Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

April 2019

Common Exercise Myths - Part Two, by Matthew Romans

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about some of the common exercise myths that have been perpetuated by the mainstream fitness industry. Some of those myths have been around since the late 1960's (especially in the case of the "cardio" myth), while subcultures and certification programs have been built around other pseudoscientific falsehoods (much of what can be colloquially referred to as the "personal training" industry probably wouldn't exist without them). Since we at Total Results believe so strongly in continuing education (and because I didn't want to make the last blog post too long), I'd like to discuss a few other myths I have encountered in my journey as an exercise instructor.

Myth: You must perform multiple sets of an exercise to achieve maximum muscular benefit. This is a theory espoused by many bodybuilders, gym enthusiasts, and professional strength coaches. Unfortunately, there is very little (if any) scientific evidence to support this theory; in fact, a study done many years ago by Wayne Westcott, PhD, shows virtually no difference between results obtained by performing one set of an exercise versus performing multiple sets of the same exercise. When you look below the surface, this makes perfect sense. The purpose of performing a set of an exercise to momentary muscular failure is to stimulate an adaptive response from the body. If you do two additional sets of that exercise in this fashion, you're simply reintroducing the same stimulus two more times, but not providing anything more effective from what you did the first time. Not only is this not an effective strategy, the risk for overtraining, illness, and injury increase significantly as a result of digging deeper into your recovery ability and increasing the volume of work performed. In my experience, most people who train using the multiple-set approach take breaks between sets and are not working all that intensely. Performing one set of an exercise, using a proper slow speed of movement and working to momentary muscular failure, is more than enough to stimulate the body to adapt.

Myth: Lower back discomfort and injuries are caused by weak abdominal muscles. While on the surface this statement seems to make sense, in reality the abdominal and lower back muscles perform opposing functions. The abdominal muscles' primary function is to flex the trunk, while the lower back muscles extend the trunk. It is certainly important to strengthen ALL your muscles, but in order to remedy a lower back malady you need to specifically target the lower back muscles. Our Med-X Lumbar Extension machine does just that. Strengthening the spinal erectors helps to increase functionality, relieve pain, and improve posture. Performing this exercise can also help to open up the spaces between the vertebrae and relieve the compression often experienced by those with disc problems (impingement, herniation, etc.) While it is important to exercise all the muscles of the body (including the abdominals), in order to see improvement in the lower back you need to go right to the source.

Myth: Sweating is a necessary part of intense exercise. This is false. The skeletal muscles are often referred to as "the engines of the body", and are capable of producing a tremendous amount of heat. During intense exercise (a Total Results workout) your body has three ways to dissipate heat: conduction (transfer of heat from your skin surface to the cooler padding of the equipment), convection (transfer of heat from your labored breathing into the surrounding atmosphere, in conjunction with the use of fans to keep you properly ventilated), and evaporation (sweat being brought to the surface of your skin and then evaporating into the surrounding air). While we have been conditioned to believe that sweating is healthy during intense exercise, in reality it is an indication of a failure of your body's evaporative mechanism. If sweat collects on your skin, you can overheat and your workout performance will suffer. This is why we keep our workout studio cool (65-70 degrees Fahrenheit), dry (less than 50 percent humidity), and well-ventilated (with fans stationed at every machine). We encourage our clients to "dress cool" (t shirt, shorts, non-heavy workout pants) to allow them to get their best workout possible.

Myth: In order to be fast, you need to train fast. This is the convoluted thinking that permeates the Olympic weightlifting subculture (and subsequently spawned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's philosophy), as well as the isokinetics philosophy that led to the development of Cybex exercise and testing equipment. Olympic weightlifting enthusiasts believe that the best way to achieve muscular growth is to specifically target the fast-twitch muscle fibers (the largest of the three muscle fiber types) by moving explosively and throwing weights around. While throwing large weights around (despite its inherent danger) looks impressive, it is a biological impossibility to only target one group of muscle fibers. There is what is known as the size principle of recruitment, which means that fibers are recruited sequentially in terms of size (first slow-twitch, then intermediate-twitch, and finally fast-twitch). The most effective way to gain size and strength is to work to momentary muscular failure, because when exercise becomes most intense, the fast-twitch muscle fibers are most heavily involved. The Isokinetics philosophy involves only performing positive muscular work; it is a house of cards that is built on two research studies, one of which (the 1969 Moffroid/Whipple study) got its data and stated conclusions backward, and the other (the 1975 Pipes/Wilmore study) was faked. Both Pipes and Wilmore later denied being involved in the study; unfortunately these facts are not widely publicized in the mainstream exercise industry.

In order maximize athletic performance, you need to work to perfect the specific skills required for that particular sport, and strength train once or twice per week in a manner that we instruct at Total Results. Even if you are not an athlete (and most of us are not), ours is the safest and most effective exercise protocol available. We will have you perform one set of each exercise with a slow and controlled speed of movement and work to momentary muscular failure. We will give equal attention to upper body and lower body muscles, and balance the number of pushing and pulling exercises. We will also target the abdominal muscles as well as the postural muscles (lower back and neck), and we'll do so in an ideal and climate-controlled environment, so that you finish each workout without a drop of sweat on you. Ignore the myths and misinformation and put your trust in the private exercise studio that has served Northern Virginia since 2001: Total Results!

