Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Creating the Ultimate Stationary Bike

Whether designing an exercise program for a world-class athlete -- or the senior, disabled, even terminal -- the most important consideration is the design of what it was meant to do, and how best to optimize that functioning, and with this understanding of what it was meant for, achieve its best performance and maintenance (health).

Without this proper understanding, any amount of effort is likely to be unproductive and discouraging -- rather than the key to health and vitality -- for as long as they live, and not that they suffer a catastrophic event or injury, and swear off exercise for the rest of their lives -- with predictably disastrous results.

Exercise is the process by which one keeps their body in its optimal health and functioning -- and with seniors particularly, we see the lifelong impacts of what they've done -- good, bad, and indifferent.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to see this.  Most people do in the ordinary course of their day.  It's obvious even to the untrained and unindoctrinated -- which people are healthy and which people are not -- and if they are predatory and exploitative, they select the least able as their targets -- rather than the most formidable.  One does not need to be a human to understand those differences.  Every form of life makes those distinctions -- because it is immensely advantageous to do so, and their very life may depend on it.

That is the importance of looking around and making those discriminations -- rather than thinking that nothing makes a difference -- or should, and the results are all the same no matter what one does.  That's not a prescription for success in anything one does.  The successful make it their practice to observe the relationship of one thing to every other -- and determine the critical path of cause and effects -- from all the other co-incidences, that may or may not be related, or significant.

Chief among these is the thinking that expenditure of energy accounts for the results -- when clearly, the master practitioners of every activity, are those who are the most economical and efficient -- rather than those who are the most profligate in their expenditures -- as though they will always have unlimited time, energy and resources to burn.  Understandably, it matters more, the older they get -- rather than thinking as the novice does -- that those considerations will always be unlimited, and even multiplied, the more one wastes of it.

The world doesn't work that way.  It wants to achieve maximum efficiency and economy of resources -- and the whole design of living organisms is to achieve that effect.  There is a reason muscles contract from the insertion at the distal (furthest) end towards the proximal (closest to the center) or origin of that muscle, which then is inserted into the insertion of the supporting (proximal) muscle -- all the way back to the origin of all the muscles at the center next to the heart -- so in that way and manner, the blood and fluids can return to the central organs that purify and recycle those waste products for the next cycle of circulation.

If that movement doesn't occur, then the body is overcome with accumulated waste products (inflammation) and one see the typical bloating at the extremities of the hands, feet and head -- experienced as the neuropathies, arthritis, dementias in those tissues before the others.  That's why exercise can be so effective at (re)moving them -- because that is what the muscle contractions do.  The contractions at the extremities push the blood (fluids) forcefully back towards the heart -- which the heart cannot do no matter how hard or fast it is forced to work.  That is not its job: its job is just to pump the blood out to the extremities -- but if the extremities do not contract to force the residual blood and fluids out beforehand, it cannot go into those tissues -- because that is not how the system is designed to work.

Recently, some exercise researchers have proclaimed that the calf muscles are the second "heart" of the body because it does that.  But that is a misnomer because the heart is a very specialized and dedicated muscle that can do only one thing -- contract fully and relax fully -- which is the action of a pump.  While the skeletal muscles allow one to run, jump, throw, bat, look around, etc., if it contracts fully alternated with a full relaxation for a sustained period of time, it too acts as a pump.

Most people have been conditioned to think that it is resistance that produces the contraction and the relaxation -- instead of more properly, the range of muscle contraction and relaxation achieved in moving any muscle around its axis of rotation -- regardless if there is any resistance.  The resistance then, is provided by attempting to increase the range of movement in the contracted position -- and the relaxed position -- otherwise one could move infinitely in any direction they desired, which only a rare few seem to be able to do.

Such full range movements are particularly important at the axes of the joints at the furthest extremity, because it means that that entire area is being cleared and creating space for new nutrients that provide all the necessary requirements for health and growth -- but first getting rid of the accumulated toxins that arise from metabolic processes in addition to an accelerated load produced in exercise that requires the break down of cells to release energy and waste products.  Thus one experiences muscle fatigue and resulting soreness at an accelerated pace in recovery.

