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Dynamic Movements and Timed Static Contractions

The relationship in exercise between dynamic movements and Timed Static Contractions (TSC) is something that is often discussed and debated. Is performing a dynamic movement a more effective way to inroad the musculature? Is TSC a safer and more efficient way to achieve maximum benefit? As Total Results instructors, we have many "tools in our toolbox" to help clients achieve their exercise goals, and we use both TSC and dynamic movements as needed. A closer look at both methods will give us a better understanding of when and why to use each one.

In our exercise protocol, a dynamic movement involves raising and lowering the resistance in approximately ten seconds (in each direction) through a safe, pain-free range of motion. This will continue until forward movement of the resistance in proper form is no longer possible, at which point the subject will continue to push for an additional five to ten seconds (thorough inroad). This is done to stimulate the body's growth mechanism, and given adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition, and sufficient time, will result in increases in strength, metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning, maintenance of insulin sensitivity, enhanced flexibility, and greater resistance to injury. There are only two objective measurements of muscular effort: zero and 100 percent. While we still do not know and cannot measure what the exact percentage of effort is required to stimulate the growth mechanism, we do know that putting forth zero effort accomplishes nothing of value. That means that in order to be certain that we have created an adequate body stimulus, we should put forth 100 percent effort. It is fairly easy to know that 100 percent effort has been put forth on a dynamic movement because forward movement of the movement arm is no longer possible in proper form. This means that your muscles' force output has dropped below the weight selected on the weight stack. It is also much more objective to track progress with a dynamic movement because you have a weight value and time under load (TUL)/number of repetitions to record on the subject's chart. While those are certainly not the only means of measuring progress, they are two of the more important markers in terms of determining exercise frequency and volume.

Timed Static Contraction involves contracting the targeted musculature without producing any movement. It is an outgrowth of the old isometric (the joint angle and muscle length do not change) exercise concept, but applied in a much safer manner. It can be done with our exercise machines or with other equipment (for the Abduction and Adduction exercises we use a yoga strap and a foam roller, respectively). A TSC exercise will last 90 seconds and will involve three stages of effort. In the first stage, the subject will take a few seconds to slowly ramp up to a 50 percent effort (a contraction that would probably be unpleasant to sustain for more than a few minutes); the second stage will involve slowly working up to approximately a 75 percent effort (almost as hard as you dare); the final stage will have the client slowly work up to a 100 percent effort (as hard as you dare). To guard against potential injury, the instructor should always phrase the instruction in precisely that way, rather than "as hard as you can." The subject should exercise good judgement in interpreting and following through on these instructions. The major drawback to TSC, at least as we utilize it here at Total Results, is that there is no way to objectively measure force output, which means that tracking progress is mostly subjective. Ken Hutchins, who invented our exercise protocol, has developed exercise machines that have both digital and analog computer feedback which can quantify a number value for force output and objectively measure progress. Ken works with many clients that are severely debilitated, and has been able to achieve some pretty amazing results with these machines. While I have never used these machines before, I have read extensively about them and would love to experience them for myself.

Which is the better way to go? Both dynamic movements and Timed Static Contractions are valuable tools to use with a variety of exercise subjects. That being said, I prefer to use a dynamic movement whenever possible. Regardless of which method we use, the primary objective of exercise is to inroad the musculature as safely and thoroughly as possible in minimum time. Your muscles' main function is to produce force; they don't really know or care if they are making a movement arm move. While TSC can be beneficial in working around many joint issues (such as shoulder problems), we can do similar things while using dynamic movements, like gapping the weight stack to alter starting or ending positions and limiting range of motion. This is where you can use trial and error and do a cost/benefit analysis. Sometimes avoiding or minimizing joint pain by using TSC outweighs not being able to objectively measure progress on a given exercise. When going from TSC back to a dynamic movement after an extended period of time, one should expect to use a lower weight on that exercise due to a loss of skill. I have recently transitioned a few long term clients from TSC back to a dynamic movement on the Seated Leg Curl exercise; they had originally switched to TSC due to knee pain. I admit that this is a very small sample size, but I'm happy to report that all three clients have performed extremely well and have experienced no knee pain.

