Roger Schwab


You can never move a weight too slowly, but you can easily move it too fast. If you are ever in doubt about your speed of movement, slow down. Fast movement may subject muscles, connective tissue and bones to high levels of impact forces. When force exceeds structural integrity, injury must occur. Recommended repetitions should take about four seconds to lift a weight and four seconds to lower a weight. Trainees who are meticulous about their workouts may utilize super slow techniques, raising the weight in ten seconds and lowering in ten seconds. Repetitions should be kept in the 8-12 range for four seconds up, four seconds down reps. If super slow is practiced, reps should be kept in the 4 to 6 range.


Although repetitions are performed slowly, overall conditioning is improved by moving quickly from exercise to exercise. A program of ten exercises should always be completed in approximately thirty minutes. Perform your exercises slowly and immediately move on to the next machine and begin. In this manner, you are working your muscular system (muscles-bone) as well as your cardio-respiratory system (heart-lungs) in the most efficient manner possible. If you work each muscle group thoroughly and intensely, you will elevate your heart rate on your first exercise and by moving quickly from machine to machine, keep your heart rate elevated for the remainder of your workout. This type of workout is the finest workout a healthy trainee can perform. Make every repetition of every exercise a quality repetition and move quickly between exercises. A careful break-in into this type of training is recommended.


This translates into an aesthetically firmer body along with stronger soft tissues and harder bones. The stronger you are, the better you move and the less prone you are to injury. While you cannot lessen the everyday forces in life that you are subjected to, you can improve your structural integrity to withstand those forces. In order to get firmer, you must get stronger. Women will not develop large muscles from increasing resistance on the machines, their muscles will merely get harder. As men get stronger they will increase muscular size according to the limits of their genetic potential. Building large muscles is extremely difficult for men who want them, let alone women who don't.


I will not fully re-kindle the debate about which is better - free weights or machines. Suffice it to say, if full range exercise - working a muscle throughout its full range of function from extension to full muscular contraction with proper variable resistance is important to you, then the MedX and Nautilus machines at Main Line Health and Fitness are your obvious choice. Although a barbell, used correctly, is a productive tool, a properly built machine (and MedX and Nautilus are the only such machines in this opinion) will do everything a barbell will and much more in a safer, more efficient manner. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, however, basic physics is not subject to individual opinion. A muscle shortens its length when contracting. In order to involve all available muscular fibers, there must be resistance in the position of full muscular contraction. There is no muscular resistance in the contracted position of most barbell exercises.


Meaningful workouts, exercises that stimulate a response from the overall system, inevitably take a toll on the system's recovery ability. Long drawn out workouts or too many workouts per week (more than three - two is probably ideal) may drain the system extensively, not allowing sufficient recovery. One hard set of each exercise stimulates results. Two or three sets of the same exercise is always a step backwards; leads to overtraining, substituting more work for harder work, lengthening the workout and lowering the intensity. If you are not consistently getting stronger, increasing your weights, chances are you are performing too much exercise, too often. Brief, intense exercise stimulates response, rest allows that response. Though individual muscles may recover quickly from hard training sessions, there is a deep inroad into the overall recovery system. The system will not recover so quickly and may take several days or more to completely recover. Thus, the so-called "split routine" system of training different body parts on different days is usually a mistake; will lead to overtraining and more low intensity exercise instead of brief high intensity exercise. The truth is that the stronger the trainee, the more intensely he or she trains, the less hard exercise he or she will be able to tolerate.


"Failure" in strength training is the inability to perform another complete repetition in good form. Most trainees believe that the "hard" repetitions at the end of a set are somehow dangerous, to be avoided. The fact is that every repetition of an exercise is a warm-up leading up to the last repetition. Injuries occur in strength training by moving the resistance too fast in the early repetitions of an exercise when the trainee is strongest and can generate the most force. By the final repetition, force production is lower and you are barely capable of moving a weight which was easy on your first several repetitions. The last repetition is the most important. Leaving out those last "hard" reps reduces the potential benefits of exercise greatly. Move every repetition slowly, when you cannot do another repetition, try it anyway. If you reach your repetition goal, add approximately 5% to the resistance for your next workout.


There is an orthopaedic cost when overworking most types of cardio-vascular exercise. Day in and day out stress on the joints can hasten degenerative change. Remember, joint stress accumulates silently. Lower back, neck and knee pain can occur when people exercise obsessively over the years, not understanding the true "cause and effect" of proper exercise. Though most prevalent in runners, joint stress can occur even from excessive low impact type exercise such as cycling, climbing stairs and walking. By alternating aerobic equipment each workout and not always using the same machine (i.e. treadmill), trainees may reduce the effects of "overuse." Always look for the least amount of exercise that stimulates the desired results. Several (in most cases two, and at most three) 30 minute strength training sessions per week preceded or followed by 15-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise ensures safe benefits to heart and lungs, muscles and bones. A more efficient approach is a circuit-type strength training program where intense strength training is performed with little or no rest between machines.


Performing endless amounts of sit-ups or "crunches" will not speed fat loss in the stomach area. The abdominals, like every other major muscular group, will respond to exercise by getting stronger, if trained briefly and intensely. High repetition abdominal exercises of many different varieties of sit-ups, leg raises etc., are usually performed with the intention of "burning off' excessive fatty tissue in the stomach area. The truth, of course, is that if there is excessive fat on the stomach, there is some fat everywhere. And, the most efficient way to burn that fat is eating less food and training the whole body hard. You can not "spot reduce" visible fatty areas by performing more exercise for that specific area.


If you are adding body fat somewhere, you are adding it everywhere. The biggest problem with eating in our society is that in most cases we eat too much. The problem is not so much what we are eating as it is how much we are eating. Yes, you do need complex carbohydrates and protein in your diet, but you need some fats also. Eat a semblance of a well rounded diet (a variety of the basic food groups as recommended by the National Research Council) and if you see more fat on your body than you desire, decrease the amount of food you are eating accordingly. Women who believe strength training makes them "bulky" are mistaking body fat for muscles. Strength training is the most important exercise for all women (men also) who want to be "leaner." Muscles are very "metabolic" tissues. A greater muscle to fat ratio equates to a higher basal metabolism. Remember, the most efficient way to burn calories is to eat less food, not increase the amount of exercise.


The principles at Main Line Health & Fitness are based on the basic laws of physics and common sense. Do not be misled by the "fitness" articles in most glamour or "muscle" magazines. These magazines have been delivering the same commercially biased messages for years with different "twists" and "hooks" having long run out of any useful information. New exercise fads will lure some people who don't know better and many others who should know better. However, high intensity strength training performed as it should be, as it is taught at Main Line Health and Fitness will always be the exercise of choice - at least for those people seeking the most sensible way to improve functional ability and everyday life.


                                                Medx Rehabilitative Exercise and Fitness