The peculiarity of modern exercise design is to eliminate the movements at the extremities in favor of movement at the more central joints (axes) of the shoulder and hip girdle -- and so the accumulation of these waste products are likely to continue throughout one's life -- despite all the exercise they are apparently doing -- that merely works their heart harder and faster, and moderately more at the shoulder and hip axes where there is considerably less than full range of articulation at those joints -- which is the reason they can persist in such movements virtually indefinitely.  

A full, and even extreme contraction, alternated by a full, and even extreme relaxation, will cause the muscle to fatigue and fail in about 50 repetitions -- in virtually everyone.  That is true muscular failure as opposed to a premature cardiovascular failure which causes the trainee to stop because they are not breathing but actually holding their breath, or breathing so shallowly as to effectively not be breathing -- which like the heart, requires the fullest contraction, alternated with a full relaxation -- because that is the requirement of the branch-like structures of the lungs -- as well as the circulatory system (blood vessels).  Because of that specific structure, the old has to be expelled first, for the new to come in -- because that is the environment that life on this planet evolved in.  Nature will not allow a vacuum to persist in this ecosystem.

In ancient times, it was thought that the important part in breathing was to draw the air in -- rather than as we realized, the compression (contraction) creates a vacuum which Nature in the atmospheric pressure will fill.  But in the old understanding of breathing, one was instructed to blow more air into a lung that was already mostly full -- but since the air must follow a fixed and systematic pathway, the old air never gets out.  And so one was better off just eliminating the mouth to mouth breathing disrupting the chest compressions in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) because chest compressions is the movement of air in and out he of the body (breathing) -- rather than trapping the air within the lungs -- which is counterproductive to what one hopes to be achieving.

So once we have a clear understanding of what is healthful and productive to the body, it is a simple matter of designing exercise to achieve those desirable effects. It is the full range articulation at the joints furthermost from the heart -- rather than closest to it that is the most healthful and productive -- which includes the critically important organs of the head, hands and feet which people famously fail at as the notable signs of aging specifically.  I suspect, for most, it does not matter that they can still finish a marathon -- if it looks like they should be dead -- or are in pretty good shape for a person who looks so old.

The reason they look so old is because of inadequate (suboptimal) blood flow to their most telling organs of the head, hands and feet -- in not addressing those problems directly -- and easily.  But it doesn't matter if one still has washboard abs or peaked biceps -- if the circulation from and to the most telling organs of the body, are not accounted for as the priority of where the circulation matters the most.  As for the heart, it doesn't need to be consciously programmed; it has evolved to work perfectly -- automatically.  

As a scientist, one tests the variables -- and not the constant -- and in that manner, knows how to make the biggest difference directly and expressly -- and not just hoping doing any ol' thing, will get them the desired results.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Are Bodyweight Exercises as Good as Weights?

 The presumption most people make is to think that bodyweight is zero — when in fact, many beginning exercisers are obese or overweight, and so at a great disadvantage doing only bodyweight exercises. The simplest example is doing a pullup; nine out of ten untrained people cannot do even one pullup — and so that exercise becomes prohibitive to them. But also, nine out of ten of the world’s strongest men competitors also cannot do even one pullup.

So in that simple case, a bodyweight exercise of this type, would be useless to them. The great advantage of weight-training equipment is not that one can add more weight, but can adjust the weight DOWN in that movement to whatever their present weakness is — and build up their strength from there by doing the movement properly, rather than doing it improperly and dangerously from the get-go, and not only not getting any benefit from their exercise, but dramatically increasing their risk for serious injury, or even death.

A few people can do bodyweight exercises productively — because they are genetically gifted in that way. Those are the gymnasts who have exceptional builds for it — but they are not the average person. Those people have a greater than normal power to weight ratio — just like the dancers who can stand on their toes — but everybody else would break their toes or necks attempting to do so.

Those are the prodigies in every human activity, and why it is important for every individual to find out what they are designed and built for — to have this competitive advantage in their undertakings and life. Finding that out accurately and honestly, requires one to lower the bar to where they can perform such movements expertly — as many times as they have to, because it is the precision of form that is the mastery no matter what the resistance and circumstances.

