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.
Studies have shown that mindfulness can help improve mood and psychological well-being. Paying attention while eating assures full digestion and nutritional benefits.

  • 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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.