How To Perform Timed Static Contractions
Updated: May 27
Sometimes, that quick-fix you've been looking for has been there all along. There's a good reason Bruce Lee, Mickey Mantle, Charles Atlas, and President Kennedy started using timed static contractions as their preferred method of exercise back in the '60s. And, there's a good reason many people continue to use it today as their go-to exercise. The reason is, it's effective, plain and simple!
The static contraction method is where bodybuilding began, therefore making it the foundation of fitness. There has to be something to it if we are still talking about it sixty years later. So maybe instead of looking for the next passing trend, it's time to get back to the basics; to where it all began.
The TSC-90 Workout
The simple definition of a timed static contraction (TSC) is, exercise that is achieved by pushing or pulling against an immobile or stationary object. This means the muscle length and joint angle do not change. Each exercise is timed and consists of a single, no rest repetition that increases in level of effort and muscle fatigue.
There are different approaches to performing timed static contraction exercise. The version I prefer to use with clients is called TSC-90. It's portable and doesn't require any expensive or bulky equipment. Each exercise works through four stages and lasts a total of 90 seconds. The four stages happen like this:
Stage one - this is considered the warm-up phase and requires you to apply 50% of your full effort for 30 seconds.
Stage two - at this point you will immediately move into the next 30 seconds applying 75% of your full effort.
Stage three - this takes place at the 60-second mark as you immediately move into the next 20 seconds applying 90% of your full effort.
Stage four - the final phase, where you apply 100% of your full effort for the 10-second countdown, working as hard as you safely can.
"This concentrated awareness allows you to apply the necessary effort into the contraction, fatiguing the muscle sufficiently in order to achieve true exercise."
Your muscles main function is to produce effort and they aren’t aware, nor do they care if they make a machine move or push through a full range of motion. With TSC-90, because the static contraction takes place over a 90-second period of time, and gradually increases in level of intensity, your muscles experience the same benefits as if performing a dynamic exercise.
Because there is no need to pay attention to an actual range of motion, you are able to completely focus on what muscles are contracting and how much they are contracting. This concentrated awareness allows you to apply the necessary effort into the contraction, fatiguing the muscle sufficiently in order to achieve true exercise.
The Everyone Anywhere Workout
Timed static contraction exercise is appropriate for all strength and fitness levels. Since you are always in control, TSC-90 is one of the safest ways to strength train. If you experience any pain due to an injury, you can modify or back off at any time.
On the flip-side, you can put forth as much effort as you’re willing. The TSC-90 approach has made it possible for many people to effectively achieve exercise safely and without pain, where dynamically performed exercise had caused them joint irritation or injury flare-ups.
The convenience and portability of this workout makes it doable for everyone and can be performed anywhere. You are able to perform an entire workout in the same spot, without needing to load, unload, and set up individual machines.
"You can workout anywhere, whether it’s at home in your kitchen, your backyard, at the park, the office, while you’re traveling, literally anywhere!"
Give it a try!
Now it's time to for you to see what timed static contractions are all about. Here is an example of how to perform a static push-up using the TSC-90 workout protocol.
Static push-ups: This exercise works the triceps, pectoral muscles, shoulders, low back muscles and abs. For this exercise you will need: a phone timer/stopwatch, 2 yoga blocks (if you don't have the blocks you can place your hands directly on the floor), a folded yoga mat or folded bath towel.
There are 3 different levels of difficulty for this exercise for beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Try to work through as many of these levels as you can.
Beginner level - kneel on a folded yoga mat or towel and place the 2 yoga blocks in front of you, shoulder width apart. Your knees should be close enough to the blocks, allowing you to have a bend at the waist. This is stage one, which is the warm-up phase. Place your hands palm down on blocks, bend the arms enough to make it slightly challenging, taking any shoulder issues or limitations into account. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Intermediate level - At the 30-second mark, quickly move the foam blocks further away from the mat, at least 6 inches, in order to create less bend in the body. Quickly get into position, bend the elbows enough to make it feel like a challenge and hold for 30 seconds. Because the body is straighter, more of your body weight is pushing into the blocks, causing it to feel like 75% effort.
Advanced level - For advanced push-ups you will be up on your toes, butt down and body should be straight as you lower down into that hold for the final 30 seconds. If it’s too challenging, go back to the intermediate position for the final 30 seconds.
What are you waiting for?
The TSC-90 workout may sound too good to be true, or you might be skeptical of its effectiveness, but when performed properly, it is extremely challenging. The only props needed are: a table, a chair, 2 foam yoga blocks and an 8 foot yoga belt. Don’t let the foam blocks fool you! If you put forth the required effort and strength, you’ll be surprised by the level of exercise you’re able to achieve and the muscle you will gain.
Momentary muscle fatigue is what it takes to strengthen your body as a whole. Remember, if it was good enough for Bruce Lee, it's certainly good enough for you. So, give it a try! Give it your full focus and effort, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised what you get in return. For the complete list of TSC-90 Exercise videos click here.