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The Evolution of High-Intensity Training

The Evolution of High-Intensity Training

The exercise philosophy of Arthur Jones was formally introduced by his 1970 book: Nautilus Training Principles, Bulletin No. 1. The war had provided unexpected lessons.

In 1948, Jones trained in a YMCA gym (Tulsa, OK) where he experienced both heat and frustration – some body parts grew, others did not. His workouts were long; his body weight stuck at 172 pounds. Following 10 years of trying ‘everything,’ Jones heeded the conclusion of several large-scale experiments conducted during World War II: “There is a definite limit to the ‘amount’ of exercise that will produce beneficial results – carried beyond that point, exercise will reverse its own previous results, leading to losses in weight, condition and stamina.”

He reduced his efforts to “three weekly workouts of exactly one hour and 20 minutes each” and performed “exactly the same exercises in exactly the same way, reducing only the number of ‘sets’ of each exercise (from four to two).” He added a half inch to the size of his upper arms and 10 pounds of bodyweight within a period of only one week – a result of three workouts.

Jones stopped training for more than a year, but didn’t stop thinking. “If cutting my workouts by half produced that kind of results,” he speculated, “what would happen if I cut my workouts even more?” When he resumed, he performed “only two sets of eight basic exercises and in seven weeks, “reached levels of both muscular size and strength that were far above anything previously produced.” Again, he was forced to quit for a year. When he resumed, he recovered his previous gains (using 16 total sets as before) and then reduced his training for six more weeks. At 5’7½,” he peaked at a lean bodyweight of 205 pounds with a cold upper-arm of 17 1/8”.

In the process, Jones attempted to determine the ideal training time for others and concluded: “In almost all cases, best results from heavy exercise will be produced by the practice of a very limited number of compound exercises that involve the major muscular masses of the body.” (1970)

His recommendation: Perform 4-6 compound movements, and “Not more than two sets of each exercise . . . three times weekly.”

By 1971, Jones reduced the ‘amount’ of required training to three 25-minute sessions per week and, using his new equipment, to one set of 10-12 exercises. Once again, less but harder exercise produced more results.

Toward the end of his career, the recognized father of high-intensity exercise concluded: “I firmly believe that my results would have been even better if I had used only one set of exercise and if I had trained only twice each week.”

You don’t have to live in a gym.

Author: Gary Bannister

High Tech for Low Back Pain

High Tech for Low Back Pain

It’s remarkable what 90 seconds of low-back exercise once a month will do I thought as I muscled the golf bag to my shoulder. I had carried it 18 holes for the first time in 20 years. My back was back.

According to medical estimates, 80% of people suffer low-back pain at some time in their lives and 80% of back problems are muscular in nature. I was a statistic at 30 – two operations from years of running, weight training and sports.

To complicate matters, both attempts at recovery drew me near additional surgery. The search for an alternative was on.

As a physical educator and fitness enthusiast, I understood the value of exercise and recognized the limitations of what was medically prescribed. On the recommendation of an orthopedic friend, I quit running and began using the Nautilus® Low Back and Abdomen machines, both developed by Arthur Jones.

I used both machines for four years, but was not prepared for Jones’ announcement. “My low-back machine doesn’t work, and abdominal strength has nothing to do with low-back pain.” His explanation made sense, so I removed both Nautilus machines from my workout. Nothing lost.

I devoured every article I could find about his new device, the MedX Lumbar Extension machine. The premise was clear: To meaningfully access the muscles of the lumbar spine, the pelvis must not be allowed to rotate during torso extension. Research was clearer. Initial studies at the University of Florida (Gainesville) produced excellent results with an infrequent exercise protocol. Regardless of diagnosis, 80% of patients responded with a reduction in pain perception; and 33% percent became pain-free in 12 weeks.

I purchased the device and performed two minutes of exercise each week for 20 weeks, increasing my strength and mobility dramatically. Ninety seconds of exercise once a month has kept me pain-free for nearly 30 years.

Not everyone is as fortunate. Despite a large statistical base, the medical community cannot predict a patient’s outcome – which does little to dampen their confidence. Dr. Vert Mooney, professor in the Department of Orthopedics at the University of California in San Diego states, “The MedX strength program is a must before making further decisions about back surgery.”

Despite the success of the MedX Lumbar Extension machine, many physicians remain unaware of – or continue to ignore – the need for pelvic stabilization in back strengthening.

The machine is as close to a non-invasive cure for chronic back pain as there is.

Author: Gary Bannister

Speed of Movement During Exercise

Speed of Movement During Exercise

More than 25 years ago, I witnessed a demonstration using a large platform scale (called a force plate) that recorded changes in force. The subject, a 6’4”, 260-pound male, stood on the scale and performed an overhead press using a slow-to- increasingly- fast rhythm with a 60-pound barbell. At a slow speed, the signal on the attached oscilloscope moved in a smooth, steady motion and hovered close to 60 pounds. At maximum speed, however, the signal overshot the top and bottom of the screen. Freeze-frame analysis revealed that the barbell registered a force of over 200 pounds at the moment the repetition was initiated, and a force below zero for much of the remainder. In fact, the momentum of the barbell was lifting the subject’s arms.

Multiplying the force to which you expose a muscle or joint system by moving a weight quickly, without knowing the ‘breaking’ tolerance of that system, is neither wise nor safe. Likewise, strength training with a resistance that weighs little or nothing throughout most of its movement is not productive. The facts are undeniable. Yet most trainees use ‘fast’ movements and wonder why their results are slow at best or why the result they produce is the only one that could have been produced – injury.

It gets worse. Coaches, trainers and equipment manufacturers advocate methods that include ‘fast’ movements against resistance such as power-lifting and plyometrics, which borders on criminal malpractice.

Advocates of ‘explosive’ training rationalize their actions in two ways:

One, they believe that ‘fast’ movements automatically recruit stronger, more powerful muscle fibers, those required for athletic endeavors involving speed, strength and power. Research demonstrates, however, an orderly recruitment of muscle fibers according to effort intensity. When intensity is low – during the first repetitions of exercise – the brain recruits the weakest muscle fibers. As exercise intensity increases, the strongest fibers are asked to join in. Recruitment has nothing to do with speed.

Two, they believe that ‘fast’ movements in the gym result in ‘fast’ movements on the field. Not so. According to MedX inventor Arthur Jones, “How fast one moves while performing exercises for the purpose of building strength has absolutely nothing to do with how fast one can move while using the strength of those same muscles.” (1976)

Safe and effective training begins and ends with ‘slow’ training. A slow speed of movement better isolates muscles, works them through a greater range of motion and provides a safer alternative.

Its counterpart may one day prevent you from moving at all.

Author: Gary Bannister