Progress; toward what?

The purpose of exercise is to stimulate muscle growth. Muscle growth stimulation is a key benefit toward general health. How does one know then that their exercise process is effective? In other words, how is progress measured? Any so-called study that I’ve ever read on the subject of exercise effectiveness has measured the quantity of performance of the process used for exercise, and the vast majority use previously untrained subjects. It is absurd to suggest that anything other than skill acquisition i.e. coordination is responsible for any significant improvement in performance in a newly introduced activity. In this case the word training is appropriate instead of exercise. Even when a static measure of force is used there remains significant improvement, with practice, in one’s ability to recruit muscle fibers in producing force. This increase can be gained in a very short amount of time. However skill and fortitude are heavily involved and this disqualifies any claim of improvement in physical attributes.

If one is truly interested in testing for improvement in strength as an indicator of muscle growth, then one must choose an independent activity that is practiced with regularity for a minimum of six weeks prior to the beginning of the exercise process and continue that same regularity throughout the entire testing time frame. There are still plenty of factors that will skew results, but until someone makes at least this amount of effort the published reports will continue to be illegitimate.

Now, to the point. The purpose in the process of exercise is to inroad strength efficiently and not to perform efficiently as these are mutually exclusive. In “The Renaissance of Exercise”, Ken Hutchins addresses the idea of plateaus which are the appearance of progress flattening for a time. He lists 5 considerations for evaluating progress:

  • Form
  • Time between exercises
  • Sequence of exercises
  • Number of repetitions
  • Resistance

They are in the order of importance and that is typically the reverse order of the attention they receive. Form can always be improved and must be given the utmost attention in order for it to not degrade. Time between exercises should be the minimum that allows safety and form. Even a few seconds affects energy reserve and the performance outcome must be evaluated in light of that. Any exercise that is normally done last, when done first will display a significant difference. That does not equal improvement. Improvement may very well have occurred, but it cannot be evaluated meaningfully. The number of repetitions, time under load or whatever duration measurement is used is an easy thing to give far too much attention. It’s always tempting to compromise form for the sake of that count. The count is only legitimate if form is consistent. The desire to display an increase in resistance is another trap. Progress cannot be imposed externally. It must happen internally and be assessed objectively.

In the long term, progress can often appear to slow, stop or even reverse. Perception is not trustworthy. Progress might be advancing, but in an unexpected manner. If strict attention is given to form and time between, then the count may be down and a decrease in resistance may be called for. This could indicate that more intense inroading and thus a more effective growth stimulus is possible with less external load and more focused control. Stimulus is the goal, inroading is the process and performance is an indicator to be kept in proper context.

Exercise is defined by its purpose

Exercise is a process to stimulate a muscular growth mechanism. This is a shortened version of the definition of exercise developed by Ken Hutchins. It is succinct by design to focus on the important issue: stimulate muscle growth. A lot of confusion is perpetrated by creating, expanding and repeating incorrect associations. This confusion has fueled animosity from those who practice nearly every form of physical activity in search of exercise credits to increase their self-worth. How dare you suggest that my favorite activity is not exercise?

Here’s an excerpt from another promotional email that I received that clearly illustrates the stupidity that is so rampant:


Get Your Daily Workout In – One Minute at a Time

The benefits of regular exercise can’t be overstated – reduced risk of disease, healthier weight, better mood, and longer life.  All great reasons to get moving – but many of us still struggle to fit exercise into our schedules.
Adults need at least 2.5 hours, or 150 minutes, of moderate aerobic exercise every week – plus a couple muscle-building workouts – just to maintain good health.
If that sounds like WAY more time than you have, consider this:
•     2.5 hours a week is only thirty minutes a day, five days a week – plus
you can exercise in ten-minute intervals throughout the day and still get all the health benefits of a full workout.
 •     There are plenty of ways to squeeze a few more minutes of exercise into your day:
– Park at the back of the lot and walk (briskly!) into the office.
– Take every other step on the stairs, just for the challenge of it.
– Do a dozen squats every time you get up from your desk.
– Speed walk around the parking lot during your lunch break.  Just ten                  minutes can get you about 1,000 extra steps!
– Do a brisk lap around the grocery store before you start shopping.
– Use heavy items – like laundry detergent or a bag of groceries – as                   weights for bicep curls.
– Do jumping jacks during the commercial breaks while watching television.
– Try pushups against the counter while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.
•     Map out some activities that you can add to your daily routine – and then get started building that habit.  10 minutes here, 15 minutes there and before you know it you’re up to 30 minutes (or more) each day, enjoying all of those great health benefits!


