Static Contractions | ViiV Fitness Blog
Static Contractions


By Brian Murray, M.Ed.
Director of  Clinical Research, ViiV Fitness

Dumb Doctors

Hey, I realize ViiV fitness is light-years ahead of the times, but c'mon, even a neurosurgeon should be able to quickly grasp the points I make, right? 


There is a big difference between being intelligent and being smart.

Intelligence is about gaining knowledge easily and quickly. It's a trait people are born with. 

Doctors have this trait.

I don't.

Smart is an acquired trait. Smart is about using knowledge obtained through experience and applying it to practical situations.

After nearly 20 years of being immersed in researching, observing and collecting data on how people of all ages, shapes and sizes respond to a few seconds of all out effort I have become smart and wise.

So when a neurosurgeon recently responded to my article -- THIS COULD CHANGE THE WORLD, I found it a perfect illustration of how very intelligent people can, not intentionally, lead you astray.

To quickly refresh, in that article I referenced a first of its kind study that shows not only what actually happens in our central nervous system when we lift weights, but the bundle of nerves that drives our changes in strength. It was shown that load is the most important factor in creating the greatest change in central nervous system strength and efficiency. I linked all of this together with the ViiV and it's ability to maximize load, and made a solid case for why the ViiV way could change the world.

Yet, even a neurosurgeon can have a hard time getting it right away. I address the following quotes:

Doc: "One could improve strength on a "computer," sure - by forging more robust neural pathways. It's all Neural. But for what? Less muscle will be "built." 

But for what!? 

A stronger and more efficient central nervous system makes a more capable human being in a wider range of activity levels. I've witnessed hundreds of people not only regain the ability to do things they haven't been able to do in years, but have an increased sense of well being and more positive outlook on life.

But for what? How 'bout turning back the hands of time and improving all around quality of life?  

That's smart. 

"Less muscle will be "built?"  

Its not about how much muscle is built (can't do it anyway), it's about how much is activated. It's about how much you can activate when you really need to turn of the jets, or how much you don't need to activate to do something challenging. The ViiV puts you in a position to maximally activate your musculature which reduces your need to activate as much during all activities.

That's smart.

But let me make sure I'm reading this correctly. To me it sounds like the pursuit of "forging more robust neural pathways" is a waste of time because it means "less muscle will be built?" 

I'm confused. 

Even if it were possible to do, could you "build" more muscle without forging more robust neural pathways? 

After all, you did say "It's all neural."

Doesn't matter anyway because after you reach full maturity you can't add more muscle to your body just like you can't make yourself taller. 

Everyone should review the following:

  • PJ Rasch 1955. The Problem of Muscle Hypertrophy: A review.
  • Morehouse and Miller 1963. "It has not been proved that hypertrophy is necessarily a desirable reaction ... it may be simply a by-product of training, perhaps a noxious one."
  • Buckner 2016. The Problem of Muscle Hypertrophy: Revisited.
  • Loenneke 2019. Exercise Induced Changes in Muscle Size Do Not Contribute to Exercise Induced Changes in Muscle Strength.

In the entire history of all the research that has ever been done from the beginning of time, there has NEVER been a proven connection between a change in muscle size (exercise induced hypertrophy of muscle cells) and increased strength. 


Furthermore, exercised induced change in muscle size is just a temporary shift in fluid. Muscle "building" is an illusion. I made the case for this scientifically in my article MUSCLE GROWTH WITH THE VIIV-RX.

Of course those in search of a body by science conveniently ignore all of this science.

Doc: "And don't get me wrong, these machines have their utilities, but as an adjunct ONLY. They do not obviate the need for formal, full range, compound movements. People have tried this in the past...and it failed."

"…these machines have their utilities, but as an adjunct ONLY." 

That certainly hasn't been my experience. When you change the strength and efficiency of someone's central nervous system and EVERYTHING they do becomes easier, including lifting weights, how could the ViiV possibly be considered an adjunct ONLY?

