WOD Wed. 08/25/10

Foam roller Rest/Skill/Recovery


Foam Rolling out pre/post exercise.

Interesting article:

A No-Nonsense
Look at the Often Nonsensical World of Fitness Clubs.

Paul Scott
Oct 23, 2007

Life Magazine

A state-of-the-art health club recently
opened in Rochester, Minnesota, where I live. A gleaming
cathedral of exercise, it cost $22 million to build and features an expansive
climate-controlled fitness floor beneath three-story ceilings and a soaring
wall of windows. Like most American health clubs—a $17.6 billion industry made
up of more than 29,000 clubs and 42.7 million members—the facility reserved its
nerve center to house its greatest treasure: hundreds of futuristic and
impossibly sleek cardio- and strength-training machines. Walking these aisles
is like entering the showroom of a Mercedes-Benz dealership.

You can’t help but touch the things, to rub
their cool slate-gray exteriors and to squeeze their padding. The mechanical
housing has become more unisex, the digital readouts more technical, and the
end result is an impressive ability to make you forget that this is the same
basic collection of machines that have anchored the floors of health clubs for
almost four decades. There are leg-extension, leg-press, leg-curl, and
upper-body workstations in the aisles for building muscle, and treadmills,
elliptical trainers, and stationary cycles in the aisles for developing cardio

On a recent afternoon, it thrummed with
activity: Men and women logged obedient noiseless reps on a range of machines;
runners banged out the miles on treadmills; and one gal raced away on an
elliptical machine, legs neither running nor swinging, but doing something
inexplicable in a feverish Road Runner–like blur. It’s a vision of exercise
utopia that is mirrored in gyms across the country. Except that a growing
chorus of critics find fault with it: The man jackknifed into the leg-extension
machine could be risking knee injury; the exercisers slaving away on other
stationary machines are building individual muscles in place of whole-body
strength; the people slogging away on the treadmills with their eyes glued to
TV screens seem like automatons.

No wonder the attrition rate for gym members
hovers at 35 percent a year, according to the International Health, Racquet
& Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), and the latest estimates show that almost
half of exercisers give up on a new routine within a year. It seems fair to ask
if health clubs are partially responsible for the obesity epidemic, a trend
that has followed the rise of the industry. Perhaps the first development has
not been caused by the second, but it certainly hasn’t been helped either. With
all the fancy equipment and with all the desire out there to look good, why
can’t we keep the weight off? Why can’t we stick to our gym workouts? Is it our
fault? Or does the fault lie elsewhere?

“The health-club culture tries to create a
dependency on machines,” says Vern Gambetta, a trainer with 38 years of
experience training professional and recreational athletes, and the author of
Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning.
“If you have a limited amount of time to work out, you’re better off ditching
the machine to do different kinds of body-weight and whole-body exercises.
You’ll get more caloric burn for your time spent.” Critics also charge that a
traditional machine-centric regimen has other downfalls. In general, it relies
excessively on the discipline of the exerciser, it promotes training muscles in
isolation (as opposed to how muscles really work, in a chain of movement), and
it can stress vulnerable joints more than is necessary. At issue is not only
the very meat and potatoes of how you work out, but also the best way to get
the most out of your time in the gym.

There is potential for pain in any workout.
The key to preventing injury is to find your weak links and then modify your exercise
to fortify your weak links, while also not putting stress on them, says
Nicholas DiNubile, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine
and the author of FrameWork: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones,
and Joints. The three most common strength-training-related injuries Dr.
DiNubile sees are rotator-cuff problems, knee issues, and lower-back pain.
While these are not exclusive to machine-based training, the nonfunctional
movements that some machines require, coupled with heavy loads and
less-than-perfect form, can cause problems—especially in men over 40 whose
joints are getting creaky—and are not especially meaningful.

