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And Another Thing

Continuing on with the whole idea of ceasing to measure and chart, I discovered another element to add to my work.

First, though, as I have been thinking about why I needed to discontinue with the accounting method of workouts, has been the realization that the whole process of developing set schemes and charts eventually leads to the muscles becoming subservient to the task to be measured.

I cannot tell you how many times the approach of the tenth rep, or the twelfth, or the twentieth, you get the picture, leads to an inevitable cessation of the exercise even if it was nowhere near effective. In fact, I recall quite clearly so many clients I trained who would have won Academy Awards for best actor or actress in a workout video based solely upon their feigned efforts on the final reps when they actually had so much more in the tank.

Setting aside the need to count, with no preset expectation as to rep schemes has allowed me to simply focus on working the muscle as hard as possible. That means different things at different times and I am not sure I can clarify this particular statement any further at present.

I do know that I am free to dig deep into my bag of tricks to vary things during the working set in ways that structure has not allowed in the past. I mentioned in an earlier post about this that, when performing infimetric reps, I had this sudden inclination to stop each repetition at mid range when both limbs were in the middle of the movement and kind of re-load the exercise before continuing on. Yesterday I took this a step further and did a prolonged static upload (some would say static hold which would hold true for a weighted exercise as you cannot effectively hold against an upload with a set weight) that is only possible with infimetrics or with someone manually uploading a weighted exercise. Each time I reached midpoint, which would be every half repetition, I would do a static upload for several seconds before continuing on to the contracted position for each side. Now whether this will lose effectiveness over time due to the predictable midpoint for each exercise remains to be seen and I may experiment with offset static uploads to hit different quadrants of movement. We shall see.

Quadrants.

That brings partial range into the equation as well. No matter how smooth, how seemingly accurate, how well designed the machine or the exercise, there are always parts of the range of an exercise that allow for relative rest compared to what inevitably becomes the sticking point.

I have become quite comfortable with working these inequities in the range with partial repetitions. I would much rather work a part of the range that fully engages the target muscle without peripheral groups taking over and creating opportunity for the target muscle to rest. This often involves working some unconventional angles that the cable based machines allow me to do more easily than the fixed plane movement arms that are on some of my other machines.

I guess that point here is that even after four decades of experimenting with this equipment and these modes, I still have much to learn.

There’s always another thing to learn.

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The Day I Stopped Counting..

My workouts actually started to count.

I am sure this will make some people upset.

For so many years I was of the school of workout accounting. I have charted workouts going back for decades. I have schemed workout protocols. I have theorized about the best way to structure a workout. I have sought to measure what can be measured, even devising recording equipment to be able to quantify infimetric work.

Today, I left all of that behind.

Actually, a few weeks ago I stopped charting my workouts.

That alone was a huge change for me. Yes, I was still aware of counting reps and noticing the time it took for the total workout, but I was no longer recording every single rep or other parameters I have been tracking for some time. I still have my original workout files from decades past when I worked out and worked at Nautilus of Canton.

Today, I quit all that.

I no longer concerned myself with how many repetitions I was doing or how long I was taking on each exercise.

The liberation was eye opening.

I was suddenly free to vary the repetition speed, the repetition range, the duration of each exercise, and any other variation that was dictated by the progression of the work being done.

It’s not as if I was totally unaware of the number of repetitions I was doing but I wasn’t actively counting them. There was no set termination point other than perceived depth of effect. I was also free to do partial repetitions as I sensed they were needed from time to time.

I started each exercise with infimetrics.

Oddly enough, by not counting I found myself varying path of movement on those exercises where there was that freedom of movement. Removing restrictions seemed to carry over to other elements of the working set. I found myself doing more partial zone type reps and, with infimetrics, found this odd urge to pause each rep at midpoint to reload before taking each side into full contraction. This alone was worth the discovery. I then transitioned quickly to negative upload and, as a result of the infimetrics, reached fatigue on the negatives much more quickly and effectively.

I can’t tell you how many repetitions I performed. I can’t tell you exactly how long the workout lasted.