In all my years I have never seen one person add yoga, weight lifting, pilates, swimming, etc, etc, and seen their all-out strength improve. I have seen many people add a ViiV session to all of their existing workouts and activities and listened to them rave about how much better they perform in everything they do.

Flow only goes one way.

Adjunct only?

Wouldn't that be the other way around?

"They do not obviate the need for formal, full range, compound movements." 

Without question, movement is essential for health and well being. I highly recommend it. However, the ViiV does not obviate the need for movement. The ViiV actually creates for people the desire and ability to be even more active; to move and use their bodies in activities involving full range of motion when required.

The ViiV does however, obviate the need to move weights through a full range of joint-damaging-inflammation-creating motion, and people love that.

"People have tried this in the past...and it failed." 

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Just because it appears that isometric concepts failed in the past doesn't mean you stop innovating and evolving. Did they really fail? After all, here we are at ViiV Fitness advancing what is possible.
My point is, many of you in the health/fitness world have your "gods." You hold incredibly intelligent people in high esteem and look to them for answers and guidance. But just because they have MD or PhD after their name doesn't mean they aren't human. They have their biases, blinders and allegiances and can easily keep you chained to dogma and shielded from the truth, if you don't question everything and think for yourself.

In other words, you can just as easily be lead astray by a dumbass like me or a very intelligent neurosurgeon.   



By Brian Murray, M.Ed.
Director of Clinical Research, ViiV Fitness

Monkey Lifting Dumbells

Two monkeys walk into a lab.
They lift weights.
They get really strong.
How strong?

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, because it's the truth: changes in your strength are all about changes in your nervous system, not changes in the size or strength of your muscle fibers.

Here's more proof:

A recent New York Times article titled "How We Get Stronger" explored the findings of Drs. Glover and Baker published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Their paper titled "Cortical, Corticospinal and Reticulospinal Contributions to Strength Training" is the first report of a strength training intervention in non-human primates and gives us even more insight into what is really happening within our nerves when we lift weights.

This study is unbelievably significant!

So let's get to the good stuff. Stay with me while I quickly set the table with a few key details:

You've got two main bundles of nerves that descend from your brain and direct movement: the corticospinal tract (CST) and the reticulospinal tract (RST).

In evolutionary terms, the RST is ancient. It arises from the more primitive areas of the brain. It is common in lower tier species such as reptiles. These nerves direct broad preparatory and movement related activity and postural control.

The CST is younger in evolutionary terms and more refined. It controls fine motor skills. It's found in monkeys and humans, but rarely in reptiles.

With tiny transmitters and electrodes implanted, the researchers tracked how each set of nerves responded and changed as the animals lifted with their right arm only. The monkeys trained 5 times a week for 3 months, increasing the weight load until they could complete the equivalent of "a human doing 50 one-armed pull-ups," said lead author Isabel Glover.

What drove this impressive gain in strength?

Answer: Progressively stronger and more urgent nerve commands to the muscles. But those messages came from, and strengthened only one set of nerves - the more primitive RST.

What does this mean?

First, as you will soon learn, the tract of nerves strengthened is significant. We never knew this before.

Second, "Strength isn't just about muscle mass," said Dr. Glover. "You get stronger because the neural input to your muscles increases."

See, I told you so.

So you still think you're making your muscles stronger when you lift those weights?

Think again.

You're really strengthening your nervous system, literally.

The key to all of this?


Here's why the tract of nerves involved is significant. The RST is bilateral and has the largest density of projections to the trunk and proximal limb (thigh and upper arm) muscles on both sides of the body, often engaging the upper and lower limbs at the same time.

It is the integrator of whole body movement.

Even though the monkeys only lifted with their right arms, their spinal circuits adapted to demonstrate a greater output even on their left side. Significant changes occurred in both the gray and white matter of the spinal cord on both the right and left side, with the trained side showing a greater effect.

The highest load lifted led to the greatest activation of all muscles in the right arm. But the really cool thing is, the same thing happened in the left arm that did nothing. The lighter loads lifted didn't have any effect on the immobilized left arm.

