Roger Schwab

Flip through the pages of any fitness magazine, men or women's, and the obvious overtone quickly rises from the glossy pages. Usually in bold print, the words scream out with the "latest and greatest" new workout for optimum results. Strong words with catchy titles -"Tae Bo," "Power Yoga," "Sergeant's Program," "Pilates," and anything involving kick boxing or the martial arts -- each discipline, some of value, others questionable at best, none essential, promising its "true believers" the next level of fitness along with serious attitude and slight measure of "fun" as an added kicker. The latter, a 90's necessity because exercise, whatever the form, must have some component of "fun," or "we" just won't do it -- period! Whoever "we" is?

If the fitness magazine is your initial venture towards determining just what it takes to get into shape, some initial interest is possibly stimulated, as it was for me albeit almost 35 years ago. Those years ago, the words and hype in the magazines were, of course, different, yet the message was virtually the same. Always, it was "the latest, the best way to exercise" until the never mentioned next "best way' was revealed in the following month's issue. At the risk of bursting your bubble or shattering your hopes, it is this view that any worthwhile information published by fitness-related magazines was exhausted years ago and present day pages are merely filled with "fluff' in order to keep the written word alive. A cynical viewpoint? Maybe. But the actual facts ultimately prove otherwise; at least the facts necessary to comprehend an optimal improvement in functional ability; the not so glamorous term for realizing your physical potential -- the cornerstone to overall "quality of life" in the physical and psychological sense. A "win-win" on both levels because once grasped, understood, and practiced, the self-evident truth passes every conceivable test; never bends or breaks to the everlasting onslaught of opinions, fads, trends, or commercial biases.

Here are facts that stand on their own; laws of basic physics not subject to opinion -- yours or mine. Muscles have functions, move the body and support the skeleton. Without a simple understanding of muscles, the mere mention of which turns off members of both sexes by stirring both fear and ignorance, there is no understanding of exercise, of any kind. Deny the word and thus the existence and you are denying any movement of the living body for any purpose whatsoever. All of your favorites -all dance, sports of all varieties, "spinning" and each of its companion group trainings, everything active -- takes at least a basic understanding of your muscles, their functions and development. Grasp this and you are well on your way to understanding the core of exercise, the essential "means to the end" which enables everyone who is physically capable to participate optimally (with the requisite specific skill requirements) in their chosen activities culminating in everyone's own definition of quality of life.

Muscles have functions all muscles, large and small. And of what importance is this knowledge. Just everything regarding human performance. Know the major muscles and their functions and you immediately have the information necessary to strengthen a particular muscle through its full range-of-motion, a big step in realizing optimal performance in any and every activity. An example? The largest muscular structure on the body is the gluteus maximus and the development and strength of these large muscles are largely responsible for the performance in many sports necessitating great power and strength. Obviously knowledge with great potential of importance, yet for the most part totally ignored. Not anymore! The function of the gluteus maximus is to draw the legs in line with the torso. Simply stated, to extend the hip. Working these muscles directly against resistance will go a long way in improving the performance of every athlete in every sport.

And how do you directly strengthen these muscles? I'll give you a hint. You won't find the answer in an aerobics class whatever the class -- power yoga or any form of yoga, outdoor exercise, or even free weight exercises. The answer is utilizing equipment that strengthens these and all powerful muscles throughout their full range of movement -- equipment that offers full range, direct and variable resistance, all necessary because the strength of a muscle changes, sometimes dramatically throughout its range-of-motion. A resistance that is correct in one position of movement will be incorrect, either too light or too heavy in another position of the movement -- and thus the need for equipment. Machines, dreaded and under-appreciated by those who don't understand their necessity or just don't like machines. There is no other way to potentially work a muscle thoroughly and completely. Accept it. The facts are there to prove it. And the same is true for every major muscular structure of the body.

The function of muscles dictates the design of worthwhile equipment (MedX, Nautilus). Understand the function and the equipment and you will know how to exercise the muscle in its most efficient and safe manner. No arguments. No exceptions.

Here is a list of the major muscular structures and their primary functions:

- Gluteus maximus - extend the hip

- Quadriceps - extend the lower leg

- Hamstrings - bend the lower leg and extend the hips

- Hip Abductors - hip abduction

- Hip Adductors - hip adduction

- Calf - heel elevation

- Latissimus - draw the humerus down post the torso

- Pectorals - draw the humerus down across the torso

- Deltoids - abduct the humerus

- Biceps - supinate the hand, bend the arm, and elevate the elbow

- Triceps - straighten the arm and rotate the elbow to the rear of the torso

- Cervical Spine - extend the neck, flex the neck, rotation left and right, lateral bending left and right

- Trapezius - elevate the shoulders

- Abdominals - shorten the distance between the sternum and the pubic bone

- Lumbar Spine - extend the spine while anchoring the pelvis

Now you know the function of the major muscular structures of the body. Now, logically, you can identify and formulate an exercise routine that will sensibly and safely strengthen these muscles from stretch to full contraction, full range exercise with the guesswork removed.

Now you know the philosophy at Main Line Health and Fitness, a passion for learning and understanding the truth and sharing it.

We recommend the following full range, direct exercises (indicated by an *) and the best conventional compound, multi-joint exercises; a routine which will stimulate results for virtually anyone. This is the necessary "means to the end" strength building routine, which will enhance functional ability at any level of human performance in the ultimate quest for maximal, everyday "quality of life" for every participant.

The Workout - Essential Exercises
Directly working the Major Muscular Structures of the Body

* Hip Extension (gluteus maximus)

* Leg Extension (quadriceps)

* Leg Curl (hamstrings)

* Hip Abduction (hip abductors) Optional

* Hip Adduction (hip adductors) Optional

 Leg Press or Squat (gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves)

* Pullover (latissimus and related torso musculature)

 Torso Arm, Rows or Chins (biceps and latissimus)

* [Arm Cross (pectorals, deltoids)

* [Any Chest Press or Dips (triceps, pectorals, deltoids)

Alternate the above two bracketed exercises with the following two bracketed exercises in the following workout:

* [Lateral Raise (deltoids, pectorals)

[Any Shoulder Press or Dips (triceps, deltoids, pectorals)

* Biceps Curls (biceps) Optional

* Triceps Extension (triceps) Optional

* Abdominal Machine (abdominals) Optional


* Rotary Torso (obliques) Optional


* Torso Flexion (hip flexors) Optional

* Four-Way Neck (cervical muscles)


* Shrugs (trapezius)

* Lumbar Extension (lumbar extensors), if available

Important Notes

1.      Follow the exercise order, working the largest to smallest muscular structures.

2.      The exact same workout will work for everyone. We all have the same muscles. The only variable will be the intensity of effort.

3.      Perform each exercise slowly (for optimal strength, flexibility, and safety). However, move from one exercise to the next as quickly as possible (for optimal cardio-respiratory benefits).

4.      Perform 7-15 repetitions (your choice within this range). Every exercise should be taken to momentary muscular failure -- your inability to perform another repetition in perfect form.

5.      Perform exercises at most twice a week. Your goal is to get stronger on every exercise and out perform your previous workout, raising resistance when repetition goals are achieved.

6.      Perform one set of each exercise. Increasing the amount of sets or exercises in this workout is the worst mistake you can make.

7.      Monitor the amount of food that you eat, not the amount of exercise you perform to regulate your body fat.

8.      Improved functional ability, physical development, and realistic aesthetic goals will be directly related to your intensity of effort, systemic recovery between workouts, and may ultimately be realized within the defined limits of your genetic potential.

The facts and common sense presented in this position paper reflect integrity, purpose, and the commitment to understanding and sharing the truth