I don’t really care.

It was the best workout I have had in a long, long time.

I was wanting a way to take more control of the negative upload portion of my machines. This was inspired by my recent retrofit of the multi platform Leg Curl to negative capabilities.

I plumbed the pneumatics on that machine in a much simpler set up than the other negative upload machines in that the upload is simply applied by triggering the cylinder when you want to load the negative. This can be anywhere in the range of motion of the exercise.

My other equipment has a more complicated valve actuation set up that has an actuator at the top and a release valve at the bottom of each exercise. There is some ability to adjust the range of motion on the multi exercise platform but, otherwise, it is pretty much set it and forget it. You lift to actuation and resist until the machine bottoms out for that movement continuing the exercise until appropriately exhausted.

The thing that got me wanting to change this is the ability, on Leg Curl, to reduce load mid range and then load back up again, even allowing for momentary reversal. It makes for a very effective exercise.

Well, I converted the Leg Press to the same basic set up as Leg Curl. It was a relatively easy task to re-plumb the air lines and go with a direct feed to the cylinder while removing the other, now unnecessary, valves. Works great.

I moved on to Leg Extension to do the same conversion. Access to all the above was much more complicated and was going to involve a lot more disassembly than I was in the mood for.

One of the benefits of this modification is that there is now a built in safety. Yes, you can simply let go of the movement arms and no harm will come to you or the machines.. but there is still a loaded moving movement arm to be aware of. With the new set up, when you stop activating the valve, it stops the negative upload so that the movement arm is no longer moving under force.

Well, being too lazy to re-plumb the Leg Extension had its hidden benefit. I decided, instead, to install what amounts to a safety on the feed line. The machine still functions automatically as described above, but the safety allows for the same benefit gained on the Leg Curl and Leg Press. As long as you activate the valve while exercising you will get your negative upload. But, you can release the upload as in the other two examples.

So, is the safety the serendipity or is the added functionality the serendipity? Maybe both.

I then added that same feature to my Bicep Curl. Success.

The one I am stuck on is the Multi Exercise unit as there are too many configurations and variables as to how best to trigger this mechanism. I did try a kick plate years ago. That’s great for upper body where you don’t have hands free but doesn’t work well for things like squats and overhead press and others. I will be working out the particulars in order to make this possible as well.

Now, to get totally negative.

No, that’s not a bad thing.

Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I ditched the infimetrics and went through a negative only workout.

So bizarre.

The hybrid infimetrics plus negatives certainly seems to create an in workout pump but the negative only mode seems to create a delayed, yet more intense and longer lasting pump. Oh, and I have been pretty much wiped out for the day. This is not something I experience to this degree with the hybrid workout. And the workout was 26 minutes long for 9 exercises with some simpler transitions from exercise to exercise. Total repetitions dropped from 140+ to under 100, 96 to be exact.

I plan to stick with negatives for a while. I was so hesitant in light of how dedicated I had been to trying to make infimetrics work. I felt guilty not incorporating it and thus avoided a straight negative only workout for some time.

Today erased the guilt and doubt.

Two weeks in to a slight change in the hybrid workout.

I am now greatly reducing the number of infimetric repetitions before transitioning to the negative upload portion of each exercise.

Side note: I think it is too easy to over train with negatives. As a result, I have been cutting back the time and repetitions in each workout. In the months prior to my most recent adjustment, workouts were taking 40 to 50 minutes and the total repetition range was somewhere between 225 and 350.

These last two weeks I have cut the workout duration from 50 minutes down to 32 with today’s workout. Total repetitions have dropped to somewhere between 120 to 140 total repetitions. I have also cut total number of exercises from 12 exercises to only 8 today.

The range of repetitions in the hybrid machines ranges from 7 to 10 infimetric reps followed by 7 to 10 negative reps.

Instead of alternating fast and slow infimetric repetitions I have opted for slow and slower while seeking to load them as maximally as I can before switching to negative uploads.