Researchers, for instance, have known that
the leg-extension machine (the unit in which you sit with your shin behind a
padded bar attached to a weight stack and then straighten your leg in front of
you) trains you to do just one thing: become very strong at the leg-extension
machine. In one of the few studies on this subject, researchers from the University of Kentucky studied 23 patients with knee
pain to see what made them stronger: a step-up test or doing leg extensions.
While they found that both groups eventually became stronger at doing leg
extensions, only the group doing the step-up test actually became stronger at
stepping up and doing functional activities. The reason: The seated
leg-extension machine has nothing to do with how we use our legs, which are
meant to hold us upright against gravity while we walk, climb, or descend.

In fact, Chris Powers, a biokinesiology
researcher at the University
of Southern California
determined that although the thighbone rotates under the kneecap as we walk,
using a leg-extension machine actually causes the kneecap to rotate on the
thighbone. The mechanics of the leg-extension machine simply doesn’t simulate
what happens in functional activity (e.g., walking, running, or going down
steps). “The leg-extension machine puts a lot of strain on the knee ligaments
and the patella,” says Tim Hewett, PhD, a professor in the departments of
biomedical engineering and pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati.
“I would never consider letting our athletes use a leg-extension machine.”

Paul Juris, EdD, executive director of the
Cybex Institute, the research and education arm of the leading
stationary-equipment manufacturer, says “maybe” to the criticism that
leg-extension machines impose pressure on the knee, but adds that shear forces
exist in a host of exercises, such as lunges and squats. “On the leg-extension
machine,” he says, “I can mitigate those forces by moving the pad higher up the
shin, raising the weight, and then using only the top 15 percent of the
machine’s range of motion.” It’s a thoughtful response, but it undercuts the
primary selling point of machine-based training, which is that using a machine
is always safer than other forms of training. When it comes to promoting
strength that is not meaningful, the leg-extension machine is one of many.

The leg press is equally disconnected from
the reality of human anatomy. Doubters can Google the sight of 77-year-old
televangelist Pat Robertson leg pressing what he claims to be half a ton, while
former secretary of state Madeline Albright, who is 70, has stated that she is
good for up to 400 pounds on a leg-press machine. Either these two
septuagenarians are as strong as linebackers or something’s wrong here.
“There are no motor-control requirements on a leg-press machine,” explains
Stuart McGill, PhD, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo,
in Ontario. “You
just push. In real-life tasks, you have to balance on one leg, you have to
sidestep, and you have to get all the muscles to coordinate together. These are
very different patterns.” Machines such as the leg press and the leg extension
give off a faulty assumption that muscles are to be strengthened one at a
time—in isolation—rather than in the ever-changing alliances in which they must
actually produce and reduce force in real life. According to Cybex’s Juris, we
need to isolate muscles to get at hidden weaknesses, that, thanks to our body’s
desire to protect its weakest link, we won’t otherwise find.

“If you have a weakness in a particular
portion of your musculature, the body will compensate to protect that
weakness,” says Juris. “The only way you can target that weakness is by
isolating a joint.” Critics see the targeting of isolated muscle weakness as
hubris, plain and simple. “How are you going to isolate every one of those weak
areas anyway?” asks Gambetta. “That’s a reductionist view of the body. I take a
holistic view of the body.” Gambetta calls “compensation for weakness” the
beauty of the body. “The body is not a machine,” he says. “The body is smart.”

Many critics also say that health clubs
perpetuate the false divide between strength and cardio. “This dichotomy is
artificial,” says Gambetta. His argument is based on the perceived importance
of VO2 max, the term for your maximum oxygen absorption potential and the holy
grail of most sessions spent on a treadmill, stair climber, rower, stationary
cycle, or elliptical trainer. “VO2 max is a popular yardstick for health
because it is measurable,” says Gambetta, “but it is just one of many factors
related to endurance performance.” If it’s the steady elevation of heart rate
you’re after, any strength program based on whole-body movements will have your
heart rate elevated as readily as the most popular elliptical trainer. It’s
hard to understand how we came to the point where a healthy person with two
good knees can find himself stepping off an elliptical trainer and climbing
onto a commercial-grade Total Gym, a newly marketed device otherwise known as a
gravity machine. Aren’t we all living on a gravity machine?