That’s why the world champion lifters will start off with just the bar — and if they do that precisely, will go up in weight — but it is counterproductive just to slap on more weight doing who knows what, and wonder why an injury puts an end to that manner of training/activity. In weight-training, the most productive parts are the beginning and the ending positions — which are avoided by most trainees because that is the truly hard part to get right. That is the full relaxation changing into the full contraction — instead of maintaining a midrange contraction and leveraging the weight up and then letting gravity lower the weight down. We know gravity works very well.

But what we really wish to know — is the state of greatest muscular relaxation, and the state of greatest muscular contraction — that only the heart muscle must act in that way, and because of it, performs the critically important work of pumping blood out to the extremities. When the skeletal muscles act in that way, they pump the blood and fluids back towards the heart — and that rate of flow (effectiveness) is determined by the difference between the relaxed state and contracted state.

When lifting overly heavy weights (including one’s own bodyweight), the muscle has to maintain at least that level of contraction — and if there is no relaxation phase, the muscle will fail rather than persist indefinitely sufficient to complete a task. That is the value and manner of work — and not just one and done, in as sloppy a style as one can get away with. And though many will think it doesn’t matter precisely what one is doing, in everything, that is all that matters — and distinguishes success from failure.

Thus the importance of using as light a weight as one feels comfortable to enable relaxation — is that they can go into complete relaxation, and then extend the range of that movement beyond the normal limits of the bone on bone lockout — that also cannot be accessed unless the weight (resistance) is light enough to allow that extended range of movement. That is largely what differentiates the prodigy from everyone else — their range is unparalleled, rather than their effort. In fact, they make every movement seem easy and effortless — rather than looking as hard as possible. That is the way one is conditioning to be — all one’s life.

For that reason, bodyweight exercises are usually prohibitive — while extremely light weights allow the fullest range from contraction to relaxation — and why the eccentric contraction (lowering the weight slowly) will result in increasing muscle soreness — because thee muscle is not allowed to relax — but maintains its contraction while necessarily holding one’s breath. This does not allow work to be performed aerobically (with breathing), but causes premature failing of the cardiovascular system rather than a neuromuscular failure. That is, one stops because one no longer has sufficient air to continue — because one has disrupted the breathing pattern that allows air to move in and out as required/needed.

Competitive bodybuilders frequently pass out by maintaining constant contraction — which constricts breathing, and looks tense. Most physique photos are taken in this hyper-contracted state — whereas in earlier times, muscularity was expressed in the relaxed muscular state — as idealized in the sculpture of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Muscles convey this natural flow and development.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

If You Have a Problem, Don't Do Something Else

 It seems simple and obvious -- that if there is a problem, one should prioritize the solving of that -- rather than going on to do something else, because if not addressed as the priority, it will negatively impact everything else one does -- even rendering them incapable of doing anything else.

That fundamental response to life should form the core of all one's learning and knowledge -- and not that everything is equally worth knowing and doing -- because in the end, everything will come out the same.  Of primary importance is the proper sequence of what and how things are done.  That is what we have formalized as the protocols of what must be done -- even if they are reformulized from time to time.  But until then, that was the best we knew then -- until we knew better.  That is how human progress and evolution happens.

That is the basis of knowledge -- and not that we began with perfect knowledge that has eroded with time and experience.  In this regard, the understanding of circulation is still in its infancy -- but it underlies life as its essential necessity.  When circulation ceases, all life processes it supports ceases -- and so does life for that individual because circulation is the means with which that individual interacts and is fed by its environment -- from air, water, atmospheric pressure, toxicity, enhancements, and of course, all those around them -- as the transactions and exchanges of daily living.

Most of us take all that for granted -- unless we are suddenly deprived of that constant supply -- but far more likely is the many ways we voluntarily isolate and cut oneself off from that supply -- in our life choices and daily habits.  Far and away the most common in contemporary lives, is how we immobilize ourselves in our daily (constant) activities -- which we frequently describe as the sedentary life -- but if we dive more deeply into the fundamental problem, it is not so much the sitting that is bad, but the lack of movement and articulation at the neck, wrists and ankles that are critical to the understanding of circulation problems -- particularly at the head, hands and feet, and their subsequent functioning.

Thus when I had occasion to interact with lifeless people to see if I could help restore movement and thus liveliness in them -- unlike the physical therapists who had much more demanding requirements of them -- I simply wanted to know if they could move anything at all, or were responsive in the least (and not the most demanding) ways.  That is the juncture at which one determines whether further efforts can be meaningful and productive, or whether nothing makes a difference anymore -- despite how loudly one can turn up the volume on these demands.