Get it?

Load is the key!

- Not fatigue

- Not time

- Not metabolic stress


So what's the bottom line?

With increasing loads, the brain (both higher and lower functioning areas) improved connectivity and efficiency of those connections to send information more quickly and strongly down the spinal cord, where spinal circuits got information out to the limbs more quickly and strongly, so more force could be generated by the muscles.

There was, however, one other interesting thing to note. Based on the locations of changes measured within the nervous system, the authors did not see any evidence that changes in motorneurons outside the spinal cord, i.e., the nerves that activate muscle (motor units), played any role in the ability to lift more weight.

Understand? The magic happens in a primitive area of the central nervous system much further upstream from the muscles.

Yet, we put our focus on muscle, while the changes that actually matter are within the brain and spinal cord.

With the ViiV you can experience the highest of loads safely and leverage the function of the RST to maximize physical fitness results with just a few seconds of time invested. This is why just 5 seconds of maximum effort on one exercise can strengthen your entire body and change your physical fitness overnight! (See my previous article titled The New Minimum Effective Dose, which details results of a study I did supporting this claim.)

So here's the deal:

Load is most important.

When you hop on the ViiV and give it everything you've got for 5 seconds, you will trigger the greatest improvement in the connectivity, strength, and efficiency of your nervous system.

- The greater the improvement in the efficiency of the nervous system, the less your muscles need to be activated to do anything below a maximum effort, which is almost everything you do every day.

- The less your muscles need to be activated to do the same given workload, the wider your comfort zone for any effort level becomes so you can do more, for a longer period of time. Your "gas mileage" improves at all effort levels.

The best part is you can get these results with just a few seconds of effort once in a while, and keep these results for a very long time.

You can workout less, play more, and your physical fitness will be great all the time.

Can you see the implications of this information?

Yeah, the ViiV way could change the world, if the world will let it.



By Brian Murray, M.Ed.
Director of Clinical Research, ViiV Fitness 

No Strength Loss

Recently I asked Cecilia if she would be willing to go through another session. The thing is, it had been more than 1 year since her last visit. She agreed.

Before beginning neither one of us had any expectations. This was purely experimental. So she went all-out for 5 seconds at 4 stations.

In the interest of brevity i'll just focus on her leg press results.

Cecilia's first session on the ViiV was 7/10/19. Her score was 1,022 LBS of force. She was 58 years old.

Cecilia hit her all time best score of 1,246 LBS of force on 1/16/20. That was her last session until she gave it everything she had on 3/04/21, one year and 7 weeks since her last session to be exact. 

That's a long time to not workout, right? You thinking what I'm thinking? Yeah, this could be ugly, right?


Cecilia's score was 1,200 LBS! 

She was able to hit 96.3% of her previous best score ever. A score easily within the normal deviation you see on a session to session basis. So as far as I'm concerned this is incredible!

At this visit I also checked her body composition. Her lean body mass as a percentage of her body weight was identical to what it was back on 1/16/20. 

You should know that Cecilia does not have a regular workout program. She has a busy work schedule, likes to walk, and plays competitive tennis for several weeks during the local season. Other than that she just enjoys her life. She will be 60 years old in a few weeks.

Aren't you supposed to get weaker and fatter when you don't workout and get older? 

Cecilia didn't.

Talk about freedom from exercise.

Here's another perspective:

During the course of her sessions (6 months), Cecilia had a 21.9% improvement in her leg press strength. She raised her "ceiling" by that much. 

For fun, let's count her latest score as her best ever. That means her total improvement would be 17.4%. Still a considerably higher ceiling from where she started. How many people would love to be that much stronger?

BTW, her other exercises were 98.0%, 95.1% and 93.1% of her previous best scores. 

What does all this mean? I'm not sure. I'm trailblazing for you. 

All I know is that Cecilia had no complaints about her energy level or physical abilities over the past year and you can't get these results with any other kind of exercise.


