Static reps are an interesting technique. More meant for the intermediate and advanced bodybuilder, they should be lumped in with other ‘high-intensity’ techniques that are used after standard lifting to failure is not producing any gains. Generally speaking once you get stuck and can’t push yourself any further by doing standard reps to failure and aren’t seeing growth, it is time to add a little something different to spur those fibers to grow!
What is a Static Rep?
The idea is to hold a weight for 5 to 10 seconds in a position close to lock-out or maximum contraction. The concept involves providing continual tension on the muscle for those seconds which can cause incredible stress. There are two main theories about how you should do static reps and both work. The name ‘static’ implies the lack of movement during the held position.
Isolation Static Reps
Some people utilize static reps during an isolation exercise after reaching failure. After completing the last rep you can you simply lower the weight a very minimal distance (1 to 2 inches) and hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds. Advanced users of this technique might even perform additional static holds on the last rep after the first (not recommended to start).
Certain isolation exercises work better than others for isolation static reps. Cable exercises or machines have a distinct advantage for safety and control. Preacher curls, leg extensions, hamstring curls, pec dec flyes, cable rows, and other similar exercises are ideal for iso static reps.
Compound Static Reps
Other people feel you can use static reps with extremely heavy weight and by holding the weight in the static position you can easily gain size and strength. This theory has been utilized successfully but requires a bit more work as a training partner and/or workout cage are needed to ensure you are being safe.
In this case you are aiming to use weight heavier than your one-rep maximum and hold it in position for 5 to 10 seconds. But that is the rep. You might warm up with bench presses and instead of doing a final set instead set the rack pins close to lock-out position and perform one or two static holds with a weight 20 to 40 pounds over your one-rep maximum. A spotter might be necessary to get the weight into position even when using a cage.
For this type of rep using free weights is often easier because you will need to cheat or have a partner get the weight into position. Tools like a Smith Machine are also useful. You can position the machine near lockout for a shoulder press with the limited weights after warm-up and then load the weight on for the static holds without needing assistance for getting into position.
Because of the weight being used and the stress on the muscles and joints you should not use this technique very often.
Having done both types of static reps I would recommend starting with the isolation type first. They are very difficult and effective but also a bit safer on your body. If you regularly work with a partner and train very heavy using the big lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses then you might jump quickly to the compound static reps to help move past a plateau. But like most high-intensity techniques, moderation is the key otherwise you will end up overtrained.