A favorite activity of the inactive, is to stare at a television all day -- requiring not even eye movement -- much less head movement, and naturally, without that movement, the muscles and other tissues atrophy -- because it is dependent upon that circulation, which is minimal because there is no change of state in the muscles of that area.  They always remain flaccid, and because of that, there is no flow -- which is greatly effected by muscular contractions as the underlying recommendation for exercise.  But it is not enough just to make the heart work harder and faster that enhances the circulation, as it is that specific voluntary muscles and their contraction determine the effectiveness of the work of the heart.

That is self-evidently why people who only work the heart muscle harder and faster to the exclusion of all else, don't develop the muscular propensity of those who realize that the most important function and work of every muscle is to mimic the heart in this pumping action -- rather than the lifting of weights, running, jumping, throwing and hitting, so that in the design of the ultimate exercise program, that would be far and away of primary importance and consideration.  This is particularly important in developing fitness maintenance for space programs, or other extraordinary conditions in which the conventional and traditional thinking on such matters are ineffective and fail utterly.

The important "work" performed is not the lifting of weights, or the running of miles, but the effectiveness of optimally circulating the blood and other fluids to sustain optimal health within the body.  Every other consideration becomes moot.  That is where conventional and traditional thinking on exercise fails entirely -- in this absence of resistance -- in the conventional way we are used to thinking about it.  But obviously, life can continue and be maintained inside of the body -- where there is still "resistance," but that inertia is caused by the lack of flow, and what produces it, is the contraction of the voluntary muscles of the body.

But with 600-800 muscles in the body, where would one begin (prioritize)?  Logically, it would be to prioritize the most important organs of the body -- which is the hands, feet and head -- which most take for granted as being adequately and automatically provided for.  However, they generally have to ignore or deny the deterioration in the functioning of those quintessentially human organs as the first signs that something is less than optimal in the functioning of that body.  It is just assumed that that is where the deterioration might begin -- as the well-established pattern of what we call "aging."  But rather than nothing can be done about it, the primary improvement of such areas should be the first we think of to optimize the circulation, development and even growth (improvement) throughout life -- rather than being an afterthought, and inessential.

In more primitive times, it was more obvious as the most essential -- and not simply the ornamental and cosmetic.  But the interesting thing is that if functioning and development precedes from that primary importance, the rest of the bodily structures are supportive of that development -- as the well-proportioned physiques of the past -- rather than the arbitrary development one sees today as the fashionable ideal -- that with time and age, becomes increasingly irrelevant, and even preposterous.

The small organ of the heart cannot force blood through the capillaries (fine blood vessels) -- if it is already full.  But muscular contractions at the extremities, will forcefully propel blood and fluids out of tissues in the direction it has to go -- back towards the center of the body.  That is the vascular part of the cardio(vascular) part of the equation that is just as essential to give meaning to the circulation.  To measure only the heart as the effectiveness of the circulation, is tantamount to placing the thermostat in the furnace -- and not at the farthest reaches one hopes to provide heat to.  But rather than devising a measuring device to observe that, one can simply observe the range of motion that is expressed at the axes of movement at the wrist, ankles, and neck -- and the resulting contraction and relaxation of those muscles immediately manifested.   

That is, one doesn't have to wait a year or even six months to witness -- but is apparent in every individual no matter what shape they think they are in -- and also apparent, to those otherwise considered "fit," but deficient in those specific developments -- and functioning.  Just making the heart work harder and faster is not going to solve the problem.  They have to specifically optimize the flow to where it is deficient and deteriorating, otherwise, the surgeon could just operate on ANY organ, and wonder why it does not solve the problem -- even though the operation was a success.  Life does not "average out" that way -- so that anything is as good as any other thing.  One should be sure they are measuring the right things -- and not just what is easiest and most convenient to measure -- or most profitable.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Doing the Most Good -- Where it Most Matters

 Optimizing the circulatory effect is how the body keeps itself healthy and functioning — by getting rid of the metabolic waste products first — to produce space for the new nutrients. That’s why those who exercise produce better health and beyond that, enables prodigious growth. That should be the rudimentary understanding of life processes.