Posted April 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Exercise Variety - Is it necessary? - by Matthew Romans

I've written in previous posts about the fads, trends, and buzzwords that are prevalent in the mainstream fitness industry. One subject that is endlessly debated, particularly in the bodybuilding subculture, is exercise variety. Do we really need variety in our strength training routine? Will our muscles get stale if we don't "shake it up" a bit? Is it necessary to participate in a wide selection of different physical activities to achieve optimal health and fitness? More confusion arises when terms like "muscle confusion" and "shock the muscles" are thrown into the mix. What are we supposed to believe?

The concept of "cross training" first came into vogue in the middle to late 1980s, and it largely coincided with an ad campaign designed by Nike to promote a new line of shoes (then-NFL stars Bo Jackson and Howie Long were prominently featured). The idea put forth was that elite athletes in one sport could benefit and improve by performing a variety of other sports as part of their conditioning program. In other words, Bo Jackson (already an amazing running back) would become even better at football by participating in cycling, basketball, long distance running, and tennis in his free time. While this seems like a great idea, and probably helped Nike sell a lot of shoes, it's also very misleading. Skills are very specific to the nature of the sport you are performing; in other words, being great at cycling has nothing to do with being great at football. The bottom line is that if you're a football player and want to participate in other activities outside of your sport, do so because you enjoy doing them, not because you think it will improve your abilities as a football player.

Is variety a necessary component of a comprehensive strength training routine? From a biological standpoint, the answer is no. In fact, there is actually a chapter in the Super Slow technical manual (required reading for instructors in our field) titled "The Need for Non-Variation in Exercise." You can make excellent gains in strength, metabolic, and cardiovascular conditioning by performing the exact same selection and sequence of exercises for long periods of time, provided you progress your resistance levels and satisfy other necessary requirements (proper sleep, proper nutrition, stress management, hydration, etc). The above-mentioned buzzwords "muscle confusion" and "shock the muscles" have no scientific basis at all! They were most likely invented by fitness magazine writers or hucksters trying to sell you a bill of goods (a good example of this is the pseudoscientific word "tone", a bastardized form of the word "tonus", which is the amount of residual tension in a muscle when it is at rest. It was coined to encourage women to strength train without the fear of bulking up or growing large muscles).

While some variety in one's strength training routine is perfectly acceptable, too much variety inhibits learning and progress, and makes record keeping virtually impossible. Some "experts" claim that performing the same sequence and selection of exercises is boring; I completely disagree. While the mind may become bored, the skeletal muscles do not. Muscles are either contracted or not. Your workout is not designed to be a source of entertainment. To quote Ken Hutchins, the founder of our exercise protocol, "Do you consider diversion a critical ingredient of your exercise program? If so, you need to have a stern talk with yourself." In order to learn proper form, speed of movement, and achieve the requisite level of intensity, novice clients need to perform the same selection and order of exercises.

At Total Results, we do utilize some variety in terms of exercise selection. Occasionally we will modify the selection and order of exercises, but that often occurs if we are working around an injury or a client is experiencing a recurring exercise-induced headache. While we tend to stick with the same selection and sequence of exercises with novice clients for the first several sessions, as they become more proficient and learn to work more intensely we will introduce some new exercises. Many of our twice per week clients perform an "A" and "B" routine (both are full body workouts); while each of these routines contains a different set of exercises, the exercises are generally performed in the same order (unless there are extenuating circumstances). Once per week clients generally have less variety than twice per week clients, but we still do alter their exercise selection somewhat. We often alternate which upper body exercises they do, as well as exercises for the lower back and neck. This way all the bases are covered.

Participating in a variety of activities can be a form of recreation that provides some mental benefit. While it's not a biological requirement in one's exercise program, a little variety can be a good thing; however, it can easily be taken too far. The most important things to consider when evaluating an exercise program are safety, efficiency, and effectiveness. If a need for variety is getting in the way of those three things, it's time to reevaluate your priorities. Let Total Results get you to where you want to go in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

Posted April 09, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Beware of Gimmicks - by Matthew Romans

Most of us are familiar with the phrases "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" and "let the buyer beware." People selling and marketing products in a variety of industries have been stretching the limits of truth since the invention of advertising (e.g.-the cigarette industry). Just because a product says it can do something does not make it so; in some cases, creative language is used to obfuscate the truth and to entice consumers to buy the product. The mainstream fitness and dietary supplement industries are full of gimmicks and products of little to no value. That being said, I am someone who believes in competition in business and the benefits of a free market. Just because I think a product or service is of questionable origin or benefit does not mean I want it forcibly removed from the market. Part of our mission at Total Results is to educate our clients, and to help them separate truth from fiction so that they won't fall prey to scams, gimmicks, or snake-oil salesmen.