Brian - HeadShot - Truth Not Trends Podcast 600px

Click to Listen:
Truth Not Trends Podcast Episode #81: ViiV Fitness - Motionless Strength Training with Brian Murray

TruthNotTrends podcast thumbnail

The Truth Not Trends podcast - where we teach you how to maximize your strength as safely and efficiently as possible!

Each episode we bring you strength training techniques, nutritional recommendations, and general health tips based on over 30 years of experience.

We also bring you interviews with fitness business owners, strength coaches, scientists, researchers, and people on the cutting edge of the fitness industry.

This week the featured guest on the Truth Not Trends Podcast was Brian Murray, M.Ed. - Exercise Physiologist - Director of Clinical Research for ViiV Fitness.   Listen as we discuss how a motionless total-body maximum intensity strength training workout stimulates new muscle and bone growth and can be completed in under 5 minutes.

Apple Podcast Link


By Brian Murray, M.Ed.
Director of Clinical Research, ViiV Fitness

Fast Velocity Resistance Training

Did you know you can train fast without any movement whatsoever?

I recently stumbled upon a 2019 review article published in Strength and Conditioning Journal titled: "Why Fast Velocity Resistance Training Should Be Prioritized for Elderly People". This small review of 56 studies compared the improvements in muscle strength, power output, explosive force, muscle mass, and functional capacity after resistance training with slow or fast contraction velocities in older adults. 

The Summary?

Fast velocity resistance training is superior for improving maximal isometric strength, power output, explosive force, and functional capacity; all things that every person needs and should strive for, no matter what their age or level of physical fitness.  

But why are the results better with fast velocity training?

The Rate of Force Development is faster.

And so I realized this paper could easily be re-titled: "Why Five Seconds of All Out Isometric Effort Should be Prioritized for Everyone".


Five seconds of maximum isometric effort on the ViiV-Rx and intentionally moving a weight as fast as possible have something in common: the rate of force development is fast.

This is important. 

The faster rate of force development makes people more powerful, capable, and independent by protecting the larger, stronger neuromuscular units that become inactive and largely account for age-related weakness (See my previous article titled AGE-RELATED WEAKNESS: NERVE OR MUSCLE).

Roughly 80% of our population doesn't get any exercise. About 50% are Baby Boomers, the group of people that desperately need improved power output and functional capacity the most.

With ViiV, we have the ability to make older individuals more powerful without any movement whatsoever, and this capability is then ready and waiting for them to use as they move throughout their daily activities. 

Our bodies need to move regularly, but we can become better movers with a few seconds of no movement.  


By Brian Murray, M.Ed.
Director of Clinical Research, ViiV Fitness

Timed Static Contractions TSC

You can give it everything you've got for 5 or 10 seconds. Those are your options with the ViiV-Rx.
However, we occasionally get questions about why there aren't more options for longer durations. 

Most often the people who ask this question have heard about something called Timed Static Contractions (TSC). This practice generally involves 20-30 second stages of subjective sustained effort progressing from 50% up to 75%, then on to 100%. Although there is nothing wrong with doing TSC, I'm going to tell you why the ViiV-Rx options are just right, and why TSC is mostly a waste of time if you want optimum benefit.

Consider the following data comparing maximum force generated going all-out during the final 30 second phase of TSC vs. going all-out over 10 seconds (one week between measurements):

GENDER          AGE                90 SECONDS               10 SECONDS
1. Male             Age 72                    460                                  570
2. Male             Age 90                    260                                  400
3. Male             Age 70                    507                                  612
4. Male             Age 45                    650                                  775
5. Male             Age 65                    280                                  600
6. Male             Age 60                    450                                  570
7. Female        Age 75                    400                                  505
8. Female        Age 72                    201                                  400
9. Female        Age 62                    560                                  695

Disclaimer: No human beings were harmed during 10 seconds of maximum effort.

I have been publicly criticized by a small contingent (a badge of honor I wear proudly) for practicing and advocating going all-out for 5 seconds right out of the gate. They feel my approach is "dangerous." 