We recognize that in the ABCs of First Aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). If there is no circulation of the vital fluids, then that person will imminently die — and the first to go will be the brain — because it is critically dependent on the flow of oxygen to the brain — which is effected by pressure differences caused by the contraction (compression) of the chest and lungs. Then when that pressure is released the space (vacuum) created will allow the higher atmospheric pressure to enter — and those are the conditions all life forms have evolved in. That is the greater environment and context of life — that no theory, gimmick, nutritional supplement, exercise apparatus can overrule.

In speaking of “exercise” as being the fabled elixir of health and life, what is frequently overlooked is this importance of the circulation (flow) to the brain (head), hands and feet — resulting in those organs and areas being the first to go — in most aging and deteriorating people. Those are the obvious and most visible “markers” of the underlying health and vitality of any individual — whether there is range of movement at the axis of the joints at those furthest extremities — because they really imply the rest.

Whether throwing or hitting a baseball, tennis ball, basketball, etc., most people fail to note that the turning of the wrist determines the success of the outcome. Likewise, the success at running, jumping, climbing, etc., is determined by the range of movement at the ankle — and not the knee, hips, or heart. Those are more obvious, but much less noticed and apparent to most is that the head movement is critical to the functioning of all the head senses — requiring one to turn their head to place their eyes, ears and nose in the proper position to optimize their functioning and usefulness. That is how a person knows what is going on around them — and not from the information they get from screens and books — not requiring them to turn their heads for that information.

Thus the neck muscles famously atrophy for lack of that engagement and functioning — which affects its circulatory effectiveness — because that specific contraction of the neck muscles as seen in the most prolific performers, can no longer be taken for granted — but must be given the highest priority when it is understood how movement at that joint, directly determines the flow. Thus, no matter how much attention is given to maintaining and developing the biceps and the abdominal muscles, or even the heart (which is an autonomic function), the most critical organs of the human body will be the first to atrophy and deteriorate from this misplaced attention and effort — even diverting those resources away from where they would do the most good.

And thus we have the familiar pattern of aging and atrophying and the neck, hands and feet in most older people — even as they work their larger muscles more — at the hip and shoulder girdle, and sometimes not even that in the case of most cardio machines that require nothing from an upper body movement. It is then pure heart action — which is automatic and appropriate to whatever the voluntary muscles require — and doesn’t need this exclusive attention. The failure to move is occurring at the furthest extremities — which is the problem, and no amount of doing the wrong thing, will rectify or improve. It will in fact, make the imbalance and disproportion worse.

That is precisely the problem of older bodybuilders in competition. Most invariably have atrophied lower legs, lower arms, and pencil (dental floss) necks — which would not happen if they only developed their lower legs (calf), lower arms (forearms), and neck muscles because that development requires the development of all the muscles proximal to the center of the body — but doesn’t happen if the range of movement doesn’t extend beyond the movement at the shoulders or hips. Why a person would want to do that is the reason exercise becomes less effective as one ages — when properly conceived, it should be doing them the most good — where it most matters.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Meaning and Purpose of Exercise

 The reason for exercise as a vital activity is to enhance and optimize the circulation and therefore the functioning of the human body — so whatever achieves that, has served its purpose — whether realized or not. Child’s play will accomplish that — but on the other end of the spectrum, when one is greatly limited or constrained, a superior understanding of that process does much better in achieving the maximum benefits at the least cost. That is a major concern among the aging Baby Boomers who belatedly realize that simply doing what the 20 year olds are doing, is not enough to remain youthful. If it was, then as many naive “certified” instructors recommend, one should lift as heavy as possible because “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” Instead, such misguided advice may lead to death or permanent disabilities — long before the miraculous promised results manifest.

So the first requirement in designing a proper fitness regime, is to eliminate the risk of injury and damage as much as possible — including speed of movement, or explosive movement — like sprinting, one rep maximum lifts etc. — all of which I’ve seen highly recommended as the keys to the Fountain of Youth and well-being — while ignoring or denying their dangers. In fact, many well-intentioned people who finally decide to embark on a fitness program, actually experience some kind of trauma in their initial experience that they don’t return, and resign themselves to the consequences of doing so.

