THE WORKOUT ITSELF
What Is The Value, If Any?
Roger Schwab


I
n order to realize the potential benefits of exercise, it is fundamental to understand the actual workout itself and its value, if any. The workout is the means to the end and not the end itself. The workout produces nothing of value (can even cause immediate injury). The workout may, however, potentially stimulate a response from the body's overall systems (musculoskeletal, cardio-respiratory, etc.). It is the rest period following the workout that allows the response. This stimulus and response, what I term the "cause and effect" of exercise, is the basis for understanding the real value of exercise on a physiological level. Simple enough, when stated, nothing more than common sense. However, in the field of exercise, common sense is anything but common.

Exercise properly performed (which is seldom) is capable of stimulating important improvements in the strength of muscle/bones and heart/lungs, benefits, which can greatly enhance the quality of life of literally anyone. The workout must be progressive, infrequent (a whole body workout performed two times per week maximum), and medically sound. The term progressive means that the trainee must constantly strive to exceed the performance of the previous workout. The goal of each workout should be an increase in the resistance and/or repetitions of each exercise in the program; while, under all circumstances, maintaining perfect form: slow, smooth repetitions throughout the greatest range of possible movement. This objective progression is necessary to stimulate the optimum response of the muscular-skeletal system. The workout can and should be virtually the same for any healthy individual with regard to the exercises performed within the workout, with the primary variable being the intensity of effort, which may vary according to age, orthopedic or cardiovascular considerations, and training experience.

Simultaneously, enormous benefits in "conditioning" (heart/lung) are stimulated by limiting the rest periods between exercises to a minimum. Thus, the pace of the workout is brisk, though the exercises are performed slowly. This high-intensity, low-force (one set of 10-15 repetitions leading to muscular failure--inability to perform another repetition in perfect form) circuit-type exercise routine would seem to be the most efficient, result-stimulating program for virtually everyone. Note: such beneficial exercise must have a carefully supervised "break-in" period to insure that the trainee gradually adjusts to the demands of progressive exercise as opposed to more conventional and less beneficial training protocols (i.e., multi-set quantity rather than quality routines). It is this stimulus (intensity of effort) and rest (days following the workout before another workout is scheduled) that forces and allows the body to respond by growing stronger and more enduring. The value of the workout is determined by the qualitative physiological response--progressing in strength via increasing resistance and/or repetitions with each workout. The goal of the workout is not the vehicle to weight control. The most efficient way to lose body fat is to eat smaller quantities of a well-balanced diet, forcing the body to burn its own fat as a form of fuel, while simultaneously the workout maintains and/or builds lean tissue yielding a harder, potentially leaner body less prone to injury. Everyday "guilt-laden" workouts performed to offset over-eating are never the solution; are often the problem.

The value of the workout is not determined by the resulting "soreness" (which "soreness" may also result from exercise routines of little or no value, unaccustomed stretching movements, varying the order of exercises, or other factors having no relevance to functional improvement). Nor is the workout determined by how much a trainee "sweats," endorphin "highs," or quantity of overall exercise.

Trainees should be keenly aware of the psychological factors surrounding exercise and potential problems. Often, psychological "well being" accompanies exercise performance and inevitably leads to the conclusion that if some exercise is good, more must be better. Thus, exercise potentially becomes the "end" in itself instead of the means. And outcomes result in "negative" results as opposed to benefits. Common sense dictates that too many workouts consisting of too many exercises over a period of time, though potentially capable of stimulating a response, will not allow that response and will in many cases constitute a condition of over training, depleting the body's overall recovery ability and leaving the trainee weaker and vulnerable to sickness, exhaustion, and orthopedic injuries that eventually become chronic.

It is very important to keep in mind that exercise overdone can and will hasten degenerative change. Instead of slowing down the aging process (which sensible exercise is very capable of doing), compulsive, impulsive exercise behavior will eventually breakdown structural integrity. Joint stress accumulates silently, and the wear and tear of daily exercise rituals will almost certainly lead to greater orthopedic cost as opposed to functional/structural improvement. The logical conclusion, if the information provided is understood, clearly indicates that the proper amount of sensible, medically sound exercise is the least amount of exercise that stimulates the desired results.

EXAMPLE OF PROPER SEQUENCE IN A MEANINGFUL WORKOUT

1.      Hip extension (glutei group, hamstrings, and low back).

2.      Leg extension (quadriceps).

3.      Leg curl (hamstrings).

4.      Leg press or squat (glutei group and legs).

5.      Pullover (upper torso, trapezius, and abdominal).

6.      Torso arm or row (upper torso, shoulders, and arms).

7.      Arm cross or 100 chest (chest and shoulders). - OR Lateral raise, rowing back, or shrugs (shoulders and trapezius).

8.      Chest press or dips (chest, shoulders, and arms). - OR Overhead press (shoulders, arms, and upper torso).

9.      Biceps or assisted chins* (biceps and upper torso*).

10.   Triceps or assisted dips* (triceps and shoulders*, and chest*).

11.   Abdominal, torso flexion, or torso rotation (abdominal, hip flexors, and obliques).

12.   Four way neck (flexion, extension and lateral bending of the neck).