It is completely inappropriate to use moderate and aerobic in describing exercise. also, “workout” is a sensational jargon term for “feeling exhausted”. It has nothing to do with muscle building stimulating growth. The title states one minute at a time. Since it’s all cumulative, then how about 2 seconds at a time? It is not cumulative. The level of highest intensity is most important. Stimulation is achieved when a threshold is crossed. If it isn’t crossed, then nothing lasting results. It f it is crossed, then time is required to allow the growth. Interrupting that growth process is counterproductive. I won’t even attempt to address the rest of the deception in this piece that is built on these incorrect assumptions.

When a term gets overused and misused its meaning gets lost. If exercise is not distinct from activity and not different from recreation, then why would we have so many words to designate the same thing? Consider exercises as used in elementary school math. A concept like fractions is introduced and explained and then at the end of the chapter, exercises are presented. They typically progress from basic to challenging. What is the purpose for a student doing the exercises? Is it to have the exercises done? Is it to get the correct answer? Or is it to stimulate growth in the student to be able to do more complex things than ever before and ever more complex things in the future. The problem has already been worked many times before by others. We have the answer already in the back of the book. The point is to stimulate growth. The point is not keeping the child quiet or off the streets, as good as those things are. They are merely side effects. The point is growth. It is a long term adaptation. A student may work through problems for half an hour and find that their ability to continue is waning. Is that really growth? No! Not immediately. Growth comes over time. Exercise is an extreme. Growth is the adaptation to counter the extreme. If it isn’t challenging it won’t stimulate a change.

Now carry this logically into the realm of other activities. Take work for example. Work is a measure of output. It is not a measure of effort or energy. Those are inputs. Is work exercise? I was told many times in my formative years that when I did physical labor that I had gotten “my exercise for the day”. If the purpose of work is to get as much output accomplished as possible then it would be quite antithetical to exercise. To accomplish work, it is best to conserve resources and be efficient. The only point is to reach the desired amount of output. It is highly recommended to use tools to aid the process and save energy. The less challenging a task can be made, the more capability one has to do further work.

How about sporting activities? What is the purpose when we participate? Realistically the purpose is one of two things: To win in a performance or to improve in a practice. Athletic activities involve such skilled movements that to improve our ability involves rehearsing the skill in order to become more efficient in the movement. This means using less energy for a given output or achieving a greater output for the amount of energy expended. Again, like work output, this is antithetical to exercise. Practice for an athletic activity is productive when it is performed precisely. When fatigue sets in and the practice becomes sloppy, then it is counterproductive. To carry a practice to the point of being physically challenging enough to be exercise is also dangerous. On the other hand, a performance in competition is likely to be taken to the physical extreme yet that extreme is not the purpose, but rather to avoid that extreme by employing the practiced skill and reaching a higher level of performance is the point.

What about recreational activities? It’s often stated that exercise makes you feel better, maybe that it energizes you. Aren’t these benefits the actual purpose of recreation? Are exercise and recreation the same thing? Sometimes? Always? Never? NEVER! Why are there 2 different words? Again Ken Hutchins’ work in “Exercise vs. Recreation” is a great asset to understanding. Exercise and recreation are two completely different things because they have very different purposes. An attempt to get both at the same time only serves to compromise the integrity of each so that neither is accomplished.

Exercise is prescribed for growth stimulation. Keep it brief, intense and infrequent.