And, just to confound things a bit more, (what is that? Never change more than one variable at a time, you say?) I have also been experimenting with intermittent fasting, AKA IF. I eat my last evening meal by 7PM and then do not eat in the morning until after I have finished my workout, usually around 11 or 11:30 AM. Prior, I have never worked out in this mildly fasted state. I wake up and am out working a partial shift from 6AM to 9:30AM and then I work out starting somewhere between 10 and 11AM. I was not real sure I would be able to get a good workout under these conditions but gave it a go anyway.

I am getting incredibly good workouts.

So, I am working slower and heavier. Oh, and this is a very misunderstood dynamic of infimetrics. Slow does not necessitate lighter loads. You can upload pretty extreme resistance while moving very slowly contrary to a weighted exercise.

I find the slower tempo is helping me be more mindful of the target musculature. Funny thing is, even though I have built these machines and have been experimenting for decades, I feel I am still in the early stages of learning just exactly how to use them most effectively.

Could it be that my adjustments simply serve to vary things enough to keep from getting stale? Or am I really, albeit slowly, getting closer and closer to the “right way” to use them?

I’ll just have to keep on trying.

To recap today’s workout:

Leg Curl (hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 7 + 7 reps
Leg Extension (hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 7 + 7 reps
Squat (negative only) 10 reps
Overhead Press (hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 7 + 7 reps
Chest Press (hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 8 + 8 reps
Seated Lat Row (hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 10 + 10 reps
Tricep Extension(hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 9 + 9 reps
Bicep Curls (hybrid infimetric + Negative upload) 9 + 9 reps

Total workout time: 32 minutes

Total repetitions: 124

No Static At All?

No, this isn’t going to be about Steely Dan.

The Leg Curl retrofit was successful, especially after making a few tweaks that have made it function more smoothly.

The control set up on this machine is slightly different than the other machines in that I am in total control of when I apply the negative upload. Three of the other machines are essentially set up to be automatically triggered to upload and then to offload. The Leg Press machine does require me to actuate the upload but then the offload is automatically triggered.

This is possible for lower body exercises but not so easily done for upper body exercises because the hands are engaged in the actual exercise and are not really free to trigger and/or hold the actuator during the repetition.

By being in complete control on the leg curl it allows for some interesting variation within the working set. I can upload and offload for partial repetitions at any time which may have some real benefit on the inroad to fatigue.

I took a different approach to today’s workout.

I have been so concerned with formulas as relates to effectiveness for infimetrics. This carried over into the hybrid workout protocol as well. I have been keeping as accurate a record of workouts as possible. So much so that the record keeping seemed to interfere with the purpose of the workout. The formula was more important than just getting at the muscle.

I had several concerns going in to the workout. I have been tempted to go with straight negatives without the precursor of infimetrics as in the hybrid workout. When I first built the negative upload machines three decades ago I didn’t have the infimetric hybrid capacity on most of the machines and so I had no choice but to work negative upload only. It was during this time that I got some of the best results over all. In fact, I often wonder why I ditched the mode and scrapped the machines to pursue infimetrics. Maybe some day I will recall exactly why.

I still wanted to take advantage of the pre-exhaust effect of the infimetrics as in the hybrid protocol but was looking for a tweak.

I decided to go slow and heavy and to reduce the number of infimetric reps before transitioning to the negative upload. I also decided to dial back the negative loads to make sure that the first one or two negative repetitions allowed for a momentary static hold.

This brings up a huge question that I need to delve into much more. Is the optimal negative one in which there is simply controlled lowering or is the optimal negative one in which there is an all out effort to prevent eccentric lowering? Until I can clarify this better I am not sure I can make the difference understandable to the reader. I apologize for thinking this out loud at this point.

I will note that the effect of this workout was surprising to me. I have not encountered the empty tank syndrome for a long time: that feeling that you get that lets you know you have depleted muscle glycogen stores and that your body is having a hard time keeping up with short term energy needs. I finished the workout, went back out and finished my work day as I usually do, came home to cut the lawn as is my custom on Fridays. I then found it absolutely necessary to take a several hour nap. I have not had this immediate of a whole body exhaustion from a workout in decades.

