Top positive review
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Excellent and essential information with some big problems
on January 26, 2004
Max Contraction Training is John Little's follow up to the last book he wrote with Peter Sisco, 'Static Contraction Training'. Max Contraction Training contains some really good information and acts as a logical and worthy extension of the principles of high intensity training. However, the book is far from perfect and there are a number of problematic areas which Little does not satisfactorily address.
The early chapters of the book cover the underlying principles of strength training, and make it clear that the book is aimed at drug free people who want to follow an efficient and effective method of strength training founded on real scientific principles and research rather than the typical 'gym lore' and nonsense that gets published in the muscle magazines.
Little points out that he had been working on developing the 'Max Contraction' system before he teamed up with Peter Sisco to produce the 'Power Factor' and 'Static Contraction' systems and that he considers 'Max Contraction' to be the ultimate conclusion of the high intensity principles that underlie all the systems he has been involved with, which does kind of make you wonder why he didn't just publish this at the beginning and not bother with the other two.
He also goes in for a fair amount of repetition in getting the point about the position of full contraction being the only one in which all of a muscle's fibres can be forced to contract, and after a while this becomes a big of a drag. This is combined with a few mixed messages about safety which can become a bit confusing after a while. However, once you have figured out exactly what he is getting at you will find that the points he is raising are valid and contribute a great deal to your overall understanding of the science behind strength training.
The later chapters are concerned with the practicalities of training acoording to the scientific principles he has laid out. He gives a sound and well rounded basic routine to follow which is based around 'isolation' exercises (e.g. Leg Extensions and Leg Curls) which allow for the individual muscle or muscle group to enter a position of full ('Max') contraction and so activate all the muscle's fibres and utilise the full strength of the muscle. He then goes on to show you 'Bodypart Specialization' routines (e.g. Arms, Shoulders, Back, Legs) which clearly do not follow the principles he has laid out in the first part of the book as they entail doing more sets per bodypart rather than increasing the intensity of exercise.
Safety is also an issue, people who train on their own will be pretty much limited to using the weights that they can move into the position of full/'max' contraction on their own from full (or near full) extension for many of the exercises which, logically, reduces the effectiveness. What will really stick in the craw of many readers though, is that in selecting particular exercises he is clearly trying to get you to buy his 'Max Straps' which will only be available from his website, and will not be cheap either!
So, the book is deeply flawed, but also has some essential information that will do you a lot of good. I recommend that you first buy Little and Sisco's 'Static Contraction Training' and then use this to round out the picture. Where 'Static Contraction Training' focuses on compound exercises, this aims at isolation exercises. The two books and systems are complementary rather than competitive, and with some thought and common sense you can easily combine the best of the two books into a routine for yourself that makes the most of the equipment you have available to you.