Bad advice

Malpractice is improper conduct or simply misuse. (bad practice)
The following was excerpted from an email message that was sent out with the intent of promoting better health. It was copied directly, minus pictures, to avoid any mistakes. The orange highlighting is my custom for setting off something that I find objectionable.
WEEK 2: MIND WHAT YOU EAT.
 
Studies have shown that mindfulness can help improve mood and psychological well-being. Paying attention while eating assures full digestion and nutritional benefits.
QUICK TIPS FOR MINDFUL
DAILY ACTIVITIES

  • Don’t eat standing, walking or driving. While multitasking can be good for some activities, it takes away from mindful eating. Sit down or pull the car over, and take some time to enjoy your food.
  • Eat without distraction. Focusing on food is challenging when you are watching television or sitting at your desk surrounded by clutter. First, choose to eat at the dining room or kitchen table. Next, clear everything off the table except for your food. Finally, sit down and enjoy your meal!
  • If you don’t really enjoy the food, don’t eat it! There’s no reason to waste calories. If you don’t enjoy the food you’re eating, stop eating it and find something else.

Most of these suggestions are reasonable, but to promote an association between diet and entertainment is misguided. The purpose of diet is to provide the best possible balance of nutrients (that includes quantity in balance) to fuel the mechanism. I’m all for paying attention. I just think that improper eating is most often a result of seeking pleasure, and this message is only encouraging the problem.

At first glance this message might seem harmless, but this kind of misleading idea snuck into our conversations leads to it becoming accepted only for familiarity though it has no credibility. The fact that words can be arranged in a sentence doesn’t mean they convey anything legitimate, and when the idea is put forth from one that poses as authoritative, the damage can be extensive.

There’s No Psychological Reward

In 2006 my exercise sessions were done at a fitness center that was popular enough that I was forced to wait until about 15 minutes before closing time to start. I would observe the activity in the room and when I thought I had enough of an opening, I would set the five machines in reverse order and hope that everyone there was more interested in their conversations than in using the equipment that I had planned.

One night as I finished my last exercise and unloaded from the resistance I glanced across the aisle at a man who was seated on a chest press machine looking quite relaxed. He was shaking his head and sort of smiling as he said “There’s just no psychological reward”. I asked for clarification while still breathing heavily. He explained that he observed and understood the protocol that I used, but that he couldn’t find any satisfaction in it; such effort only leading to ultimate failure.

I assured him that I understood his viewpoint and moved on. I wondered later if it would have helped him for me to explain my purpose, but I concluded that this was a classic case of “no explanation is possible”. I convey the story here because I find it an accurate illustration of the distinction between exercise and recreation.

Recreational activity is often confused for exercise. Sports, aerobics, step aerobics, danceaerobics, this aerobics, that aerobics, kick boxing, pilates, yoga, taebo, boot camp, crossfit, p90x, zumba, spinning, running, swimming, just move it, play60, wii, x-box … I could go on indefinitely. Recreation is a good thing. I encourage everyone to get as much as they care to. I don’t understand why people are often offended to hear their favorite activities referred to as recreation? Other activities get confused for exercise also that fit into the categories of work or skill enhancement. The important characteristic is “what’s the purpose?”

The purpose of skill is simply to become more efficient at any given task; from a backhand stroke in tennis to stacking hay bales on a flatbed truck, get the mission accomplished with the least possible expenditure; nothing wasted; nothing extra. The purpose of work is simply to get the object moved from its present state to the more preferred state. The single purpose of recreation is enjoyment. None of these activities have exhaustion for a target. It may be an ancillary effect, but it’s not desirable.

Conversely, exercise has one simple immediate goal and that is exhaustion of strength in order to provoke the reaction of overcompensation. When work, recreation or skill activities are confused with exercise and are taken to an extreme that nears exhaustion the result is always bad. The goal of each is undermined; skill is diminished, work is counterproductive, and recreation ceases to be enjoyable. The worst part is that each becomes dangerous at the same time that its purpose is eroded.

Exercise is not intended to provide a psychological reward. The reward is a physical improvement.

Now returning to the level evaluation list that was begun a long time back. I’ll elaborate on the next five items. Once again read through the list visualizing the process of an exercise session and add a comment with any thoughts.