That is very unfortunate because most of what these physical educators think is necessary, is simply not so — but that was what they were taught, and have never questioned, although adopting more contemporary jargon that makes it seem more scientific and well-researched. However, the ultimate test of any truth, is one’s own experience (experiment) with it — no matter how much the “promoters” claim otherwise. That includes the doctors who thoughtlessly recommend to a legally blind 104 year old that she should walk for half an hour each day — in an urban environment. Thus each day, while I was living in a 55+ complex, I would have to pick this person up after falling just getting outside her door, and recommend that she’d be better off just remaining in her apartment and simulating the full range foot movement while holding on to the back of a chair — in the safety of her own residence.

I don’t know if the doctor ever realized that encouraging a blind person to walk for 30 minutes outside her apartment every day was virtually a death sentence — considering the uneven sidewalks, and vulnerability to anybody looking for an easy prey. That is a well-known problem of urban environments today — that must be taken into consideration, but that does not preclude all the other possibilities for achieving those positive health effects — when one looks beyond the unnecessary and arbitrary — to the essential understanding of its requirements.

Movement effects circulation not because of gravity — but because of the pressure differences produced in the alternation of the muscle volume from contraction to relaxation — which pushes the blood and fluids back towards the heart, while the heart unfailingly pumps blood out towards the extremities of the body. Thus the lack is not the failure of the heart to pump, but the problem of inadequate pumping that occurs in inactive movements and lifestyles — which don’t have to be violent or extraordinary — but determined by the difference in one state of the muscle from the other determining the rate of flow. Conversely, a muscle contracted that never relaxes, impedes that flow, as much as a muscle that never contracts — which is usually discernible as movement.

The genius of the Nautilus machines by my friend and mentor Arthur Jones was that in designing his machines, he figured out in which position the muscle in isolation and rotating (moving) around a single axis, had to be contracted and where it had to be fully elongated (relaxed) — and more than lifting weights, that movement from one extreme to the other, effected the flow. But he determined that the maximum demand was produced by the focus on the shoulder and hip girdle involving the most and largest muscles — placing an extraordinary demand on the heart to accommodate, which is why it was experienced as the most demanding and stressful exercise one could possibly do — and for that reason, could not be sustained for more than a short cycle of around six weeks — which was the length of most studies.

Then they extrapolated that if such training could be sustained indefinitely, one would have remarkable gains — well into older ages, but almost everybody would have abandoned such training style from injury and the lack of inability to recover, or died of a heart condition. So I thought, how can such effective principles be applied for lifelong sustainability — even beyond 100. You make the muscles at the extremities work harder rather than the heart — beginning from the axes at the wrist, ankles, neck — which are the well-known sites of atrophy and functioning exhibited by most older people in an inflamed state by which they report as arthritis in the hands and feet, and more contemporarily, deteriorating brain function I noticed was associated with the lack of head movement as well.

But the most amazing thing was that the full extension and flexion of those areas, required the similar state of the supporting muscles proximal to the center of the body, where the heart is located — providing the perfect complement to the circulation problem. That is the fallacy in the thinking that all that is necessary to optimize the circulation for optimal health is to make the heart work harder and faster — instead of realizing that the proper focus should be of the movements at the extremities, which most exercises and exercise equipment ignore the importance of — and so the circulation is only optimized to the heart, while the critical organs at the extremities — including the brain, grip and balance and left to fend for themselves — and in many cases, die unattended deaths — while he heart alone goes on for another 20–30 years!

Now some are claiming that the “soleus pushup” is the second heart of the body — because in articulating the full range foot movement while sitting (and thus bearing no weight), it has that specific function — but that is also true for the extremities at the hands and most importantly, the brain — where even the brain specialists and dementia experts maintain that circulation makes absolutely no difference to that continued optimal functioning — as long as the heart is merrily beating away — as though that was all there was to it.

