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.