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

Imagine a slow buildup of your force to just meet the resistance setting and balance it at that level for a fraction of a second and then add the smallest possible increment until movement begins. This is a big waste of energy. It makes for quality exercise. Don’t be in a rush to get movement started, rather exaggerate the opposite extreme. Every change of pace and direction involves acceleration. Realize its existence and master your control over it.

12)   Mastery over turnarounds

Approach each extreme of a stroke with careful precision. Don’t bump into either end. Sneak in to that stroke peak gradually and take the time to definitively meet it before turning around and sneaking back away from it all the time consciously keeping as near as possible the exact same force applied. Reach the bottom out without allowing any sound, but feel that slight difference while maintaining the force in the same direction, and then leave the bottom out without a sound again and not even a hint of jolt.

13)   Constant load

This idea crosses over into minimal acceleration, turnarounds and momentum. Focus every bit of attention on measuring the force applied to the movement arm as if the weight stack is being carried by a strand of wire precisely gaged to be on the verge of snapping.

14)   Mastery over unloading

In the same way that the repetition cycle and the turnarounds are strictly under control, when failure is reached, continue to handle the apparatus as if it’s delicate. The concern here is not for the machine of course but for safety and quality of the exercise. Keep any movement under strict form and make the bottom out silent again. Take that extra second to gradually lower the tension after touching down.

15)   Exit properly

Once you’re unloaded from the resistance mechanism, focus on removing yourself from the machine safely yet quickly. Don’t merge movements together, rather keep them separated. Turn, if needed, then get your feet firmly planted, then stand. Make each one distinct like a robot from a bad sci-fi movie. When you have gained control of your motor functions, step to the next exercise. Your coordination is not expected to be normal at this point. Emphasize the same care as you load into the next. Maybe #2 Position carefully should be first on this list and #15 Exit properly should be second.

16)   Mastery over discrepancies
17)   Avoid changing speed
18)   Mastery over pace
19)   Recognize and avoid energy savings
20)   Exaggerate range and form
21)   Reach legitimate failure
22)   Eliminate facial expression
23)   Move quickly between exercises
24)   Engage squeeze technique
25)   Inroad beyond failure

Exercise is not a competition

The single purpose of exercise is to stimulate muscle growth. That may seem too simplistic but I think that often there is great value in getting to the crux of the issue. We all want optimal health, strength improvement, increased functional ability or fill in another phrase that you use to describe the specifics of the interrelated results. The important thing is to understand that these things come about by reactions of the human body’s protective mechanisms. The reaction characteristics are important. The outward show is not. It’s an easy trap to associate more performance with more effect. That direct correlation just doesn’t exist.

The purpose of a competition is to rate a performance against a scale for comparison. The measure of the external result is all that matters in this case. Strength, health, functional ability or whatever your chosen term is will contribute toward the competitive performance, but there are many other factors involved at the same time. Getting that one more repetition or lifting that increased weight is more likely to come from an improvement in efficiency and skill than from pure physical gain. Therefore it is important to decide whether our immediate goal is to improve physically (exercise) or to achieve a measure of performance (compete) because the best approach toward one is very different from the best approach to the other.

Legitimate strength gains, muscle growth and all of the residual effects that come along to keep proper balance will only be triggered by a high demand of strength use. This is not the same as a high registered performance. Our strength is continually changing moment by moment as it is being drained or recovered according to demand. Any technique that is used to get a higher level of performance output involves finding momentary recovery and this is contrary to the goal of exercise.

Consider lifting a bag of sand. Pick a weight for the bag that would be a serious challenge yet manageable. Using strict form and proper positioning, with your legs, lift to a standing position and then lower it and put it down softly. It takes about 2 seconds. Wait a full minute and do it again. Do that 60 times in an hour. How much of your strength is used up? (Hint: Can you do it once more immediately?)