Working to build strength is the most effective way to minimize joint pain and increase functionality. Maintaining the ability to move is a key factor in one's quality of life as we age. Both dynamic movements and Timed Static Contractions are important tools in the Total Results instructor toolbox to help you achieve your goals and get the most out of life. Get started today!

Posted September 10, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Abdominal Muscles and the Myth of Spot Reduction by Matthew Romans

The mainstream fitness industry is famous for peddling all kinds of worthless products, pills, and drinks. If you're above a certain age, most of the following inventions should sound familiar from late night infomercials: Shake Weight, 8 Minute Abs, Ab Rocket, Vibration Belts, and the Thigh Master (which was developed by the same man who marketed the Mood ring in the 1970s). While I believe in the concept of "let the buyer beware", I also believe that the sellers of these products prey upon the ignorance of an unsuspecting public. Most of these products have little to no scientific basis whatsoever, but are dressed up in colorful packaging, shrewd marketing, and outrageous claims. Another source of confusion is the concept of spot reduction, and the role of the abdominal muscles in fat loss.

Spot reduction is the idea that you can exercise certain muscles in the body to reduce body fat in that area. Just as body fat percentage can vary from one person to the next, how and where that body fat is stored (and in what amount) is also individually-based and multifactorial. These factors include, in no particular order, diet, genetic predisposition, lifestyle factors, and exercise. The popular notion is that if you want to reduce body fat in your midsection or your hips, you should perform exercises that target those specific body parts.

Please allow me to explode this myth: there is no such thing as spot reduction! The concept has no biological basis whatsoever. The fitness vultures have been trying to sell this for years, and it is false. Doing sit-ups, crunches, or any number of other abdominal exercises is not going to reduce visceral fat. While it is certainly true that building lean muscle through progressive high-intensity weight training (exercise) is a very important ally in the pursuit of fat loss, you cannot lose fat specifically from just one area of the body. When fat is metabolized, the liver has discretion over where it comes from. If fat loss is your goal, you need to create a caloric deficit by eating fewer total calories, while minimizing the consumption of excessive grains, sugars, and other processed foods. Regular strength training will do more to increase your metabolism and change your body's shape than any other form of activity; while a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same amount, muscle is more compact and takes up less space than does fat.

Please don't misunderstand me and think that the abdominal muscles are not important. The abdominals are very important; their functions are to flex the trunk (bend forward at the waist), tilt the pelvis, and they are heavily involved in breathing. Keeping your abdominal muscles strong is very important for maintaining functionality and protecting against injury, however they don't need as much direct stimulation as you might think. The abdominals are very much involved in every exercise of a Total Results workout, even when they are not targeted directly. Think about exercises like the Pulldown, Chest Press, and Overhead Press that involve the torso slump at the end of the positive movement phase; that is trunk flexion performed by the abdominal muscles. By the time we get around to targeting them directly on the Linear Spine Flexion or the manually-resisted crunch, those muscles are pretty fatigued. All of these exercises engage the abdominal muscles as a unit, rather than just working the upper or lower abdominals.

There is no such thing as spot reduction, and doing a million abdominal crunches is counterproductive. Don't fall prey to scam artists and exercise products with no scientific basis. The Total Results exercise philosophy is grounded in the classical sciences and an ancestrally appropriate nutritional approach. We have nearly 20 years of experience in helping people become stronger, fitter, and get more out of life, and we challenge ourselves to increase our knowledge every day. Our goal is to pass that knowledge on to you. Schedule an appointment today!

Posted August 29, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Neurological Efficiency and Skill Acquisition in Exercise, by Matthew Romans

When a new client begins the Total Results exercise regimen, we use the first few sessions to determine proper machine settings, gauge beginning strength and conditioning levels, identify any joint issues, and teach the exercise protocol. Teaching the protocol is an ongoing process, of course, but the first few sessions are very important in order to establish good habits and the proper mindset for serious exercise. Two important and interrelated factors, one within your control and one outside of your control, have a significant impact on the exercise stimulus that you generate during the course of a workout: neurological efficiency and skill acquisition.

In terms of muscle biology, a motor unit is a group of muscle fibers controlled by a motor neuron. Groups of motor neurons often work together to coordinate the effort of contracting a single muscle group. The All-or-None law dictates that either all of the muscle fibers associated with a neuron will contract in response to a stimulus, or none will contract.