When he passed away on August 28, at the age
of 80, Arthur Jones died having accomplished nothing less than fundamentally
rewriting the way we exercise. In the late 1960s, Jones designed the
multistation Blue Monster (later renamed the Nautilus), the first user-friendly
strength-training machine. His invention “led to the ‘machine environment’ that
is prevalent today in health clubs,” according to his obituary in The New York
Times. The consensus within the health-club industry was that Jones’s legacy
was for the better, both for the physical health of Americans and the financial
health of modern health clubs. Joe Moore, president of IHRSA, says, “Many of
the innovations he came up with in the 1970s are still incorporated into
strength training on machines of all brands.” Nautilus vice president of
product development Greg Webb said in The New York Times, “The idea of a health
club changed. It became big business. Arthur Jones started that.”

If that is the case, it might trouble some
to know that our machinery-based approach to fitness, far from having been
distilled through years of careful academic study of biomechanics, was in fact
set in motion by a ninth-grade dropout and amateur anatomist who carried a Colt
.45, rode the rails, imported and hunted exotic animals, married six different
women who were between the ages 16 and 20 when they married him, and “lived on
a diet of cigarettes, chocolate, scrambled eggs, and coffee,” according to The
New York Times. There’s no doubt that Jones’s invention brought resistance
training to the masses, but his claim that he created a “thinking man’s barbell”
is more marketing than truth. In fact, most strength machines are designed for
bodybuilding and require relatively little expertise for either the user or the
trainer, and therein lies both their appeal and their flaw.

If you are a bodybuilder—that is, if you
have strength trained for years and dieted so rigorously that your body-fat
percentage is in the single digits—then it potentially makes sense to train
individual muscles in isolation. The other case in which machine-based training
makes sense is in rehab, when the body has become so disabled that it must be
rebuilt brick by brick. But most of us are neither crippled nor on the verge of
entering the Mr. Olympia
competition, so why do we train as if either is the case? The answer is a
combination of the gyms’ desire to maximize profits, and our own desire to find
workouts that don’t involve work.

“The club owners bought into what the
equipment industry told us,” says Michael Scott Scudder, a former club owner
and a leading consultant to the industry since 1991. And what the equipment
makers ultimately told the gym owners was that if you stocked enough machines,
you could do without as much one-on-one attention from trainers. “I don’t think
fitness happens best in isolation,” says Steve Myrland, manager of Myrland
Sports Training and a former strength coach for the University of Wisconsin
and the San Jose Sharks. Various studies back this up, showing that people who
exercise in groups maintain greater motivation to train than those who work out
alone. “This is hard stuff, and it’s a lot easier to share hard stuff than do
it yourself. At the clubs, you are going to be turned loose on the machines,
and a machine is like an isolation booth.”

The desire to retain customers also has led
to a modern gym environment that some critics believe sends mixed messages.
“The problem with our gyms is that they misrepresent the fact that you are
fundamentally there to do work,” says Jack Berryman, PhD, a professor of
medical history at the University of Washington and a historian for the American College
of Sports Medicine. “The modern gym is a techno holiday with gadgets and
lights. They’re trying to entertain people.” And this can be detrimental to
exercisers who are trying to stick with their workouts. Performance psychologist
Jim Loehr, EdD, author of The Power of Story and chairman and CEO of the Human
Performance Institute, in Orlando,
, advises busy corporate
executives on how to become more successful at sustaining their commitment to
fitness. He has found that a primary component for making exercise sustainable
is to stop tuning out during workouts. “We don’t want you disengaged while you
are working out,” he says. “We tell ourselves that exercise is so painful that
the only thing you can do to get through it is to watch TV. Watching television
and working out is a form of multitasking. To me, however, real value lies in
paying attention. It is an engagement practice, it gets your mind off work, and
it aligns what you’re doing with what you’re thinking.”