Now consider the same bag of sand is resting on a scale that reads its weight accurately. From the same starting position put enough lift into that bag so that it moves only very little if at all but the scale reads a steady 1 pound and hold that amount of force perfectly still (if that’s possible) for 2 minutes. How much of your strength is used up in comparison to the first scenario? (Hint: Can you lift that bag one time immediately like in the first scenario?) Which of these scenarios would have a more profound effect on your body’s adaptive mechanism over the next week? Compare the amount of work accomplished (the measure of performance) in each scenario.

What happens to the exercise apparatus is not important. What is important is what happens to your momentary strength level and the response that is activated. Don’t try to defeat the machine. It doesn’t have any will against you. Don’t be concerned about achieving a personal best in performance measure. That only encourages the confusion of focusing on skill and efficiency. The important thing in an exercise session is provoking the reaction, flipping the switch, providing the impetus for the skeletal muscular system to be enhanced. This growth is a long term process and it doesn’t matter if there is anything immediate to show for the effort or not.

Become aware of the ways that we subconsciously learn to save energy. Make a conscious effort to override them. Acceleration, momentum, shifting positions, alternating active muscle groups, varying pace, gripping unnecessarily, grunting and grimacing as a distraction are some of the many ways that we avoid the onset of failure. Learn to do what is unnatural; approach the failure as the ultimate goal. That doesn’t mean deciding to stop the effort. It means continuing the effort without breaking form even beyond the point of inability to continue movement. Maintaining strict form means everything, continuing movement means nothing for exercise.

An objective view and proper instruction are invaluable to this end. Forget about challenging the machine for performance measure. Concentrate on challenging yourself to strict adherence to the instruction. Exaggerate careful control regardless of the fact that you will be used up sooner. That’s the real target.

Perpetually Dissatisfied

During the Olympic coverage, I caught a portion of a volleyball game for the US indoor women’s team. A comment made during the match sparked my interest. It was said that the team had adopted the phrase “perpetually dissatisfied” as a team motto. I found a blog from April in which John Kessel credits head coach Hugh McCutcheon with often saying “that his job is to be perpetually dissatisfied.” I think that all successful coaches have this desire to improve continually.

When it comes to exercise instruction, I consider it an important task to convince the subject to always be dissatisfied with their form, not to the point of discouragement, rather to be encourage to improve form no matter how good it becomes. The practice of exaggerating every subtlety keeps the focus on effort and not on external performance measure.

There is a strong association between movement intended for exercise and athletic or other physically demanding performance. We need to break that erroneous association. For a performance we must move with efficiency and reserve our ultimate strength as much as possible. For exercise we do the opposite. Exercise is to stimulate growth, giving us greater ability after the adaptation, allowing a better performance. When a performance activity is encumbered for the purpose of stimulating growth, then we practice a hampered performance and skills are diminished. Don’t be fooled by the sensationalism. Keep exercise and practice separate and as distinct as their respective purposes.

Now picking up the list of items for evaluating a subject’s level of proficiency that was started in a post in June, I’ve added some explanation to a few more of the items. Read through the list visualizing the process of an exercise session. How well do you adhere to the protocol? How many of these items have you gained mastery over? Are you progressing through the list or does anything seem out of order? Are you satisfied with your form? (I hope not.) Please add a comment with any thoughts or questions.

1)      Avoid distractions
2)      Position carefully
3)      Maintain stationary origin
4)      Mastery over breathing
5)      Proper attire

6)      Avoid firing out

Any exercise movement begins properly at the commencement of the positive stroke regardless of the point at which the load is accepted. It would be ideal to accept the load near the mid-range and move to the starting point to begin, but this is not often possible. Whether in the first or the last repetition of an exercise, never fire out of that bottom position. Move it like a rattlesnake is inches away and you want to make that movement without startling the snake into striking. The goal is to keep your force output as constant as possible throughout the entire repetition. This is a waste of energy (good!) and against our instincts (good!) but it intensifies the exercise (better) and avoids injury (best!).

7)      Avoid shifting positions

Since you’re already in the correct position (#2 above), there is no need to shift and fidget. If your exercise is going to have any value, it is going to be uncomfortable. When it becomes uncomfortable, your subconscious will challenge your resolve with a multitude of distractions. Learn to control the desire to escape toward comfort. Maximum results will never be possible without progressing in this area. It’s a never ending battle, learn to expect it, identify a single discrepancy and master it, and then find another to work on.