If you have ever looked through the pages of most fitness or bodybuilding magazines, two things probably stand out. One, the articles are written on a third grade level, and two, there are more advertisements than there is written content. Many of these advertisements are for a variety of dietary supplements, and a good number of these products make all kinds of outrageous claims. One pill will help you magically burn fat, while another pill will boost your testosterone level. These are dubious claims. The before and after pictures used in these advertisements are also hard to swallow. Rarely is the photography lighting standardized; the subject model in the before picture is usually pale, unshaven, and sticking his belly out to make himself look fat. In the after picture, the person looks lean and ripped, tan, well-groomed, and is often smiling. The problem is that this fills people with false hope and separates them from their hard-earned money. While the FDA is the government body that regulates the supplement industry, it will generally only take a product off the market if is proven to be harmful, not if it is simply ineffective. I had a personal experience with this when I was in my early twenties. I started taking creatine in the hope of increasing my muscle mass and workout performance. This lasted for a few months before I realized that my results were negligible and that I had wasted my money.

Another thing you will notice about fitness magazines is that nearly all of the people in the pictures are beautiful and perfectly proportioned. The magazines lead you to believe that everyone in there looks the way they do because they are doing the workout routine that is featured. They are mistaking cause and effect. Most of the models look the way they do in spite of their workout routine, not because of it. These are genetically gifted individuals who make up a very small portion of the population. The same holds true for the bodybuilding magazines. The magazines give the impression that if you follow their workout routines and take the same supplements, you can look like a professional bodybuilder. It's complete nonsense. The vast majority of bodybuilders are genetic abnormalities who also use performance-enhancing drugs. The way they look is completely unrelated to how they workout, and many of them suffer injuries and other health problems as a result of their lifestyle.

The mainstream fitness industry is full of gimmicks. In my nearly twenty years as an exercise instructor, I have seen many of them come and go; the use of inflatable exercise balls to "target your core", so-called "functional" weight training, and aerobics classes. The term aerobics gave way to "group exercise", while Bosu balls (which are inflatable, but flat on one side) became the next big thing in a misguided effort to improve one's balance. Explosive, or Olympic lifting has ebbed and flowed in popularity since the 1950's; the thinking here is that "in order to be fast, you have to train fast."

There is nothing new under the sun.

All of these things look and sound interesting, but none of them have much in the way of scientific basis to support their claims. Most people in the commercial fitness industry are not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to skill acquisition, principles of motor learning, or safety. All of the practices that I described provide very little benefit and are incredibly dangerous. Trying to perform exercises on an unstable surface or in an unstable position is a recipe for disaster, regardless of your age. Lifting heavy weights (or relatively light weights, for that matter) in an explosive fashion exponentially increases the likelihood of an acute or overuse injury. Further, most commercial gyms tout their supposed "state of the art" weight training equipment. While it may look shiny and impressive, most of the pieces are poorly-engineered copies of Nautilus machines that were made nearly fifty years ago. They typically have friction-laden weight stacks, resistance curves (if they have any at all) engineered around a fast speed of movement, improper restraint system (i.e. seat belts), and do not track muscle and joint function properly. In short, they are long on style and appearance but fail to measure up in the substance department. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of these facts.

The diet and weight loss industries are full of big promises and hyperbole. There are so many different diets and weight loss companies out there, it's hard to keep them all straight: the South Beach diet, raw food diet, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, and whatever Oprah Winfrey is currently touting are just a few of them. NutriSystem sells you pre-packaged meals designed around your caloric specifications and portion sizes. Unfortunately, many people tend to put weight back on once they leave the program (take a look at a current picture of former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw or former ESPN anchor Chris Berman, then compare it with commercials that they once did for the company). In 2011, Weight Watchers did away with their "points" system for counting calories; they finally admitted that counting calories is largely a frustrating waste of time. The implication was that you could eat whatever you wanted as long as you stayed within your points range. Unfortunately, what they didn't take into account was that restricting calories frequently leaves you in a state of hunger (which can cause you to eventually overeat), and that what you eat is as important as the amount of calories you consume. If you are eating a nutritionally-dense diet consisting largely of whole, single ingredient foods, with a minimum of grains and sugars, you will stimulate your body to use fat as its primary fuel source and push your plate away long before you have the desire to overeat.

At Total Results, we utilize no gimmicks and we give no false promises. We educate our clients on how the body works and how it best responds to an exercise stimulus in a way that is easy to understand. We use an exercise protocol based on the classical sciences, using specially engineered equipment in a distraction-free environment. We recommend an ancestrally-appropriate nutritional philosophy to minimize systemic inflammation and ward off the "diseases of modern civilization." Every workout is supervised by an experienced instructor that will help you to maximize benefit in minimum time. Don't fall for gimmicks. Let Total Results show you the way!

Posted April 02, 2019 by Tim Rankin