Thus the emphasis of exercise and movement is entirely misplaced — and simply doing more of what is not the solution is not going to make the problem go away. But when one identifies the proper vectors for study, then it becomes clear on why the human body fails in its characteristic way — despite whatever effort(s) are placed in that way. The obvious signs are the atrophy and deterioration at the neck, hands and feet — that when addressed, maintain the health of the rest of the body — because nothing else is possible.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Exercising Full-Range of Motion (Movement)

The great advance of Nautilus machines in the early 70s was the claim that it provided "variable (proper) resistance through the full-range of movement" -- thinking it was resistance that was of paramount importance, rather than the much more simpler observation, that increasing the range of motion in every movement -- is the resistance, and that ultimately, is what one is trying to increase, while simply increasing the resistance, tended to foreshorten the range of movement.

One observes that to be particularly true of aging and deteriorating people -- yet what is invariably advised, is to add more weight (resistance) to the exercises -- thinking that is the missing ingredient -- rather than the lack of range in that, and every movement.  The classic example is the person advised to walk a mile or 20 minutes each day while merely shuffling their feet with virtually no articulation at the ankle joint.  A far more productive movement for such an individual, would be to sit in a tripod chair (readily available at Walmart and recreational stores for camping), and do the movement known as the alternating calf raise -- because with no weight to support, the full range of articulation can be expressed at the ankle joint -- because there is no resistance against it.

This is a very important concept in productive exercise for health considerations above all else -- which becomes far more important as one ages or is rehabilitating an injury.  The last thing one would want to do is add further injury -- at which point safety becomes a paramount concern.  Otherwise, one is simply worsening the condition -- rather than improving it, as one hopes to be doing in one's exercises.  Many people quit or forswear exercise for the remainder of their lives precisely for that reason -- that those exercises recommended merely increase the possibility of further injury, discomfort and pain -- even by the "experts" on such matters.

Fortunately, in exercise, there is such a thing as self-evident truth -- that is available to everyone, and not just the self-proclaimed experts of such jurisdictions.  Plainly something works -- or it doesn't -- in the real life scheme of things.  One then is the picture of health and not just what one would want everyone to believe.  So it is often said, "You're in pretty good shape for an old guy" -- implying that person looks like they are declining rather than improving in health.  How much they lift or how fast they run is belied by their obvious appearance --even as much as they try to distract from those obvious signs of decline.

Those are very obviously exhibited at the extremities of the head, hands and feet -- as indicators of the effectiveness of the circulation to those areas.  That must be measured at the extremities and not at the heart -- but of course, it is much easier to measure the heart than it is to measure the circulation at the extremities.  For that, one would more likely rely on the visual condition at those extremities to see off hand if those organs look in tip-top condition, or are inflamed and swollen -- indicative of stagnation of fluids at those sites rather than the presumed circulation.

That circulation is effected and enhanced by voluntary muscular movements (contraction/relaxations) producing that physical flow -- at the axis (joint) at which that articulation is triggered.  The design of skeletal (voluntary) muscles is that a muscle contracts from the insertion (distant) towards the origin (proximal) of that muscle -- but then when it has gone as far as it can go in that contraction, triggers the contraction of the supporting muscle at its insertion to cause the chain-reaction we see as the coordinated movement we are most familiar with.

That is by Nature's design -- proven over millions of years in millions of life forms -- to result in its own state of the art in humans, which is as far as we've come up to now.  That has been the evolution of life forms -- from the most primitive and basic one cell organism, to the most highly evolved, complex, and intricate.  Most notably, are the features in humans of a large brain, complex hand and foot development that allows for the possibility of doing many things -- like reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as music, art, athletics, dance, etc.

Those are invariably expressed at the head, hands and feet, and why the appearance of health at those areas, are the first clue to the overall health of that individual -- whether we want to admit it or not.  Many people are in denial that those are the obvious indicators of the health and qualities of such individuals -- but would be well-advised to trust those first impressions because they are so visible and obvious.  Swollen hands and feet indicate poor circulation even to the most undiscriminating.  Bloated faces and atrophied necks are that same condition to the area of the body that should be top priority in optimizing those critical conditions -- rather than taking for granted that nothing can be done for it.