8)      Avoid re-gripping

Re-gripping is a specific form of shifting position. Establish your hand position from the start so that your forearm is directly in line with the application of the resistance. If you are pulling against the resistance then wrap your fingers securely around the handle and grip with only the amount of force necessary to maintain that position. Avoid curling your wrists. Concentrate on the larger muscles that move your upper arms. If you are pushing against resistance then don’t grip at all. Let your fingers settle in as much of a relaxed position as possible. Let the heel of your hand absorb the distributed force. The perceived need to re-grip is a distraction technique. Practice the conscious control of overcoming the distraction.

9)      Grasp the repetition cycle concept

It’s natural to think of a repetition as an out and back stroke. It’s also natural to think that our goal is to perform as many repetitions as possible. Unfortunately, what is natural in this case is also the most counterproductive. The idea of as many repetitions as possible leads to compromising form to save energy. It also leads to lingering in any portion of the repetition that requires less effort, again to save energy. By making the repetition into a continuous cycle of steady effort we waste energy and make the exercise effective toward stimulating growth.

10)   Avoid momentum

We learn about momentum without even realizing it. We use it all the time to our advantage as another energy saver. To make exercise as effective as possible we need to be aware of all of the energy saving techniques that we acquire naturally through practice. Once we become aware of the things that are used to give us mechanical advantage, we must give full concentration to eliminating their use.

11)   Minimize acceleration
12)   Mastery over turnarounds
13)   Constant load
14)   Mastery over unloading
15)   Exit properly
16)   Mastery over discrepancies
17)   Avoid changing speed
18)   Mastery over pace
19)   Recognize and avoid energy savings
20)   Exaggerate range and form
21)   Reach legitimate failure
22)   Eliminate facial expression
23)   Move quickly between exercises
24)   Engage squeeze technique
25)   Inroad beyond failure

5 Ways to Lose Weight

Indiscriminate weight loss is not a healthy concept. Listed below are five categories of weight loss in order of speediness and consequently in reverse order of healthiness. I believe every method of weight reduction that has ever been contrived will fit in one of these categories.

 Translocation

A change of location is the fastest way to lose the most weight possible. If you could travel to the moon, you could decrease your weight by 83% in just a few days. This is, of course absurd, but it illustrates the fundamental need to use terms accurately. Weight is the force of attraction between two bodies of matter. When we measure our weight, we are measuring the force of gravity between the mass of the earth and the mass of our body. Gravity varies with altitude and even with latitude so that we can lose weight (or gain weight) simply by moving to a different location. On the earth’s surface the changes are extremely small, but by traveling into space we can lose a tremendous amount of weight in very little time.

The problem is that this kind of weight loss has no effect on our physical condition. The issue then is not weight loss, but body composition. The focus must be achieving and maintaining an appropriate quantity of stored fat. I’m sorry if the “F” word offends you, but its use is necessary in order to make sense of the issue unless one prefers adipose which is a less recognizable term for the same thing. The word fat is not intended to be insulting; it is tissue; matter; a noun. It is not meant as an adjective. It has absolutely nothing to do with the value or the character of a person. To fuel routine activity, the body must store some fat for later use.

Weight is only one indicator used in evaluating our physical condition, but it does not deserve the amount of significance that is given to it. The trend of weight should be considered over a span of several weeks. There are far too many variables and fluctuations for one reading to be considered meaningful. Even a body mass index can be deceptive. It is possible to be over-fatted and under-muscled thus within a normal range on a chart, yet unhealthy.

 Amputation

A lame joke from years ago stated that if you want to lose 15lbs. of ugly fat fast, you should cut off your head. This is another good illustration that weight loss is not necessarily an improvement in condition and in fact can be very unhealthy. The sad truth is that some surgical procedures that are routinely performed fit in this category. A normal human body functions logically, and if it continually receives more energy resource than it expends, then it will store the excess as fat.