Adding in the possibility of a static hold by adjusting the negative upload to allow this was, I believe, responsible for this. With prior workouts I believe I have made the mistake of aggressively overloading the negative upload to the point where I could not actually create a static hold at any point. There are some specific system characteristics I had not noticed before that should have clued me in to this but I only noticed them in the last few workouts and began to make sense of what the information was trying to tell me.

It is quite possible to create a mechanical device to create negatives in such a way that it is impossible to overcome the machine to create any sort of static hold. This, I believe, is a serious mistake. The negative has to happen as a result of a failure of the static hold.

No static at all? Not good.

To be truly negative, give me static any day.

I have been experimenting with the hybrid combination of infimetrics with negative upload as you may well know if you have been following along up to this point.

The one exception to this has been a direct exercise for the hamstrings. My leg curl platform did not have the same negative upload capacity as all my other infimetric machines. It is actually a multi configuration platform that I could change the set up of to allow most single joint exercises to be performed with this particular machine. Because I have multiple machines that cover the other exercises, I have been using this platform exclusively for leg curls.

I have been building a new head unit for this platform that would be more like an earlier version of this multi configuration platform in that it would allow a hip and back type movement by having the movement arms on the outside instead of up the center as this machine now exists.

I have been dragging my feet on that particular project for some time.

Last week I began to look at the present set up with the idea of adding negative upload capabilities to the leg curl set up. I did, after all, have an extra pneumatic cylinder just sitting there waiting to be used. It had been on an earlier tricep extension machine that, for some unknown reason, I decided to do away with. It wasn’t really a good set up, I guess.

I woke up Thursday with a sort of “aha” moment as I could see how to accomplish this. I spent the next few days mentally designing and redesigning the concept. This is how I have built most of my prototypes. When I can see the machine clearly in my mind’s eye I know it’s time to start cutting steel. I have seldom worked from actual drawings.

By Sunday I had the nth revision worked through and started the modifications slightly after noon.

By around 9PM I had it hooked up with a controller and air line and was able to test it out. I still have a few little things to clean up to make it work more smoothly but it was suitable enough to use for Monday’s workout. Today I am finishing up a bracket to stabilize the linkage a bit more which should help for the next workout.

At last, the final major muscle group that had been limited to infimetric only training could now experience the hybrid workout.

As much as I wanted infimetrics to be as ideal as Arthur Jones made it sound to me with his West Point lecture on The Future of Exercise back in the late 1970’s, I have pretty decent confirmation that the most effective part of this hybrid training is the negative upload portion. Yes, I can definitely tell a big difference in the post exercise response! Now, this isn’t to say that the infimetric portion of this hybrid protocol is in vain. I believe it serves a very important function. In creating a level of fatigue before transitioning to the negative upload portion of the working set, I believe it actually makes the negatives even safer and yet more effective.

So, now all my machines are firing on all cylinders!

I plan to take a slightly different approach to my Wednesday workout. I may abbreviate the infimetric portion slightly. I had been doing upwards of thirty reps prior to transitioning to the negative upload. I am not sure as yet, but, I am thinking of trying a dozen reps at as high a speed infimetrically as possible and then transitioning to the negative upload after that. When I say high speed, remember that because the source of the resistance is self induced, there is no real appreciable problem with momentum. Also, high speed with as much load as possible creates a pretty steep deceleration after just a few repetitions so speed is not that fast by the end of the infimetric portion in this case. So, I guess the effect I am going for is essentially a direct pre-exhaust negative upload hybrid exercise with a shorter time frame than what I have done thus far.

We’ll see..

Recovery

For the longest time, I suffered from the crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis. I managed to recover from this to the point of being able to reverse supposedly irreversible joint damage. But, I had to get to the root cause of the rheumatoid arthritis.