Perhaps the best evidence against
traditional health clubs is that these days most elite athletes rarely step
foot in one. They work out in environments designed for functional training.
Evolving on the sidelines of the fitness industry for the last decade or so, functional
training, or FT, has become the buzzword within the fitness industry, and many
observers feel that it can cure some of the ailments plaguing health clubs.

An FT approach to fitness stresses the
training of movements over muscles, the irrelevance of strength without
mobility, the neurological foundation to strength and athleticism, and the use
of simple tools to gain complex results. The main purpose of FT is to bridge
the gap between absolute strength and functional strength, to achieve peak performance,
and to prevent injuries, says Gambetta, one of FT’s early proponents. In
general, FT discourages the use of machines in favor of free weights,
body-weight exercises, and certain devices used in physical therapy, such as
medicine balls, stability balls, wobble boards, and resistance bands.

The proliferation of FT-based approaches has
touched various sports and all levels of athletes. For instance, there’s Bill
Knowles, director of iSport Training, in Vermont, who has trained various
Olympic athletes, and Greg Roskopf, founder of Muscle Activation Techniques,
who has worked as a biomechanical consultant for the Denver Broncos, the Denver
Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz. Core-training gurus such as Paul Chek and Mark
Verstegen have built up extensive client lists with athletes from all the major
professional sports. Boutique FT clubs are cropping up all over the country,
such as Conrad’s Body Tribe, in Sacramento, California; Exuberant Animal, in
Seattle; and Myrland’s Morning Movement Mayhem, in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2001,
Gregg Glassman founded CrossFit, a back-to-basics functional-training program
that’s popular with the military and law enforcement; it now has close to 200
affiliates, with outposts in almost every state.

Health clubs themselves are also adapting.
“Most IHRSA clubs can now offer functional training,” says Moore, but you will have to seek it out.
“Aerobics areas often have smaller classes that utilize free weights,
dumbbells, and different types of balance mechanisms.” While men have traditionally
avoided large classes, more and more are participating in small group
exercises, says Richard Cotton, the American
of Sports
Medicine national director of certification. “There’s a trend of groups of two
or three signing up for a session together,” he says, “especially if they are
transferring from a machine-based regimen to a functional-training approach,
because learning the proper form is essential. Some guys worry that they’ll
lose bulk, but that’s a misperception. You can still make strength and mass
gains, and the advantage is that your body will be in better balance.” Michael
Rogers, a professor of human performance at Wichita State University who has
studied functional training in older adults, concurs: “Many young men strength
train purely for appearance,” he says, “while older men are looking for
exercises that will improve function in their daily lives, whether it’s a
golfer strengthening his swing with a resistance band or a triathlete training
his core on a stability ball. They realize it’s more meaningful to work out to
enhance an aspect of your life.” In recent years, manufacturers such as
FreeMotion and Hammer Strength Ground Base have built cable-based strength
machines and special functional machines to build whole-body strength. Many
allow ground-based training that does not conform to a factory-set plane of
movement. In fact, my gym has some of these new machines, and a lot of health
clubs have them, so there are some good choices to be made in many gyms if you
know what to look for. But the essence of training smarter doesn’t require a
high-end piece of gear, but rather the ability to absorb a small set of
principles. Gambetta, who created the Freethinker’s Workout (opposite page),
recommends using these guidelines to make the best decisions in the gym.

Train on your feet. Sitting is an unnatural
body position for strenuous work. Once you sit, you lose your body’s natural
anchor: the muscles of the back, butt, abdominal core, and legs. Ground-based
training immediately puts an end to a host of outdated stationary-machine and
free-weight lifts, including the bench press, military press, incline press,
and chest press, and leg extensions, leg presses, leg curls, preacher curls,
and so on. You’ll find that staying on your feet keeps your heart rate up,
requires you to think creatively, and keeps your workout moving along
efficiently. You’re either exercising or walking it off. That keeps your
awareness up and boredom down.

