Sweat every detail (none of it is small stuff)

It’s been too long since I have written a blog entry. I have been caught up in an effort to improve some equipment. As advanced as the MedX machines are beyond the vast majority of exercise equipment, there is room for fine tuning especially since it was produced with the intention of using movements that are more than twice the appropriate pace. I have a great appreciation for the work of Ken Hutchins and the entire RenEx team especially since they have been careful to appreciate the work of Arthur Jones and other contributors. Their concept is right on target and will continually be refined.

I have gone through an extensive process to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the leg curl machine for starters. I chose to start with it because it is a single joint exercise and that simple form allows a little bit less complexity in analyzing the muscle mechanics involved. I also chose it because it is used by more clients than the knee extension machine, but this means that it is also less available to work on refining.

I’ve balanced the movement arm as much as is practical, and I need to now determine an average weight of subjects’ legs resting on the movement arm in the start position and counter balance that. That weight has a varying effect on the effort required throughout the movement thus it should be neutralized. I’ve had a new cam made to vary the resistance through the stroke more closely matching the hamstrings’ varying strength capabilities during movement. This will need another refinement once the subject’s leg weight is counterbalanced. I’ve reduced friction by using improved guides on the weight stack that run clean and dry.

All these steps make for some very subtle improvements that very few clients will recognize. For those who focus their efforts as instructed though it will take away some potential distractions. It offers an improved environment and thus the opportunity for a better result. The onus remains as always on the subject to make the most of it.

Now to pick up my list of items to use in evaluating one’s level of progress, here are some thoughts on the next 5 items. Comments are always appreciated.

1)      Avoid distractions
2)      Position carefully
3)      Maintain stationary origin
4)      Mastery over breathing
5)      Proper attire
6)      Avoid firing out
7)      Avoid shifting positions
8)      Avoid re-gripping
9)      Grasp the repetition cycle concept
10)   Avoid momentum
11)   Minimize acceleration
12)   Mastery over turnarounds
13)   Constant load
14)   Mastery over unloading
15)   Exit properly

16)   Mastery over discrepancies

Exercise is not a natural function. It is something that we do intentionally. Form discrepancies on the other hand come very naturally. Jabbing, heaving, shifting, bouncing and yanking are all terms commonly used to describe motion that we use to take advantage of momentum in order to save energy. We learn these techniques without even being aware of them. The key for exercise is to be aware of our tendencies and consciously override them. Be aware that they take place very subtly and that there may be little or no outward signs.

17)   Avoid changing speed

Another subconscious way to save energy is to linger in any position that requires less effort and to hurry through an area that requires more. Without intention the positive stroke will become faster and the negative will drag out slower. Decisively do the opposite of what comes naturally.

18)   Mastery over pace

This involves more than simply maintaining a constant speed of movement because the movement is not what is important but rather the steady decline of the strength reserve. Focus on the delivery of force so that the muscles stay constantly loaded. Find that pace that seems to be the most oppressive and intentionally drain the strength.

19)   Recognize and avoid energy savings

The items in this list can seem redundant and they do overlap a good bit. All form discrepancies are a result of the sensation of fatigue and an accompanying lack of self-control. The discomfort of exercise is not desirable, but it is inherently related to the growth stimulus that is desired. If the limit is not seriously challenged, then why would any change take place to expand the limit? Real progress involves distinguishing discomfort from pain and disregarding the discomfort instead of avoiding it or masking it with distractions. Take the time to honestly evaluate every element of an exercise session. Identify any behaviors that result from avoiding discomfort and eliminate them.

20)   Exaggerate range and form

Focus your concentration before you begin. Don’t be in a hurry to accomplish some reps. Make the first bit of movement more gentle and subtle than what you imagine is appropriate. Creep out of the start, creep to the end point, reach it emphatically, and creep back away from it. Waste energy with more emphasis on form every chance you get. When you’re convinced that you’ve performed flawlessly, do it even better. If you receive instruction follow it; more than follow it; exaggerate it. Make the movement appear as if the resistance is less than half of what it really is.

21)   Reach legitimate failure
22)   Eliminate facial expression
23)   Move quickly between exercises
24)   Engage squeeze technique
25)   Inroad beyond failure