When I first built my negative upload pneumatic machines over thirty years ago, I was under the influence of Nautilus training principles of minimizing training to the least effective dose, perhaps to the extreme. I rigged up a device on my leg extension machine that functioned as a static tensiometer. I would take daily readings of strength to measure recovery. When I would recover to a level at or above my prior pre workout maximum I would proceed to workout. I found that, with negatives, I would need five days to recover. So the workouts occurred every five or six days give or take. I was making decent gains, at least for my quads, which may or may not have been reaping the benefit of daily maximal testing to confound things. I would also take an immediate post workout reading on the measuring device to measure depth of effect. There would, if I remember correctly, be about a ten percent decrease in maximum strength after a very brief recovery after the workout.

I eventually got rid of my first generation of pneumatic prototypes for various reasons and abandoned this mode of exercise in favor of exploring infimetrics exclusively. Perhaps I sensed that my declining health would not tolerate such an intense form as negative upload exercise.

Before I was able to identify exactly what was causing my health problems I did return to building prototypes or reworking the machines I still had. At this time I made a device that allowed me to use several machines as static and active tensiometers. The graph at the top of my home page here is from one such device. I was, once again, able to take pre and post exercise static readings of maximum strength as well as track my recovery rate.

At my absolute nadir of health I found that it would take over thirty days to recover to baseline strength after a single set of a particular exercise once taken to momentary muscle failure. Thirty days. One whole month. I was very ill. My body was not able to handle the insult of exercise.

All of this changed radically when we finally figured out exactly what was wrong. When I figured out that celiac disease was the root cause of all other autoimmune issues and started to treat that with appropriate dietary measures, my body underwent a stunning transformation. In short order I began to heal from a lifetime of damage. Arthritic gel time went from hours to.. nothing. This occurred within days of dietary change after having been in a flare that had lasted for several years. No, not days, not weeks.. years! In spite of ramping up caloric intake of gluten and grain free foods to a serious caloric level of five to seven thousand calories a day (yes, you read that correctly,) I dropped forty pounds in the first month alone after my diagnosis, most of that being body fat. It became apparent that I had lost a lot of muscle mass over the years of being so sick. Body fat gave the outward appearance to others that I was just your normal “healthy” (read: fat) adult male.

At this time I was able to start working out again, and recover again.

around this time I happened to attend a seminar with some pretty awesome people in attendance. I got to touch base with some folks I had been carrying on discussions with on line and got to meet some others in the field as well. One was Dr. Rebecca Manno who was doing some research relating to the beneficial effects of exercise on those with rheumatoid arthritis at Johns Hopkins. I argued with her that, having lived through an extremely severe case of it myself, exercise, while appearing to be beneficial in very small doses at best, was just too much of an insult to those with the disease unless and until dietary issues were addressed. No amount of exercise could overcome the deleterious effects of an inflammatory diet.

By this time I was able to use my machines to measure pre and post workout strength, depth of effect, and recovery. Much to my surprise I found that, unlike in the past, I would actually have a measurable increase in post workout strength when checking four or so hours after a workout. I had never encountered this even when I thought I was reasonably healthy thirty years prior.

So, where does this lead?

I must confess, past the ramifications for a neat and orderly workout product we sold to the membership at the Nautilus facility decades ago, the whole mantra of every other day at the very most and even less for the advanced trainee never made sense at a particular level. I even feel guilty for having just typed these words. Yes, overtraining is certainly a real concern, especially for the subject who does hard physical labor day to day. But, there are just not that many physical demands placed upon the average person today. And to take things to absurd levels, there were those in this camp who would advocate total abstinence from any laborious work on “off” days. How did we ever survive?

So, I am conflicted. I know I have to walk that fine line with my metabolic issues related to my whole host of autoimmune issues confounded by some, I suspect, cellular metabolism issues. I can easily overtrain, and have done so in the past, to the point of collapse. But I find that I recover much more quickly today as I get ever so near to the age of sixty than I ever did when I was in what I thought was my healthful twenties just so long as I get the diet right. You can’t out train a bad diet, especially when you have celiac disease. Get it right, however, and recovery is a snap.