Neurological efficiency is the percentage of muscle fibers that can be recruited in an all-out effort. It is genetically predetermined and cannot be changed. Interestingly, most people's neurological efficiency falls between 15 and 30 percent, but there are exceptions on either side. People who are less neurologically efficient may initially have a hard time maintaining a smooth movement and getting a feel for proper speed while using our exercise protocol. It is rare to find someone with a neurological efficiency of greater than 40 percent; such individuals have been referred to by Ken Hutchins as "alpha subjects.", and he has only worked with two such subjects in his entire career. Since these extremely neurologically efficient individuals inroad their musculature more deeply than most people, they will require fewer exercises in their routine and more time between workouts to recover properly.

You might ask why at least some people don't have a neurological efficiency of 100 percent. This would pose a tremendous threat to the safety of the human body; muscles would probably tear from their musculotendinous attachments, bones would break, and one would reach a state of utter exhaustion. The body has protective measures in place to guard against injury, and while the body interprets intense exercise as a threat, we want to stimulate the body in the safest manner possible.

The body's recovery ability is somewhat fragile; injury and illness can occur if exercise volume and frequency exceed the minimum amount necessary to stimulate the growth mechanism. This is why we only go to positive muscular failure rather than total muscular failure on each exercise.

While we cannot really improve neurological efficiency, we can improve exercise form and achieve a deeper inroad and exercise stimulus by working to acquire skill.

Skill acquisition should be the main objective of both the subject and the instructor in the first several exercise sessions, and it happens by consistently performing specific movement patterns. This is what I often refer to as the learning phase. As the client encounters more meaningful levels of resistance, a greater command of movement speed, pace, smoothness of movement, and turnaround technique is the result. Total Results workouts involve gross motor movements (over a larger range of motion and encompassing a greater amount of muscle) rather than fine motor movements (such as a skill like playing the piano, which involves much less muscle), so they are much easier to learn. Many of our exercises are compound movements; these exercises are generally the easiest for beginners to learn, and they target more muscle in less time.

Once novice clients have mastered the initial selection of exercises, we usually introduce additional exercises and alternate them from one workout to the next. This provides a little variety to the exercise routine. Excellent form is paramount; this makes the exercise safer and leads to a more effective stimulus.

Regardless of how neurologically efficient you are or what genetic hand you have been dealt, through continuously applied effort, a willingness to learn, and a positive attitude you can maximize your genetic blueprint with the Total Results exercise philosophy. Schedule an initial consultation today!

Posted August 26, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Attitude is Everything, by Matthew Romans

I borrowed the title phrase of this post, "Attitude is Everything", from Total Results client Judd Swift. Judd often says this phrase as he walks into our exercise room to start his workout. Attitude is a reflection of one's state of mind, and a positive attitude is a key trait shared by many successful people. Not everyone who has a positive attitude was born that way; it is learned behavior. While the body perceives a Total Results exercise session to be a negative event (which is necessary, in order to stimulate muscular growth), having a positive attitude as you prepare for and go through your workout will pay huge dividends as you work toward achieving your goals.

How does attitude play a role?

First, you want to have the mindset that exercise is something that is important to you. Think of the big picture: your health is vital, and you have a vested interest in avoiding chronic disease, injuries, and staying out of the health care system. Regular Total Results workouts can help you do that by building lean muscle mass, strengthening joints and connective tissue, and maintaining your insulin sensitivity. Yes, our workouts are uncomfortable (nobody yet has referred to them as fun), but the benefits are worth the discomfort.

Second, be a learner. This is something that we often talk about during an initial consultation. Our exercise methodology is something that is largely unfamiliar to most prospective clients that walk through our door. Don't expect to do it perfectly right away, but patiently apply the instructions and cues that your instructor gives you as you perform each exercise. Attaining proficiency at anything, whether it's speaking a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, or improving your golf swing requires effort and discipline. The same is true for maximizing your exercise performance.

