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Archive for the ‘static contraction exercise’ Category

Reading a bit online yesterday by Fredrick Hahn of Slow Burn Fitness. For a minute I thought he stole my thunder with what he had posted as I had been contemplating so many of the same things these last few weeks as I have been thoroughly absorbed in my latest project.

To quote him directly:

“If it’s better, it’s better. A carpenter is only as good as his tools. All that glitters isn’t gold. You can’t judge a book by its cover. There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to escape the real labor of thinking. Free weights are better than machines. Except sometimes. Machines are better than free weights. Except sometimes. Kettlebells are dumbbells with the handle on top. Dumbells are just two kettle bells with the handle inbetween. Huge calf muscles are genetic but huge pecs require periodization and variation techniques. Knee extension exercise is non-functional but triceps extensions power and sculpt the upper arm. Lifting weights stunts adolecent growth plate development but adolescent tackle football is manly and builds character. I’m fat because I have a slow metabolism but all people who are overfat will have even slower metabolisms when they become lean. Eating fat makes you fat but lowering calories will makes you lean. Jesus said: “I am the bread of life. Whomever comes to me shall not know hunger” but scientific research shows that wheat and refined carbohydrates blunt satiety and significantly increase hunger. And why didn’t Jesus say “I am the meat of life.” Why just 10 commandments and not, like, 47,000? Why do people think its a rip-off to spend the same money on something that takes less time with the same result?”

Food for thought, indeed. So much of what I have been struggling with is in there. I have said, in the past, that I am a machine guy. I also contend that nothing is the end all be all of physical strength conditioning due to the inherent plasticity of response built into our very nature to assure adaptability within the broad range of circumstances we may find ourselves living in. That is not to say I don’t believe there may be a most optimal way to approach physical strength conditioning. If I did not firmly believe that I would not have spent all these years attempting to build the proverbial better mousetrap.

I have done my share of theoretical thinking out loud. And this is where things may get dangerous. It is very easy to become highly enamored of an idea once you have invested so much time, energy, thought and perhaps even capital. The stakes are raised when you have the burden of trying to sell people on your idea for the purposes of marketing. It makes it very hard to walk away from an idea that might be found wanting, or might be once again found wanting.

I have spent a lot of time speaking of infimetrics here as that had been my focus. In theory it just seems so perfect. I have written extensively about this. But, here’s the problem. The results were, at best, mediocre. It isn’t that I didn’t experience some increased strength and physical conditioning. In fact, I think that it was perfect for my rehabilitation phase. It allowed for a protective margin of safety for a body that was still quite metabolically challenged.

But, as to the intersection of work and stimulus, it was not sufficient as I began to grow stronger in my recovery ability and tolerance for work in general. It was no longer stimulus. It was fast becoming tedious toil.

Within virtually every community that seeks to evoke a strength response with their chosen equipment, and they are all machine based, there is widespread disagreement as to the MOST effective way to use that machine. A machine is any tool made for the express purpose of facilitating some task more effectively. Ergo, a barbell is a machine. So I don’t want to hear any more us versus them arguments from the machine lifters who happen to use a barbell instead of some other apparatus. Monkeys, stick and ants… it’s just a matter of degree.

The dogma gets flung so hot and heavy amongst all the factions of stick users that it becomes hard to think clearly.

I think what everyone is after is stimulus. Stimulus for what, though? Feeling pumped or actually stimulating muscle growth? Stimulus for better overall cardiac conditioning or stimulus for excessive fatigue. I think you can already tell what my aim and bias is here.

I have continually sought a better way because I am as lazy as all get out. I want the most stimulus for the least amount of work. I have experienced all types of training regimens, routines and protocols over the years enough to know that I have no interest in toiling endlessly for hours, or even minutes if the end result is that it hammers my body without actually stimulating growth and positive adaptation.

This is where I find the dogmatic approach very un-useful and even harmful to progress in understanding.

Just prior to sitting down to right this I experienced something I haven’t felt in decades. In attempting to walk up the stairs after have worked my legs today I found I could only climb them in a very awkward semi squatting position. I was not able to straighten my legs enough to stand up as I came upstairs. Normally I recover from working sets rapidly enough to at least slowly walk up the stairs in a normal fashion. Not today.

To get past all the dogma. To see what works in all forms of training. To build something that allows for the best aspects of each. To synthesize. To find where they all intersect. That’s what I have been chasing all these years.

I have been close at times only to abandon something. Sometimes it was because I failed to see the shortcomings clearly. Sometimes it was because I got caught up in someone else’s dogma that instilled doubt in my mind. But, for whatever reasons, I had not honed in on what really matters. The intersection of stimulus and work and how to best achieve the former with the least amount of the later.

I have been putting the finishing touches on the six machines I plan to focus on not only for my own personal experiment but also to begin training others on. I want to put this to the test.

See you at the intersection of Strength and Stimulus.

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So, I have been busy once again working on my newest prototype of a multi configuration infimetric platform. I have also been adjusting and revisiting my equipment and am back in full on infimetric mode for workouts.

Were you aware that you can actually condition your neck and your obliques without the need for any equipment? You are your own infimetric machine for these exercises. I have been adding neck conditioning in to my workouts oas of late with this in mind.

I have also been continuing to use my back extension in a static upload as well and started to notice some things that need further thought but I will put out the preliminaries for now. When trying to do a maximum lift like a dead lift, for example, you either succeed or you fail to make the lift. When using the movement for a workout, even with a series of singles, you generally choose a weight you know you can handle. In a maximum lift, if you succeed you have not really determined your actually maximum strength as it did not prevent you from completion of the lift.. there was a margin, even if just barely, it was, nonetheless there. If you fail, you might guess, but really don’t know where the maximum really should have been… half a pound? Five pounds? Ten? And with the dynamic of a lift, movement has to occur.

When I was doing maximum static uploads, I was able to reach certain numbers as I have previously mentioned One of you questioned as to whether there was a hold involved once the number was reached and, generally, that has not been how I have done the working sets.

Today was different in that I loaded up to a maximum and then tried to hold on for as long as I could.

Now, I have done this in the past when I had the computer recorder hooked up and was graphing acquisition and fatigues slopes of my son and other subjects (myself included.) But those were one rep only. Today, I did much the same but didn’t hold out for near as long to create a complete profile but rather made it a hybrid of max upload and subsequent repetitions to see how I would fatigue over time and repetition. So the static holds were no more than about 6-8 seconds as opposed to the test protocols of 40-72 seconds I had experienced in the single rep mode.

It was interesting to note peak strength each repetition, how many times I could repeat that level within a few percentage points and then notice how sudden the drop off was as I experienced FT fiber fatigue. I could only maintain the maximum for each attempt in the six to eight second range no matter where I was in the set. There would then follow the inevitable drop off of perhaps 20 percent or so.

What this all means? I am not so sure it means anything, but then again it might. I keep going back to plasticity and training and measurable maximums and intersections of capabilities and fatigues.

This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the issue of speed of movement as well as range of movement that I have been experimenting with as well.

I really think that it is hard to convey or understand exactly what is happening that makes infimetrics so curiously compelling. There is a depth of effect that is easy to misunderstand and is easily confounded when too much emphasis is placed on making it behave as if it were any conventionally weighted exercise.

There, I have not created any clarity at all but I just wanted to share the thought process from my very effective workout earlier today.

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I know this blog is primarily about infimetrics but there are times when I experiment with measurement in general just because I have the equipment and the curiosity to do so.

One form of testing I do from time to time is what could best be described as maximum pull static loading. The qualifier here is that there is a compressibility factor built in to the execution of the exercise such that there is a movement of several degrees before the static state is actually reached. In essence it is a very limited partial range into a compressible dead stop that allows for the measurement to be taken.

The exercise of choice for this today was a low back pull similar, in many ways, to a dead lift. Feet are braced, hands grip and the lift is executed. I can either do a single repetition for duration and peak force readings or I can do a series of repetitions. Today I chose to do multiple repetitions.

I know that my peak readings in the past have not gone above 350 pounds of pull. For some reason I could not start with near the amount of force I have typically been able to pull with in the past so the first repetition was 220 pounds followed singularly by: 250, 280, 300 and then the next six repetitions were 330 pounds consistently. The eleventh repetition was 350 and 12-14 dropped back to 330 pounds. I would have normally only done 12 repetitions but chose to continue on as the contour of peak strength wasn’t progressing normally from repetition 1 onward. On the 15th repetition I peaked at 370 pounds followed by two more repetitions of 320 pounds.

I don’t know that there is anything profound here but I found it interesting that the contour/strength acquisition slope was lower than normal at the onset and that the peak I reached after a longer than normal “set” resulted in a significantly higher reading than I had previously been able to accomplish.

Perhaps this is a warning in the direction of singularly codified and rigid rep and weight schemes. Had I been using an imposed load device, be it a barbell or a weighted machine, the first repetitions indicate that my normal weight would not have allowed for even one successful repetition to be completed before “failing” as it were. Further thought reveals that an imposed load at my initial measured strength would have fallen short of what was ultimately a significant increase over my prior maximum effort.

Measurement, as evidenced by this example, will fail if it is used to create rigid guidelines and, perhaps, can only truly be understood in retrospective reflection and analysis.

There is so much unknown out there. Stay curious! Stay alert! Challenge conventional wisdom every chance you get. Let truth be the ultimate arbiter.

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I know I have not been too good about posting lately but there are a number of reasons for that, unfortunately. Once things settle around here I will be more diligent about carrying on the discussions.
I have been experimenting a bit more with the hybrid possibilities of negative/infimetric/akinetics and have realized that, if done right, two or three repetitions are all that are tolerable or necessary if done right. It’s that whole understanding of true intensity of effort as opposed to the pre-set goal or notion of the “right” number of repetitions. My workout this morning took about eight minutes and consisted of Leg press, Leg Extension, Leg press, low back, reverse pullover and chest cross. Just enough time to move from machine to machine and the work was either hybrid, static upload or straight infimetric. I have been doing very short workouts like this now for the last several weeks with, perhaps, as many as two workouts in a week. I really do need to video the hybrid and negative upload so that you all can better understand what I am doing. Until that is done I offer apologies and beg for your patience!
Oh, I was fortunate to appear last week on Carl Lanore’s Super Human Radio show as the guest for his “Muscle Saves Lives” segment in the second hour. We really didn’t talk about training at all as it focused on my recovery from severe physical challenges through diet but it sure was fun to be on the show.
CS

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As a result, I haven’t had the time to be here or to put thoughts on virtual paper as of late.
I have been working out, though.
I recently hooked my infimetric leg extension back up to the negative assist system I had long ago. I have been mixing up my workouts with infimetrics, statics, weighted exercises and, now, assisted negatives.
It was during a period of time many years ago when I had a complete line of negative assist prototypes that I made my best progress. I was carrying the most muscle mass (as well as a fair amount of body fat, I must add.) As is the case with so much of my machine building, I ended up recycling the steel from those machines into something else and divested myself of the control units and other necessary items as I moved on to the next thing. If I had held on to every piece of equipment I ever built I wouldn’t have the room to store it all but I sure wish I would have done so. I didn’t even make a decent pictorial record of most of them. When my wife or another family member discovers an old photo of one of my protos, I rejoice greatly.
Back to the negative assist device. My original intention was to make a pneumatic assist negative upload device for each exercise so that I could do straight negative training without needing a whole host of helpers to lift movement arms.
It wasn’t until I was having a discussion with a local trainer about the specifics of how it worked that I finally realized I wasn’t actually doing straight negatives with a complete offload for the positive portion of the exercise. I built exhaust constriction into the valve mechanism so that the faster you tried to lift the movement arm back into the contracted position for the next negative upload, the more resistance you encountered. The effect of this was to make it a hybrid exercise where you would have all you could handle in the positive followed by a negative upload that would release at the bottom.
There are some who contend that negatives are bad. That negatives are dangerous. That negatives will hurt you. I never had that experience with this hybrid system.
This has always made me curious. I have always responded well to negative training in spite of the warnings from others.
Flash back to seventh grade lunch. There were a group of us who would arm wrestle after eating our lunch. Just a phase we were going through. I was a puny little guy but I could beat just about anyone at arm wrestling even if they had 50 pounds on me (in seventh grade that’s more than you think!) I didn’t have that quick burst of outright strength but I always considered myself a good resistor. So much so that I could tire someone out because they wouldn’t be able to make me budge. Once they tired themselves out it was easy for me to administer the coup de grace and finish them off in relatively short order. This aggravated many a larger kid. We eventually moved on to the next lunchroom fad which had something to do with collecting milk bottle caps with all the presidents. Seems like everyone had dozens of John Adams and few had JFK.
Back to the whole negative and resistor thing. I have often wondered if there are two types of muscle initiation patterns. That of aggressor and that of resistor. I have no basis in fact for this nor do I even imagine there would be an easy way to determine or study this. It is mainly an anecdotal conjecture.
Once again, with the leg extension hooked back up to the negative assist device I feel, for the fist time in a long, long time, the actual effects of a quadriceps workout that no other form of exercise is able to evoke. I know it is dangerous to over estimate the markers of “feel” but I can’t help it. It seems to correlate with those times I have gotten the best from a workout.
I am still able to use the leg extension as an infimetric device without any interference. It is a dual function machine now. I intend to keep it that way. I am also planning on modifying my upper body infimetric machine to do the same as well.
Hopefully I will be able to keep things a bit more updated. The schedule still looks a bit too chaotic in the near future though, so no promises.
CS

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X-Force, Ren-X, Nautilus, Hammer, Med-X…
Name dropping for certain on my part. All makers of intriguing equipment and supported by some sort of exclusive protocol.
Statements are sometimes made about the absolute value of one protocol or another and it often alos includes a condemnation of anything not “theirs.”
I have had some discussions over the years about negatives and have, myself, waffled a bit on them.
Do negatives have any place in training.
Anyone who lifts a weight and then lowers it in a controlled fashion is doing negative work.
That there is any inherent ability for the negative to handle more resistance than the positive is debatable. I used to think absolutely so.
This formed the basis for the Nautilus rep protocol of 2 count, 4 count for lifting and lowering. Thing is, it was more a mistaken application based on a phenomenon caused by machine friction and not by any inherent physiological fact. There was speculation as to why it might be so but never any conclusive evidence.
But, this doesn’t mean that the negative is useless. Perhaps just misunderstood.
I think it has been highly abused by those who took the 40 percent myth to its extreme in application. This misunderstanding put a number of users in very dangerous situations.
I realized this when I began to parse what I had really been doing with my negative upload pneumatic equipment.
I was never really overloading with the equipment. What it di for me was to more effectively upload to my momentary maximum in a very flexible way. The fact that I could, if I chose to, also load the positive by trying to exhaust the cylinder as quickly as possible against a restricted exhaust, meant more that I had a tool that allowed for maximum loading at all phases of the exercise. This was not a set load but rather a flexible relative load that was able to match my momentary capabilities in much the same way that infimetrics can, only with an external source instead of a generated load as in infimetrics.
So, what is a negative if not an extreme overload based on false reasoning?
It is simply the muscle’s ability to lengthen under load. When the load is appropriate to the strength capacity of the muscle this can be done under control. It may not be easy but it can be controlled. If it can’t be controlled then it is not really a negative. It is more likely to be a dangerous overload.
Back in the Nautilus days it was necessary to upload as much as forty percent for a negative. This is a reflection of how mechanically inefficient the machines were (and are, if you still have some early machines as I do.)
So, what does any of this mean for working out?
I have been experimenting with negatives.
I have been paying attention to them both with imposed load equipment and also with static mid range upload infimetrics.
They are useful when understood properly.
Back tracking for just a moment.
One of the more effective ways of giving yourself a brutally effective negative is to use Dr. Ellington Darden’s 30-60 second chin up or dip.
If you are not familiar with this exercise I suggest you make a point to try it out. It puts together so many elements of strength training and does so with virtually no friction unless you have very creaky arthritic joints and count the friction of atmospheric air.
The point of the exercise is to do a single Chin Up (or dip) in equal cadence. If you take thirty seconds to lift yourself to a chinned position you then try to match that on the way back down. Even a skilled trainee might find this much more challenging than expected. The goal is eventually sixty seconds up and sixty seconds down. If you can do one complete, then immediately try a second. Good Luck with that. The negative portion of the exercise will be brutal. And yet, it is with a weight that is the same as what you might be able to lift for multiple repetitions at a normal cadence.
This is and has been the focus of my negative training throughout the years. Not excessive overload, but rather a controlled emphasis of the lowering portion with a weight that is near my maximum ability to lift for a single repetition.
So, logically I began to wonder what I have been missing with statics and infimetrics in the negative department.
In going back to imposed load this last month it got me thinking and re-examining the potential for variation with infimetrics.
I had been going in the direction of speed, which, of necessity, greatly decreased load but certainly had its own training effect.
In returning to statics and infimetrics (statics under the right conditions and equipment are infimetric) I have been much more focused on load and duration of each repetition attempt.
Because of the manner in which I have feedback rendered on the equipment involves a spring based scale mechanism allowing for some travel, there is potential for negative failure if understood and used properly. Each repetition can potentially be a maximum upload held to a point of negative failure. This does not take as long as one might suspect.
When you upload to your maximum, that max effort cannot be sustained for more than several seconds. Intriguing.
So, a set of ten to fifteen max upload reps with the emphasis on holding until momentary negative failure each repetition has become my mode for the last week.
I have also experimented with a slow negative on my double shoulder machine with lateral raises. I select a weight that would allow me one or two normal repetitions. I lift the weight and hold it at the top for as long as I can. Negative muscle failure is gradual and controllable and similar to the Darden protocol for dips and chins cited earlier. The reason I don’t so a thirty to sixty second lift on the double shoulder is simply because of the excessive machine friction that isn’t present in body weight based exercises.
So, negatives are not so negative after all.

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I was listening to an interview of Phil Campbell a few weeks ago. He is the man behind Sprint 8 training. I was interested in hearing what he had to say because his focus in this is on speed and since I have been considering the role of speed in infimetrics I am looking for any information I can find. His interview on Dr. Mercola’s site was a bit frustrating as Dr. Mercola has sort of co-opted Phil’s protocol and made his own version. Campbell seems to have very specific reasons for the whys and wherefores of what he does with his approach. Namely, he is looking at the impact of this particular protocol on the stimulation of human growth hormone post exercise. This is a protocol that is generally done on some sort of cardio equipment, however, which does not appeal to me in the bigger picture. In simplistic terms it is essentially interval training where you alternate 90 second low intensity activity with 30 seconds of all out speed.

My mind started to calculate a bit. Since I have been examining the role of speed in my infometric workout as a means to recruit muscle fiber more completely and since, with infimetrics, speed is not a liability as it is with imposed load equipment I decided to try a hybrid of this protocol on my infimetric leg press.

During their discussion it was noted that the typical trainee, even advanced athletes, typically cannot make it through all 8 cycles of the interval training. This is a dangerous thing for me to hear. I never back down from a challenge. I don’t like to hear “can’t” and usually take it as a personal challenge. I was not sure but I had a feeling that the ability to generate upload and speed might make this more difficult than I suspected but I was more than willing to give it a try.

I got my timing device to keep track of the time intervals and got ready to work out.

By the 3rd cycle I was chugging like a locomotive and realized I had been ignoring the circuit training mentality so prevalent in my early Nautilus training days. This was more of necessity as I have been in recovery and healing mode from a lot of damage to my body at many levels from the damage caused by undiagnosed celiac disease. In fact, in the early stages of my recovery over the last several years I had very little tolerance for any exercise. It was very easy to push things over the edge by just doing a handful of exercise to near failure. It was still much improved from the depths of my illness when one set to failure of any exercise would take the better part of 30 days to get back to baseline of being able to handle the same weight for the same number of repetitions. It was that bad. No recovery at all. No tolerance for exercise at all. If I had any physically demanding work, any attempt to put in a full day would set me back a week or more before I could move enough to go up and down the stairs. It was bad. I had a whole host of complications and my metabolic tolerance of exercise was, for all intents and purposes, nil.

That being said, the very fact I was even contemplating attempting this protocol was somewhat of a significant event for me. I knew I could handle it, even if I only made it through part of the total target.

I pressed on to the 4th and 5th cycles and was ready to call it a day satisfied that I had experienced enough to get a general idea of what effect it might have on my post workout recovery.

Something clicked, though. I made it this far and decided that I could handle a few more. It is the closest I have gotten to nausea in years but I went all out for the entire 8 cycles.

I am quite certain that the infimetric ability to upload may be significant when implementing this type of protocol.

I was feeling fairly decent after a bit of recovery time and went ahead and finished my workout with a fairly routine upper body sequence of infimetric seated lat rows, infimetric chest cross, infimetric bicep curls and infimetric triceps extension.

This was a week ago Friday. By Saturday I was aware of the early signs of DOMS in my quadriceps and glutes, especially. Nothing I couldn’t handle but I have not had this experience for years. Sunday was a bit more intense in the DOMS department but, again, noting I couldn’t handle. This is significant as I was feeling as if it all fit in the whole normal recovery routine and not at all like when I was so ill I couldn’t tolerate any exercise.

Monday was a disaster. No sleep, hammered with excessive workload I had no choice in avoiding and then some additional stress to finish off the day. When I started the day Monday I truly felt like I might be ready for a workout later that day. By the time the sun set, I knew I was in trouble. Tuesday was one of the worst days I have had in a long time. It was as if all the stressors on Monday were more than I could handle and it set my workout recovery into a total tailspin.

I had been planning to workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday just to test out Phil Campbell’s assertion of HGH signaling for adaptation but found that, in listening to my physiology, I was in no way able to tolerate anything for the balance of the week. I still had a hellish work schedule to see to and that was my number one priority. I was trying to make modifications to three pieces of equipment in the midst of all this as well. I think tearing down a few key pieces of equipment was my way of making sure I wasn’t tempted to go full on through a workout.

Still, the whole delay was aggravating as there were and are always elements of any workout of late that make me feel much better. I do not tolerate long layoffs at all well but I knew enough to be cautious with this.

Got a number of modifications finished and decided that today was the day for a workout. In talking through the mechanics of this protocol with my son and testing the impact of ergometer based interval training (which he is much more familiar with than am I) versus the infimetric impact on the same, we both came to the conclusion that 8 cycles for the lower body with this much upload potential is just too much.

He tested out the lower body leg press portion with 4 cycles and, for him, that was more than enough.

I made a sound track. Watching a clock, for me, is deathly boring and I am very much an auditory based learner. I made a soundtrack to take me through 5 cycles. The only problem is that I cut and pasted one too many times and ended up with 6.

I went to apply this on leg press and thought had miscounted. The cues in the music let me know whether I have one more sprint upload upcoming or whether I am in my final cool down and the cycles just kept coming.

I ended up doing 6 cycles of leg press. 90 seconds light, 30 seconds all out sprint and upload times six. I then moved on to low back, seated lat pulls, chest cross, bicep curls and triceps extension to finish the workout.

It was good to be able to push efficiently through the workout with little rest between exercises. The low slow “warm-ups” are very deceiving. You end up doing a lot more metabolic work with the muscle during these respites than you would think.

I know this doesn’t fit anyone’s idea of superslow or traditional HIT protocol but I am searching for the complete synchronous mutli factorial failure that I have not been able to achieve any other way.

I think that many protocols come close.. with one or two or maybe even three factors but I also think that none of them ever hits the target for all elements simultaneously. This is what I am seeking.

I have, previously, discussed the neurological elements, the internal metabolic elements as relates to fiber type and function but have largely ignored the cardio muscular interaction. I have always turned cardio on its head throughout my training career and have contended that we get it backwards when we let the social norm focus on cardio conditioning. Folks die of congestive heart failure with strong hearts that no longer have the complementary counter pulsation provided by robust skeletal muscle that is needed to provide adequate venous return to prime the pump that is the heart.

Cardio, because it fails to generate upload and can only rely on speed over distance or time, ultimately fails to address all the muscle fiber types in a trainee thus leading to atrophy of skeletal muscle of the fast fiber type while grossly overtraining and creating the potential for overuse atrophy of the slow fiber types.

This hybrid of infimetric upload capability along with speed that does not degrade upload potential provides for some potentially interesting avenues of exploration.

Even with the excessive stress I had to endure last week, I actually came through it with relative ease and today’s workout was one of the best I have ever had. There seems to be a bit of that balance of elements in the equation I have been looking for.

Hopefully I will be able to quantify and lay out the logic behind what I am attempting to do. This workout seems to beget action. I have been working seven days a week for months lately and I am amazed at the fact that post disease state and post 50 (ok.. 51.. I confess..) I actually seem to be thriving on the demands of a schedule that would have put the finishing touches on my journey to the grave a few short years ago.

Oh, and no supplements. Just lots of raw food. There are days when it seems like I live on raw eggs and raw milk. Someday I will share my specific journey of gut flora and villous atrophy repair related to my celiac recovery.. but that’s a story for another day.

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What exactly does someone mean when they talk about inroading?

What exactly do they mean when they talk about outroading?

Seems like a simple set of questions.

Only, I think they are both highly misapplied and largely misunderstood and downright abused concepts in the high intensity training world.

Analogies are destined, ultimately, to be somewhat useless as they attempt to describe something they are not. And yet, they may be somewhat helpful in illustrating something we don’t know with something we do know. That which we do know may contain elements and parallels of truth about the unknown subject but, since it is not the actual unknown subject, cannot possibly be a direct explanation for that which is still only partially understood.

There are a lot of theories as to the function of skeletal muscle. There are a lot of theories about neurological function. There are a lot of theories about energy systems in muscle metabolism. There are a lot of theories about muscle fiber types. There is a lot of speculation about how all these elements actually work together. Any serious thought in this direction will always be confounded by the poorly understood effect of the plasticity of these elements on the appearance of results to the point that you can “verify” almost any pet theory if you design your studies properly. It is hard to know what is actually being measured in most studies and as a result, most add very little towards cohesive clarity of the system beyond this plasticity.

The skeletal system and the support given to it by the organs of the body is a very sophisticated biomechanical machine. It’s kind of like an automobile. When it all works together it gets you from point A to point B very effectively. There are many who take this on faith without ever knowing what is really going on beneath the surface, under the hood. Even expert automobile mechanics get lost somewhere between the theoretically perfect function and getting that unknown something extra out of a high performance race car. What kind of vehicle? One set up for optimal performance on the drag strip? That car would likely be a failure in a 24 hour Daytona or Lemans race. One set up for dirt track racing probably wouldn’t fare too well at the drag strip. You begin to get the idea. The same elements with minor but important combined differences yield performance of very different qualities. Anyone here for a Tractor Pull?

What road do we want our muscles to be on? What track are we trying to run. Do we want to travel the out road or the in road and how do we best fit in to whatever road we should be on?

I think there needs to be some sort of cursory attempt to define the important terms here.

Inroad. I believe there are those who associate the concept of momentary muscle failure as synonymous with the term inroad. They figure that failure to lift a weight after X number of repetitions equals an inroad as the net difference in a reduction between starting strength and failure. Most often there is some attempt to establish maximum strength and then to work at some preselected percentage of the starting weight, usually eighty percent. Thus, they figure, failure under these guidelines means a twenty percent inroad.

It is dangerous to assume that failure, under this circumstance, actually represents any inroad at all.

There are many possible explanations as to why a subject would reach the point of not being able to work past a certain point and many of these reasons are due to outroading. But wait, I just used another undefined term to refute the existence of a phenomenon I have still not defined.

Inroad is not failure.

Failure is simply reaching the point, due to any number of factors, in which the subject is no longer able to control, lift or lower the given weight being used in an imposed load exercise implement. It is hard to describe this to someone who has never actually performed a meaningful set of exercise in a generated force exercise like infimetrics. Failure does not occur in infimetrics. It does occur in the closely related akinetics as akinetics is infimetrics married to imposed load, albeit a smaller than normal load. This may lead to deeper inroading but most load the akinetic set too heavily to actually accomplish this leading to simple failure with the appearance of greater “inroad” without really effectively accomplishing this. Inroad is facilitated in infimetrics but can easily be confounding to the person looking for infimetrics to create failure instead of inroad. Because of this is becomes easy to create situations of outroading with infimetrics if a subject is trying to make infimetrics behave like something it is not. That being imposed load exercise.

I have still left the concept of inroad undefined. It is no small task to pull all the elements of inroading together. You have to take into account the energy delivery systems of the metabolic environment of the muscle. You then have to factor in the mechanical means with which you are either generating or imposing force with which to make this metabolic capacity set to work. There is the need, also, to consider the role of the neurological system in signaling all the parts of the system to work together without attempting to override any of the elements.

Going back to the car analogy it might be understood that the fuel tank and fuel delivery system are the circulatory system responsible for delivering elements of energy to the metabolic environment of the muscles or the engine. The electrical system is responsible for proper signaling and sequencing of firing the spark plugs in order to burn the fuel that is either in reserve (in the reservoir of the carburetor) or being delivered according to momentary need as in a fuel injection system. The engine, at idle, is sort of like basal metabolism. It is going to burn a certain amount of energy just to stay running. It can be revved without being engaged through the transmission to do any meaningful work or it can be put into gear and you then get movement. Whereas a vehicle is usually either carbureted or fuel injected, we muscle driven machines are a hybrid vehicle of sorts. Our slow twitch fibers are, oddly enough, fuel injected and rely on a steady delivery of energy to operate in an optimal way. The circulatory system is the fuel injector system but has the unique ability to run in a multi fuel environment. Fats or sugars. Flex fuel! The intermediate or type II fibers are adaptive over time and can run with characteristics like type I slow twitch fibers or more like, but not exactly like the type II a’s. This plasticity of function is influenced over time by the chosen method of training and leads to the self fulfilling phenomenon of getting the function you are training for within your genetic limits. Perhaps the type II’s could be compared to the traditional carbureted fuel delivery system where they are tapped into a fuel delivery system but have a reservoir in the carburetor to account for delivery lag when you step on it for a fast getaway. The type IIa’s? Think NiOx. BAM! huge boost and maximum speed but a short ride. Burst of speed or strength but not sustainable for long. You then default back to the delivered energy system and capacity of the prior two types.

Of course, if you have the car in the wrong gear for any of the above scenarios, it is this interface of engine speed, energy delivery and transmission where an element of inroading versus outroading starts to reveal itself.

I will interject my personal opinion here and state that I believe many training mistakes are made, of necessity, because imposed load equipment forces the trainee to always compromise the speed element in favor of load to make up for the deficiency of the source of resistance. This applies even to those who profess to move fast with an imposed load. This only exacerbates the force discrepancies and is sort of the muscle machine equivalent of a neutral slam. Fun as all get out when you are a teenager but brutal when you have to foot the repair bills as an adult.

In a manual transmission it is possible to select any number of gears in which you desire to start. It is most logical to start with low gear and coordinate increasingly higher gears with ever increasing speed. You could attempt to start out in a high gear from a dead stop but this requires a technique known as slipping the clutch and it wears out a clutch in short order. Wear and tear or failure due to working outside the ideal working range of all the elements of the machine working in synchronicity. That is not inroad. It is failure and it can also be expensive.

What analogous situation exists in the muscle machine? It is quite possible to try to override the mechanism by which the body wants to recruit in an orderly fashion by attempting maximum lifts. Strength demonstrations rely on overrides and can result in impressive displays. Strong men have been performing amazing feats of strength ever since one of our ancestors needed to hoist part of a freshly killed mastodon in order to carry it away to their cave. The bigger the chunk the better off your family unit probably was. This is not to say it is the best training strategy, however.

The problem here is that when the muscle reaches failure, it may not have created inroad of the entirety of the metabolic capacity of the muscle as a complete system. The fastest twitch muscle fibers, which may occur in various proportions in different muscles groups with distributive variety from subject to subject as well, might end up failing under a very high load scenario. If the need was for all the muscle fibers to engage to lift a very heavy load for a short duration is limited by these fibers, failure occurs when they fatigue even though there was much potential systemic capacity at a different speed or lower imposed load. If the subject is so extreme in their fiber type that type IIa fast twitch truly represents the majority of the fibers in the muscle (not all that likely) then a decent inroad may have also been evoked by this act. If, however, they are more typical of the generic genetic middle ground it is likely that the failure event circumvented inroad to any great degree because, at a much lower load or force, there is still plenty of reserve metabolic capacity remaining in the muscle. Thus, there is failure but little or nothing in the way of inroad.

So, heavy loads moved at lugging speeds might actually be an outroading event. This doesn’t even consider the necessary strategies of bracing or cheats that sometimes accompany such attempts. Please note I said sometimes. I realize there are many skilled lifters who train with the intelligent choice not to demonstrate but rather to train for strength with imposed load equipment. When this is understood you begin to realize it is not about becoming efficient in movement, which is what any power lifter or Olympic lifter seeks to do, i.e.: maximum efficiency for minimal effort. Rather, in training for maximum metabolic inroading it is often necessary to consider ways to make the exercise less efficient.

This is where the idea of strict form, in the extreme, can actually become a barrier to proper inroading. Warning: adult content ahead. This concept is not meant for the novice or those who try to rationalize away the whole concept of strength demonstration as a substitute for proper strength stimulus training regardless of whether your tool of choice happens to involve imposed load or generated load equipment. Form is important, just not as important as some may think when dealing with infimetrics.
What I am about to say might be heresy to machine geeks, of which I have long been a member of that fraternity. Form in its single planar linear manifestations on a machine or with a free weight, it will be discovered, is hampered by deviating from the single optimal plane of movement necessary to move the most amount of weight for a given exercise. Lifts and exercises will lure the subject into greater and greater efficiencies through the imposition of “perfect” form. This is, I believe, responsible for the “stronger but not bigger” phenomenon many advanced trainees encounter to great frustration. I am not even addressing the element of speed here, merely the whole concept of planar movement. There was a lifter a few weeks ago relating how he failed to get the set number of repetitions during a given workout and was further discouraged when he discovered that he accidentally underloaded the bar as well. This could have turned out to be more productive than he thought if he were to realize that, perhaps, he was less efficient in his lifting mechanics. He might have deviated from the optimal lifting path with force being deflected off line thus involving more metabolic effort of the target muscles (good from a training perspective, bad from an ego perspective) than had he been efficient. That underload might also have not overloaded the neurological signaling as much which might have prevented the exercise from crossing into the adrenal stress realm. ( I just made that last part up… but I will think about that some more.. Not willing to retract the possibility at this point.)

As an illustration of intentional inefficiency I think about some of my infimetric single joint machines. Since biceps exercises are relatively familiar to most readers, I will use that as an example. When I use the simple cable and pulley set up I demonstrated in my last video it doesn’t matter in which plane I am moving. There is really no lateral deflection possible with that set up as it all results in the generated force being directed through the single pulley and its attachment. Granted, angular deflection does reduce the efficiency of transfer to the pulley and scale but it is hard to deviate too far from the optimal line of pull for accurate readings with this set up.

On the seated bicep curl prototype, however, the machine rotates in a single plane. If you move your arms, in flexion, in that exact plane, the reading on the scale reflects accurately the work being done in the metabolic realm of the muscle being worked. If, however, you deviate by trying to create movement that is slightly out of the single plane while still limiting yourself to bicep activation (this is quite possible, BTW) the movement is far less efficient, there is more metabolic work going on in the muscle, which is a very good thing from an inroading point of view, but the scale does not reflect the deviation from the single plane. I have designed a multi axis sensor set up that would allow for readings in multiple planar intersections but the cost would be so ridiculous for such a negligible return on meaningful information for the average trainee as to be worthless outside of extreme theoretical discussion.

Suffice it to say, strictness of form and limitations of speed may have the unintended effect of reducing the efficiency of getting at the muscle’s metabolic capacity thus creating accidental outroading. Our bodies have an uncanny propensity to make hard work as efficient and easy as possible. We want to be inefficient in order to make significant inroad into the total metabolic reserve of the muscle in question if we really want to create a strength stimulus of any meaning. Otherwise we are merely producing toil, not stimulus.

But wait. Where does speed come in?

This is so difficult to put into a cohesive argument without just resorting to the poor example of just saying “whatever.” No one knows all the answers and I am only trying to spur serious thought and further examination of all the possible elements.

When dealing with a multifactorial event, you ignore or favor only some of the elements at your own peril.

There is a need to examine the role of all the elements and see how they may potentially interlace to create potentials that go beyond the simplistic mechanical work analysis models that have so paralyzed the proper perception of how it all works together. This is further complicated by the propensity to adapt the machine of the body to machines that are deficient, regardless of how well crafted they may seem to be. A limitation is still a limitation, even if it is a limitation that is less limited but very expensive.

As I have noted before, speed may play just as important (and possibly even more important)  a role in the recruitment of all muscle fiber types as relates to overall metabolic impact and depletion for the purposes of stimulating hypertrophic response in skeletal muscle provided you have access to a method or machine that does not restrict speed, either by cam profile requirements or gravity limitations. At this point it appears that infimetrics is the only type of exercise that allows for all of this and the ability to create whatever upload needed. Pure speed based body weight exercises suffer from the same limitations of imposed loads in response to things like momentum and inertia but fall short of weighted exercises to the degree that it is difficult to change resistance levels according to increasing capacities unless you are into radical binging and purging or ankle weights.

I need to step back and take a breather here.

Load thresholds versus speed thresholds as an entree to muscle fiber recruitment.
In the past I was just as inclined as most to view increased in working load via more weight as the way to access functional fiber type thresholds. The theory being that if an initial working weight in a set was too let you would never cross over the threshold into anaerobic muscle fiber recruitment. Speed had little or nothing to do with the whole equation other than to make sure you moved slow enough to cancel out the momentum that would be possible by moving too fast and throwing the weight. This limit on speed, slowed to extremes, was entirely load dependent to cross this threshold below which toil but not stimulus would occur.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when speed came in to the picture. I was toying with the idea of maximum speed with my pneumatically based negative assist equipment. the interesting thing about this method of training is that the lifting portion was dependent on a maximum speed effort for maximum resistance. The way I had the cylinder plumbed and the valves actuated and vented meant that, when the negative upload released, you could move very slowly to lift the device back into the contracted position. By doing this, you gave yourself a very big rest phase. The alternative was to push as fast as you possibly could. The exhaust was controlled and I could set it with a limiting device so that this didn’t cause a fast release of cylinder pressure. In trying to move as fast as possible you were trying to force the exhaust of the compressed air in the cylinder. The faster you attempted to do this, the more resistance you got. All along, I thought I was doing a negative focused activity. In hind sight I realize I was doing a maximum speed type of training with the positive and negative being optimally uploaded. The negative phase was not really the heavy negative most associate with straight negatives. The fluidity of compressed air, when regulated for optimal effect on these machines, would allow for a stopping of the negative and even a slight reversal in the early repetitions. In all, it was a unique combination of speed and relative contouring. Ultimately, though, it is imposed load and, as such, does not have the flexibility on the fly to follow the metabolic contour as it changes throughout the working set and is limited as a result just like other imposed load equipment.

So, even though speed was seemingly less limited and inversely in the positive with this type of machine, it did tend to push things in the direction of load thresholds. Speed was, of necessity, very slow.

Speed under generated load seems, at this time to have metabolic consequences unlike any other form of exercise I have ever encountered. There is the load threshold but it also seems there might very well be a speed threshold of greater significance when it comes to recruitment of the fastest twitch muscle fibers. The systemic impact if speed based infimetric training takes me across certain metabolic respiratory factors in a much different way than imposed load. Load based threshold crossing would take me to failure but do very little in the way of inroad. On the other hand speed based generated load seems to exhaust the entirety of the target muscle group much more effectively.

Certainly speculative and very unscientific and anecdotal at this time but I throw this out there for further discussion.

In the meantime, I will continue to make attempts at pulling all the elements together into a more cohesive, plausible working model.

So, at this point in time it would seem that inroad is anything that allows you to get to the total metabolic capacity of a muscle without working outside of supporting circulatory, neurological or profile characteristics. Working in the right gear at the right speed and the right load to allow a total exhaustion that is in no way short circuited until all the fibers are sufficiently fatigued to signal the adaptive response of hypertrophy.

Outroading would be any element not properly accounted for, be it speed, load, inertia, energy utilization false concepts of range of motion, improper use of statics or other elements that may short circuit the process.

Infimetrics challenges the user to experience a shift in the thought processes to combine these potential elements in ways not accessible in imposed load exercise.

Still a lot to think about!

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Sorry about the delay.

No small project is actually a small project, especially when you think it’s going to be a small project. That being said, here’s the video I have been promising:

Infimetric Demo

Thanks for your patience.

I don’t know if this will be helpful but I will also include the text of my narrative so you can make out my mumbling:

Basics of infimetrics

As you can see by the demonstration with this basketball, as long as I’m moving slowly, the imposed load provided by the mass of the basketball gives me consistent resistance.

However, as soon as I accelerate, momentum takes over and in throwing the basketball, it no longer provides consistent resistance and, in fact provides no resistance for most of the repetition.

That sound you hear as it hits my hand is a good indicator of the increase in the force it is generating that is greater than its actual weight as I have to decelerate it as I catch it.

These same concepts apply to this sixteen pound bowling ball I am now using.

Momentum alters the force generated by an imposed load source of resistance. The faster you move the higher the variability of forces.

In this basic bicep curl exercise the weight remains constant at 75 pounds which is half my body weight. It is easily done and does not reflect my momentary metabolic muscle capacity for work. The imposed load of the weight is not able to change in accordance with my strength contour. Watch the scale and you will see that, in addition to the 75 pounds I am already lifting I am also uploading an additional 200 pounds of generated force against an otherwise immoveable dead stop. Thus, my momentary metabolic work capacity is actually 275 pounds.

In this chin up, as long as I am moving slowly, the imposed load of my body weight remains fairly constant. As soon as I start to vary the speed of movement, I can nearly double the amount of force my 150 pounds exerts on the muscles involved. I also encounter far less than my body weight at points.
With imposed load I am limited by weight. Force is inconsistent with variable speeds. This requires slow movement for those wanting to even out the forces.

This simple infimetric device of a cable and pulley allows me to use bilaterally paired muscles to generate my own force relative to my momentary metabolic muscle capacity as one side of the body is linked to the other to generate the force.

You should be able to see the muscle under load. I show a “dishonest” effort for a moment where I move but do not generate imposed load. This requires discipline to provide relative resistance when you have no feedback device to indicate generated force.

The same principle applies when I am using this simple infimetric bar device. Contraction of one bicep is resisted by the opposite arm as it lengthens.

See if you can tell when I make a dishonest effort here. I am unlimited by speed constraints, either fast or slow.

I can flip my grip and use the same device for a triceps extension or a lateral raise as well as a number of other exercises.

I now move to a bicep curl prototype and am generating a load of 75 pounds. If I want to I can target a set generated load, in this case 75 pounds just like the barbell curl earlier.

Next I upload to a maximum effort which is now only 140 pounds as a result of all the work I have already done.

Following a short series of fast repetitions my maximum metabolic capacity is now momentarily reduced to 85 pounds. The metabolic contour is quite plastic. The generated load is low but the relative load is very high at this point.

This is typically how I have been training with infimetrics. I move as fast as I can with a limited range of motion that deteriorates as momentary metabolic capacity diminishes.

When movement is no longer possible I transition to a pulsed static. Relative load is extremely high but generated force is now less than 15 pounds.

When I can no longer generate any increase I transition to a non pulsed static and finish when I can no longer generate even 5 pounds of force. Failure at 5 pounds when I was able to initially generate an upload of over 200 pounds.

I hope this helps in understanding some basics of infimetrics.

Thanks again and keep asking questions and sharing the excellent observations from your infimetric experiments. I have another essay upcoming but have been side tracked by the not so simple, simple video project.

Strength for the journey!

CS

 

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infimetric machines

infimetrics

Thought I would finally give a little tour of the equipment I have been talking about. These first three prototypes are the mainstay of my workouts. If I really had to, I could get a full workout on the machine in front. It is currently configured for a seated lat row exercise but the frame, movement arms and attachments can be configured to do just about any exercise you can think of for infimetrics. I am currently working on the next generation of this machine and hope to have a rendering of the new design, which will have an App interface for recording purposes.

The piece in the corner is the Leg Press which I actually use primarily for Calf Raises now.It has a simple scale mechanism to allow for real time feedback.

The piece in front of the window is a chest cross. This is the first piece of equipment in all my years of working out that has actually allowed me to make progress on chest development.

Leaning against the wall are two infimetric implements. The first is a simple pulley and cable that can be used for a number of exercises and the bar with the two handles is the most basic implement for infimetrics short of a towel or a stick. If absolutely necessary I can get a whole workout with this last piece and a door frame and some creative problem solving.

Also, there are my posters in the corner of the ever beautiful Terri (and Mickey who is not necessarily beautiful) as well as the Arthur Jones poster from Brian Johnston plus an anatomy chart from Dean Ripon at Springfield College.

infimetric machines

Prototypes

Next up are some more of my prototypes in the basement gym. The piece in the foreground is what is left of a simple attempt at creating a negative upload through mechanical means. It works, to a degree, but I have found too many flaws in the whole negative upload paradigm over the years. I made my first negative upload equipment back in the early 1980′s and kept coming back to infimetrics as the superior approach. Immediately in front of that machine is the infimetric bicep curl that also doubles as a low back dead lift unit as well. There is a simple scale mechanism on this machine that allows for feedback during the exercise but I find that I don’t need that anymore. It was helpful in understanding just how hard I was actually working so is useful as a training tool for the uninitiated. To the right of that is a pull down unit. This unit has the computer interface I have used in real time graphing of the effects of infimetrics on strength and endurance. I prefer the low lat row I do on the machine upstairs. To the right of the pull down is a seated chest press. It also has a simple scale mechanism. I find it far more useful as a triceps isolator than for chest press. the mechanics of a chest press irritate my triceps tendon too much. It is too easy to brace to the extreme in the machine as it now sits. Across from that is my infimetric leg extension. It can be converted to a negative upload machine with a pneumatic device but I much prefer the infimetric iteration of the exercise. Coming back towards us is the newest family member. This is the triceps extension machine I put together this past week. It is, bar none, the most effective triceps exercise I have ever experienced. A number of these machines will have to wait until the weather gets a bit nicer to be cosmetically cleaned up and painted.

duo squat, hip and back, double shoulder

vintage Nautilus equipment

This is my small collection of vintage Nautilus equipment. The duo squat came from Joshua Trentine and is rumored to have belonged to Jim Harbaugh. (I know, I am name dropping.. but it’s fun to think it might have been his.) He supposedly had the machine chopped and the seatback modified to convert it to a leg press version. They messed it up big time, though. I remodified it to allow for a number of seatback positions including the original position. The weight stack had to be purloined from an old abdominal curl machine because the Ren Ex folks needed the original 510 pound stack for one of their machines. Hence the need for pinning on a few hundred extra pounds. No coincidence that you can use this machine for infimetrics or akinetics. Next is the Double Shoulder machine from a strength coach from s school up north. I use it for statics, mostly. Too much friction for my liking otherwise. Beside that is a Pro Maxima kids pull down that we extended the weight stack on and added an extra hundred or so pounds to the horns we added. Doesn’t get used much anymore. Beside that is a Nautilus Duo PolY Hip and Back machine I have modified from time to time to experiment with beltless restraint systems and for use as a low back machine.

So, there you have it. This is the stuff I am talking about when discussing infimetrics. Who knows.. video demonstrations should be next as well as a candid shot or two of me.. but first I need a haircut!

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