The body does a marvelous balancing act regulating demands and resources, but its ability to function may be limited by an imbalance of important nutrients. Losing weight indiscriminately should not be the focus. Maintaining a healthy balance of fuel intake is the important issue. We can invent excuses but the simple fact is that if a body stores more fat than is necessary, then the diet needs to be adjusted regardless of what the scale says. The scale can be one useful tool in making sure that adjustments are in a healthy amount and direction.

 Dehydration

Athletes competing in a sport with weight classifications have, for decades, used this method of reducing their weight to be just under a specified limit only long enough to weigh in. They ultimately compromise their performance by attempting to gain an advantage this way. It is important to understand that the body is mostly water, and that water is critical to the proper balance.

We consume and expel a considerable amount of water in various ways each day. As a result, our weight fluctuates continuously as the body balances its use of water with its availability. A perceived weight gain may be a healthy change, if it’s caused by a return to proper hydration, while a weight loss can be unhealthy. The body will quickly counteract any temporary gain or loss that is a result of water intake.

 Malnutrition

Each new fad diet plan makes shallow promises as they reveal the secret of easy weight loss by fanatically avoiding a few evil foods or adding a few magic foods. The claim of fast results is a sure sign of a gimmick that will be at best a disappointment or worse, very harmful. Since the body continuously regulates itself, the lack of proper fuel results in biological functions being curtailed. It seems that the first function to be cut is coherent thought which exacerbates the tendency to follow inane “weight” loss methods. A diet should never be thought of as a short term endeavor, but rather a constantly adjusted process of finding balance. All foods contain healthful nutrients. The proportion of each is the deciding factor of an unhealthy diet. Overconsumption of anything, even essential nutrients becomes malnutrition the same way that under consumption of important nutrients does.

 Calibration

Our diet is the means by which we replenish the fuel used in activities of life. The word diet has been misused to suggest denial and restriction. Our society enjoys more leisure than any other in history and that leads to an unhealthy view that food is a form of entertainment. We have become so accustomed to pampering that we believe we deserve immediate remedy; a diet plan that will quickly put me back to the starting point, and will allow me to continue with the unhealthy lifestyle that resulted in a poor condition. This seems to fit a popular satirical definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.

Biochemistry is a very complex science, but at a very elementary level balanced nutrition includes enough protein to support cell regeneration, enough unsaturated fats to support endocrine function and the balance of carbohydrates to fuel muscular contraction for activity. It’s easy to be satisfied with the amount of effort put toward health care and at the same time be unsatisfied with the resulting condition. The truth is; health care is a cause and effect relationship. If we are to enjoy the desired effect, then we must exert control over the cause.

The Place to Start

The goal of Ideal Exercise is to simply provide clients the best possible exercise instruction available. Maximum results then are a matter of giving full effort to employing the instruction. An exercise revolution or renaissance is taking place and has been for decades now yet it is still relatively unknown. A large body of information is coming to light about proper exercise, yet the vast majority of material on this subject remains cluttered and misguided. Efforts to approach exercise intelligently have advanced from Nautilus and its forerunners through SuperSlow and now are best represented as Renaissance Exercise. The purpose then of the posts found here will be to disseminate information and dispel rumor and myth.

I want to begin with 3 principles that are fundamental. These are all interrelated along with many more concepts. The objective is to begin highlighting the key ideas that must be understood and never be disregarded. 1) The single focus of exercise is to maximize the mechanism of the human body. It is important to avoid overcomplicating this as well as oversimplifying it. This must be considered in practical terms and viewed as a long term goal. 2) It is important to consider the balance of all factors that are involved. No single issue can be isolated. Everything must be considered in its proper context.
3) Critical thinking must be diligently employed. Sensationalism will be soundly rejected here and sometimes will be brought to light only to be ridiculed. We are only going to deal with things which are supported by solid principles. Every assertion remains open to challenge and refinement.