Third, sharpen your mental focus. Take a few minutes prior to your workout (on your ride to our facility, sitting in your car in the parking lot, or even in our lobby) to visualize a successful workout. This is your time for yourself; put aside for 20 minutes all of the other things in life that are competing for your attention. While our workouts are intense, they are also brief and infrequent. It's a little easier to maintain laser-like focus if you know ahead of time that it's only for 20 minutes at most.

Fourth, just think about stimulating small improvements with each workout. Consistently doing that week after week will lead to success. Remember that Rome was not built in a day. Adding two and a half pounds to the weight stack in one week may not seem like a big deal, but over the course of several months it will add up to a significant increase in strength. That being said, don't obsess over how much weight is on the weight stack. Proper form is far more important than how much weight you lift.

Finally, when the exercise becomes demanding, and movement slows to a crawl or even stops, refuse to give in. You can do this! Even if you feel like you can't go on, always believe that you can. When momentary muscular failure creeps ever closer, that is the most effective part of the exercise. This is the stimulus that we seek. While this is the most unpleasant part of the exercise, it's the most important. Keep pushing in good form, no matter what.

I'm reminded of the well-known Henry Ford quote, "whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." Attitude is everything. You are in control of your own destiny, and your success is in your hands. Let Total Results show you the way!

Posted July 31, 2019 by Tim Rankin

The Rotator Cuff, by Matthew Romans

The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles deep within the shoulder joint and below the major muscle of the shoulder joint, the deltoid. The supraspinatus holds the humerus (upper arm bone) in place. It originates above the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade) and inserts on the greater tuberosity of the humerus. The infraspinatus rotates and extends the shoulder. This muscle originates from the infraspinous fossa of the scapula and inserts into the posterior aspect of the greater tuberosity of the humerus. The teres minor rotates the arm away from the body. Its origin is the lateral scapula border and it inserts on the inferior aspect of the greater tuberosity of the humerus. Finally, the subscapularis holds the humerus to the scapula, and helps you to rotate, lower and hold your arm out straight. Its origin is the anterior surface of the scapula, and it inserts into the inferior aspect of the greater tuberosity of the humerus.

The shoulder joint (also known as the glenohumeral joint) is a ball-and-socket joint. As movement occurs, the "ball", or head of the humerus glides along the groove of the scapula (known as the glenoid fossa). The shoulder joint is very mobile, which is why you can move your arms in a number of different ways. Unfortunately this leaves the joint very unstable, and it can easily be injured. While acute injuries can occur as a result of a fall or some other trauma, the most common injuries to the rotator cuff are overuse injuries. Painters, cosmetologists, and athletes who throw (pitchers, quarterbacks, or javelin throwers) are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries of the rotator cuff. This could be something relatively minor like tendonitis and bursitis, or something more serious like impingement or a tear.

Another fact to keep in mind is that there is a natural imbalance between the functions of internal and external rotation of the humerus (rotating the upper arm toward and away from the midline of the body). While four muscles work to perform internal rotation (latissimus dorsi, teres major, pectoralis major, and anterior deltoid), only the infraspinatus and teres minor perform external rotation of the humerus. This natural muscular imbalance can leave the small muscles of the rotator cuff in a vulnerable position.

A complete tear of the rotator cuff will probably require surgery, depending on your age and lifestyle. An incomplete tear, inflammation, and impingement may simply require rest from the activity that is the cause of the problem. To protect your shoulder joint in general, you want to make the muscles surrounding the joint as strong as possible, and do so using an exercise protocol that is safe, slow, and low-force. At Total Results we specifically strengthen the rotator cuff by performing the External Rotation exercise using a Timed Static Contraction for 90 seconds (30 seconds each at 50%, 75%, and 100% effort), and the client provides manual resistance with their opposite hand. As a former college football quarterback who played in adult men's flag football leagues for nearly 20 years, I found that this exercise played a major role in preserving the health of my shoulder joint, and I performed it in every workout. We can also eliminate or modify certain exercises to work around rotator cuff injuries, such as altering the start position of the movement arm on the Chest Press or doing only horizontal exercises for the upper body.

While the rotator cuff makes up a very small percentage of your total muscle mass, these muscles can cause big problems if they are weak or injured. Let Total Results help you restore muscle and joint function, reduce pain, and protect against injury.

Posted July 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin