your knees. Hold this position for 1 to 6 second or until you can no longer sustain the contraction. Use your arms only to hold the attachment and nothing else. The arms should not support the crunches.


If you are a beginner to bodybuilding training or to the Max Contraction training it is best during the first four to six workouts to hold each contraction for about 60 seconds. This will help you to acclimate to the new protocol. Beginners should also structure their workout 48 hours apart. Intermediates about 96 hours or once every four days. Advanced trainees should train no more than once a week.

Keep a training log of your daily caloric intake, the weights used in each exercise, the TOC and the total weight lifted (TWL=aggregated weight of all exercises).

Lift the resistance slowly into the position of full muscular contraction just as you would if you were  performing a regular set. However, instead of lowering the resistance, you will hold this fully contracted position for 1 to 6 seconds.

Shaking of the target muscle group at the 1 to 6 second mark is normal. It’s just an indicator that your muscles are firing more and more fibers are needed to maintain the contraction. After the workout you will feel like your limbs are made of Jell-O.

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