Let’s expand on the critical thinking first. Proper exercise is not to be taken casually. Exercise and activity are not synonymous though there can be some overlap. The goal of maximizing the mechanism brings to light an important distinction from recreation which has pleasure as its focus. Comparable to anything that we do as a decisive regimen, personal hygiene for example, exercise is essentially the opposite of what we would do naturally. On the other hand, recreation is something that we will gravitate toward without thinking. Exercise properly fits within the medical industry and not in the entertainment industry, and our first priority must be to do no harm. The science of biology must never be violated in our practice of exercise. When it is violated then we must heed the warning and avoid the offender.

The practice of exercise is by no means a complete and settled issue. We are continually searching to refine our method. As with the science of chemistry which is heavily dependent on theory and observation, we are dealing with elements that we can’t directly see. We can be certain, however that the human body is designed to respond in a logical manner. There are built in mechanisms for adaptation and for self-protection. As we hypothesize and observe how our formulated challenges to the body are balanced with responses to the demand, we are able to reason whether a theory is supported or not.

The fitness gimmick industry preys on the wishes of the impulse buyer with the help of our news media and infomercials. As long as critical thinking is avoided, the sales pitch will remain a lucrative venture and misinformation will continue to far outweigh the truth and good sense. It’s much easier to promote some useless apparatus or special movement that will do wonders and pay an attractive person to pose alongside than it is to clearly present the facts.

There is a strong sensational appeal to recreational activities packaged as exercise. While recreation is very good and in a lot of cases may have beneficial physical conditioning effects, it remains a poor replacement for proper exercise. At best, if the activity is for pleasure, then any serious adaptation toward physical improvement is very limited. At worst, if the activity proceeds beyond enjoyment, then it likely becomes a hazard due to fatigue leading to limited coordination. Even if the hazard is avoided, it ceases to be enjoyable. It is natural that our best efforts to adhere to the purpose of maximizing the mechanism will degrade toward a more recreational activity. There is a strong appeal to find satisfaction immediately. We fall into incorrect associations such as a greater quantity of movement or time resulting in greater effect. The opposite is true. Greater quality of effort will result in greater effect and at the same time it will reduce the quantity that is possible.

Now let’s concentrate more on maximizing the mechanism of the human body as the single focus of exercise. The body cannot possibly be at its maximum capability at all times. At the end of an exercise session we reach a dramatically weakened condition yet our goal is to be as strong and capable as possible. Do you recognize the apparent opposite here, and the need for critical thinking? This is also an opportunity for the concept of balance to gain consideration. The power by which we move around is produced in the skeletal muscles. Since moving around is obviously important to us, then maintaining the energy reserve and the force producing mechanism is also obviously important. The skeletal muscle system is complex beyond the scope of this post. For now simply understand that the system responds to demand. Increased demand will tend to stimulate growth and conversely decreased demand will tend toward atrophy. Remember the body responds logically. There are limits in each direction and these relationships are not a linear proportion so be careful not to let the idea become an oversimplification. How this growth is stimulated is much debated.

This is why balance is presented here as a fundamental concept. It offers part of the explanation of growth stimulation and how we can best affect that stimulus. The human body is homeostatic, that is it tends to maintain equilibrium. There are a lot of resources and processes available to that end. Consider perspiration and shivering which are used to regulate temperature within a small range.

For the purpose of muscular strength and exercise this means that the weakened condition that we put ourselves in through the exercise process is the one extreme of the proverbial pendulum swing. To maintain equilibrium the body will respond by growing stronger. Understanding this concept is vital to our maximum results because we can undermine our own efforts. It’s important to recognize that the weakened condition must be unusual. It must be the extreme of the pendulum and we must allow the reaction in the opposite direction to be completed. If our stimulus is small then the reaction may be small or even nonexistent. If our stimulus is too great we risk irreversible damage. If our stimulus is repeated too often then the rebound may not occur and the equilibrium may shift toward a weaker condition established as the norm.

Our quest then becomes striking the proper balance, considering all pertinent factors through logical, critical thinking to make the most of our effort to maximize the mechanism. The implication then is that an intense, controlled and infrequent exercise session will offer superior growth stimulus along with the benefits that naturally accompany the growth.