That would not be how Nature in its right mind would work.  It would not allow a person doing biceps curls all day to develop 18" arms while having no provision for developing the brain in a similar fashion.  Improving the flow of vital nutrients to any area of the body is enhanced by first producing the space (vacuum) in which the new has room to enter.  That is done by contracting (compressing) the residual fluid out so that the new can enter -- just as is the underlying basis of Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

It doesn't matter how forcefully one blows into an already filled lung; more air cannot enter, and even that which can, has no way of entering the lowest branches of the lungs where there is an exchange of gases between the lungs and blood vessels.  Lungs are not simply a simple air sac but means branched tissue.  The one becomes two, the two four, four eight, etc., which is how the simple becomes complex.  It is not that it sought out to be as difficult and complex so that nobody could ever crack the code, or mystery underlying it -- but we fail to get to the simplicity iterated as much as necessary.

There is not one set of rules governing the functioning of the head, and another for the hands, and yet another for the feet -- to all the specialists' delight and profit, but singular basic rules that apply to all.  And that would be that if one increases (optimizes) the flow of inputs to any area, that organ has access to all the nutrients that produce its well being -- but it must follow the rules governing the movement of fluids, which requires physical (actual) movement, and not merely imagined mental exercise.

Such exercise will have predictably no effect on improving human development and capabilities.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Why We Are All Here

 Most people argue over whether they should use more weight for fewer repetitions, or use a light weight for higher repetitions — when the far more productive way to train, is to increase the range of motion in that movement. The most important part of every movement is the start and ending positions — while most work only the midrange, and then shorten that even further to accommodate more weight or more repetitions.

All movement is cardiovascular AND neuromuscular — and those divisions are simply manmade — because the body cannot operate that way, one exclusive of the other. However, while all movement will raise the heart rate, it is possible to raise the heart rate without engaging any other particular muscular structures — as most cardio machines do. In the most popular version of the treadmill, the upper body is largely immobilized, while the range of foot movement is minimal, emphasizing a limited range of movement at the hips and knees. So limited in fact that one could continue the exercise indefinitely — because there is no muscle fatigue/demand otherwise. That is true for most movements: if you shorten or limit the range of movement, the muscle can go on indefinitely — even jogging a marathon.

However, if one performs a movement to increase the range in both the contraction phase as well as the relaxation phase, that muscle will fatigue — because an extraordinary demand is placed on it — to which it must adapt and accommodate — both in the short term and in the longer term once one has recovered from that challenge. As one gets older, there is a tendency to decrease the range of movement until eventually one is all but immobilized — and then others have to do for them what they previously could easily do for themselves, but over the years, lost that range of movement — more than that they couldn’t lift their own weight or do endless repetitions of a limited movement.

Everybody who has ever lifted weights, knows there is a beginning position in which they rest, as well as an ending position in which they can also rest. However if they try to extend that range of movement beyond those resting points (bone on bone lockouts), any attempt to do so is extremely fatiguing and even perilous because that is uncharted territory that the muscle will fail. In order to avoid injury, one would not attempt to do so with heavy weights, but even light weights will be challenging enough — and even no weights at all would allow that manner of performance with maximum safety.

The key movement would be expressed at the joint furthest from the center of the body — which are the axis of movements at the wrists, ankles, and neck — as the body is naturally designed to move most critically. For millions of years, humans evolved in conditions that required them to have to use those faculties beyond all else — to survive, and then thrive and prosper. Then, it was quite obvious that if one did not turn their head, they had limited information of what was going on around them — because they had to turn their heads to see and hear better — to know what dangers lurked, or where their next meal was coming from. Throwing a stone or spear required that wrist movement, and the feet were a lever against the earth — to run, jump, reach tall branches.

But modern life made a lot of that unnecessary, and so people just stare ahead into their screens now, and may go to a gym to increase their heart rates while moving very little else. And then they wonder why their brains fail, their grip weakens, and their feet cannot hold them up reliably. But they think the answer to all those ailments is just to force the heart to work harder and faster while immobilizing all the other muscles that are doing very little — as the preferred modality of “exercise.”

And so we have the great fear now that people will lose those critical faculties for full responsiveness beyond just having their hearts beating for years and even decades in that condition. Who will be there to take care of them? It would seem that the far better model for life in the future, is for everybody to take better care of themselves in the manner that makes such extension of capabilities more likely as the conditioning paradigm — over the expenditure of calories and heart beats as though there are no limits and no difference.

Once one is clear in understanding how life works and what one is doing, it is easy to design exercise without the need for equipment, supplements, instruction, measuring devices, etc. Everything will make perfectly good sense — and that is the greater question of why we are all here.