Vary your pace. Stationary running or
cycling can become a semiconscious plod, anesthetized by television.
Structuring tempo builds aerobic capacity, burns calories more efficiently,
builds strength, and helps develop the ability to absorb force while in motion.
Tempo changes do not have to be intense, only clearly drawn, whether you
alternate 30-second efforts or do an “inverted pyramid” of descending durations
of effort. Mentally, varying your tempo makes the time go by faster as well.
With alternating durations of effort, you are pushing, recovering, or holding steady,
and never simply tuning out.

Train movements, not muscles. The five basic
movements to develop in any exercise session are limited to different forms of
stepping, pushing, pulling, squatting, and rotating. There’s no need to do one
exercise for your biceps, another for your shoulders, and another for your
chest. Two good pushing drills take care of them all. Instead of targeting the
upper back and then the lower back, simply pull (in the form of pull-ups or
incline pull-ups) and bridge (holding your torso stiff to build strength in
your back). For the lower body, lunge, step-down, and squat drills are all it
takes, and body weight alone is usually more than enough load.

Train for the four elements: stopping,
slowing, descending/ascending, and catching. Many gyms don’t value the
reduction of force—the catching of a ball, landing from a step-down, or
changing direction—because there’s no easy way to measure it. Yet stopping,
descending, and absorbing momentum are far more valuable for joint safety than
any isolated strength-building exercise. This means not only throwing a
medicine ball but also catching each return throw or rebound. It means stepping
downward on one leg, running downhill, developing footwork agility, and
squatting or lunging with control.

Prepare to use the distant corners of your
gym. Since gyms are not often set up for clients who move their bodies across
space or in multiple directions, who toss weighted balls, or who need to do
drills that require stopping and starting quickly, a more athletically based
use of your health club will often require taking over its less populated
areas. Empty basketball courts, aerobics classrooms, and other open areas are
necessary in order to train dynamically indoors, so get used to feeling like a
pioneer on the prairie.

While Gambetta’s workout can be done in any
commercial gym, some exercisers are looking for salvation outside the
proverbial box. To build Revolution Defense and Fitness, a small commercial gym
tucked away in a light industry business park in suburban Minneapolis, Damian Hirtz spent about as much
on gear as the typical health club spends on its pec deck. Hirtz’s low-tech
fitness center is an affiliate of CrossFit and has a climbing rope,
kettlebells, medicine balls, jump ropes, a set of heavy bags, a set of big
plates, and a chin-up station made from galvanized pipe he admits he bought in
the plumbing aisle at Home Depot. That’s about it. No machines, no mirrors, no

It’s not that he’s cheap. It’s just that
it’s hard to break the bank when you’ve intentionally turned your back on the
vast majority of gear that adorns the floor of the typical gym. “Why do I want
distractions?” says the 33-year-old father of two boys, ages 6 and 13. “My
clients want a workout that’s fast and efficient.” One of those clients is
Brian, a 36-year-old mechanic, who is currently banging out the 30 pull-ups
required for today’s “Dirty 30” workout, a timed set of 30 box jumps, walking
lunges, kettlebell swings, medicine-ball wall throws, and other full-body exercises
scrawled on a marker board. Hirtz allows Brian, and the other guys and one
woman in attendance, to do the chin-ups with resistance bands to help them get
over the bar. Or they get themselves up by swinging their torsos. Or they break
up their work into smaller sets. Pulling is pulling.

All that’s required is that they do today’s
workout together and mark their workout time when they’re done. “You compete
only against yourself,” says Hirtz, “but you might work a little faster if you
notice the guy next to you is working harder than you are.” Joining us for
today’s effort are a 36-year-old bariatric surgeon named Chuck, a 33-year-old
insurance underwriter named Mark, a 57-year-old musician named George, and a
36-year-old trainer named Gina. They share little in common other than no one
looks overly fed or overly built. To a man (and one woman), they look lean and
all-around strong. “Put them in any sport,” says Hirtz, “and they can hang.”

© Copyright 2007 Best Life Magazine


Posted in Arlington Heights WOD, Uncategorized.