This group continues to abide by a "theory" that fatiguing your muscles is a requirement prior to exerting maximum effort, and that this practice offers some kind of injury-preventative effect. They say this makes isometrics "safer."

Save it.

Over the past 17 years, I have worked with hundreds of people of all shapes and sizes, fitness levels, and ages, and not one musculoskeletal injury has resulted (see my previous article Why Short Duration All-Out Isometrics Are The Natural Thing To Do).

There is simply no evidence to support the claim that 90 continuous seconds of slow ramping effort is any safer than 5 seconds of all-out effort. None. 

This leads me to a few other observations about TSC as taught by this contingent:

First, it plants a seed of doubt. People learn to be afraid that if they exert force quickly they will get hurt. Here's an excerpt from a response to one of my past articles that is a perfect case in point:

"I would be very concerned about having a client put in a position of maximum muscle torque (pulling or pushing as hard as you can from the jump)
Not something that I would be willing to do to myself. I think a 90 second repetition...would be a much more appropriate way to approach these static exercises." 

Is this advice and concern based on experience? Nope. Why? Because this person was told it is dangerous. There is an expectation that injury will occur. 

Second, it creates a habit of slowly applying force. I recently had a conversation with someone who has practiced this slow, gradual ramping of effort in his workouts for 20 years. When I reassured him he could go all out right from the start he told me, "I've been doing this for so long that it's been hard to break the habit." Others are challenged by this as well, but it's not because they can't do it. It's because they think they shouldn't.  

This practice is unnatural. You aren't going to win any gold medals by training to apply force slowly, unless your sport is curling! Nature favors power, and we are hardwired to go from 0 to 60 just like that at any time, at any age. 

Third, the above two factors keep people from learning what it feels like to be powerful. They don't obtain maximum neurological impact and tap into their true strength potential. 

Obviously all of the people in the data above are capable of so much more than TSC allows. What they thought was their best effort during the last 30 seconds of TSC wasn't even close to their true maximum capability. 

BTW, Which number do you think these people were more proud of? 

I know. Dumb question.

Getting to the highest load is important. As I wrote in ViiV-Rx Makes Weight Lifting Obsolete?, higher loads lead to significantly higher increases in the ability to voluntarily activate your muscles, greater changes in neurological efficiency, and greater strength increases.  

Getting to the highest load quickly is so important, that you don't want fatigue to get in your way. The rate of force development is a huge determinant of muscle contraction force; this determines motor unit (MU) recruitment and firing rates. 

In a review by D.G. Sale titled INFLUENCE OF EXERCISE AND TRAINING ON MOTOR UNIT ACTIVATION, it was found that a 3-4 times larger fraction of the MU pool is engaged in producing a fast contraction than in achieving the same force in a slow ramp or sustained contraction. Maximum firing rates are also highest. 

With ViiV the 10 second option is a great starting point for most who are learning how to approach maximum effort. It allows enough time to ramp more slowly, while testing new sensations of higher exertion but not too much to be wasteful of nervous system energy. After a few weeks of this, however, it will be time to shift gears to something even better.

The 5 second option is perfect because you can have a fast rate of force development, but not so fast that you cannot achieve maximum force before time is up. As you become more neurologically efficient and comfortable, you will achieve peak force within 2-3 seconds.

With the ViiV-Rx, you will train your clients/patients to improve their power to weight ratio. This is what matters most. The 80 year-old woman who stumbles and needs to quickly break a fall, or to punch someone who is trying to take her purse, will be so much more thankful she knows how to quickly fire, activate, and develop force, versus being a tentative, slower, weaker reactor. 

As I wrote in Age-Related Weakness: Nerve or Muscle?, voluntary inactivation is largely responsible for the decrease in strength with age. The MUs most affected are the larger, stronger units, and the best way to activate those is by developing maximum force rapidly.

Be powerful. Five seconds will get you everything you need. TSC is 85 seconds too long.