Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

April 2019

What is happening when your workout performance declines? by Matthew Romans

Here is the scenario: Everything seems ridiculously hard in today's workout. You feel like you just don't "have it" today. It feels as though the weights on every exercise were raised by twenty pounds. You struggle to maintain focus and proper form, and you feel more fatigued than usual. Your instructor tells you that your time under load on most of the exercises was much shorter than usual; when you ask if all the weights were heavier, you are told no. While you did the best you could do, it was not on par with your performance in previous workouts. What could be the explanation?

The answer could be something as simple as a common upper respiratory infection, or even a night or two of poor sleep. One subpar workout performance isn't necessarily a cause for concern; after all, we are only human. While novice clients do often improve very rapidly (largely due to the learning effect), it's unrealistic to expect that experienced clients are going to turn in career-best performances on every workout. However, several subpar workouts in a row, combined with feelings of lethargy, decreased strength, and dwindling focus could be an indication that you're not satisfying your biological requirements between sessions. What is happening?

Several factors affect recovery, particularly sleep, stress, additional activity level, nutrition, and hydration. During sleep, other body processes slow down, and that is when the body goes about repairing muscle tissue broken down during the workout. Stress, and the lack of management of it, can make sleep difficult and contribute to a diminished workout focus. Being active outside of Total Results has many benefits, but excessive physical activity can put a strain on your recovery ability. Nutrition and hydration are fairly self-explanatory; the body needs raw materials in order to make the bodily improvements that are sought. The body also needs fuel in order to facilitate intense muscular effort; this fuel comes primarily from carbohydrates, which is stored in your muscle cells and liver as glycogen.

If you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, managing stress, not overdoing it with additional physical activity, eating an ancestrally-appropriate diet and drinking plenty of water, there is one most likely explanation for your decreased workout performance: you need to decrease your exercise frequency. It's important to understand what Dr. Doug McGuff (author of Body by Science) refers to as the "dose-response relationship of exercise." The workout is the exercise stimulus; that is what sends the message to the body to adapt (i.e.- get stronger, improve cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, etc.). Just like many medications, exercise has a narrow therapeutic window, which means that not enough exercise will not stimulate any benefit, and too much exercise will have a toxic effect. You want the minimum dose necessary to stimulate the desired result. If you reintroduce the stimulus before the body has completed the adaptive response, you will remain in a catabolic (breaking down) state rather than an anabolic (building up) state. This can lead to a cessation of progress, illness due to a compromised immune system, and overuse injury. Think about incurring a relatively superficial cut to your index finger. Provided the cut is reasonably minor, it will probably heal within seven to ten days. However, if once the cut starts to scab you pull it off, that will interrupt the healing process and make it take much longer, and could even lead to a scar. Exercising again before your body is properly recovered has the same metaphorical effect.

At Total Results, we go to great lengths to regulate the variables of exercise frequency, volume, and intensity; this is where precise record-keeping becomes critical. Every result of every exercise of every workout is kept in detail on a client spreadsheet. Since the body is fairly resistant to change, we need to exercise at a high level of intensity (work toward momentary muscular failure) in order to stimulate the body to adapt. Because of this higher level of effort produced, the workouts must be of shorter duration (30 minutes or less) and performed less frequently (no more than twice per week, with at least three days between workouts) than traditional weight training methods. If your weights and/or time under load are stagnating or significantly decreasing, you may be overtrained. Many of our longer-tenured clients exercise once per week, and we even have a few clients that exercise once every 10-14 days. Each person's recovery ability can vary.

Let Total Results find the right exercise dosage to unlock your body's potential. Schedule an initial consultation today!

Posted April 30, 2019 by Tim Rankin

The Best Exercise Experience Money Can Buy - by Matthew Romans

Not all exercise experiences are created equal. Few people in the mainstream fitness industry actually know what true exercise is; they usually mistake activity for exercise. At Total Results, we provide the best exercise experience money can buy.

If you go into a commercial gym, you will probably find it overcrowded, hot, and full of distractions. There will be music blaring in the background, bright lights, mirrors, and conversations going on in the workout area. Worse yet, you're liable to observe gym members who think they know something about exercise doing all kinds of things that are at best unproductive, and at worst, completely unsafe and idiotic. Dealing with all these distractions is difficult enough, but figuring out on your own which machines to use, in which order and with the proper amount of intensity is next to impossible. If you should inquire about the services of a "personal trainer", you'll probably meet someone with minimal experience, little knowledge of anatomy, physiology, or nutrition, and with a certification from an organization that gives weekend courses. These "trainers" can charge $60 or more per hour for their "services." Considering the questionable methodology that is used, this hardly seems like a sound investment.

You want to get stronger, feel better, protect yourself from injury, and be able to get the most out of life. These are all great reasons to begin a comprehensive exercise program. You've tried the traditional gym circus and it wasn't for you. What should you do? Call or visit Total Results. We have nearly 20 years of experience in helping people optimize their health and fitness. A seasoned exercise instructor can show you the hows and whys of our exercise philosophy, as well as regulate the variables of exercise frequency, intensity, and duration. Each Total Results exercise instructor is required to pass a rigorous certification exam (consisting of an oral, written, and practical section with a minimum of 80% proficiency on each). We value continuing education and regularly read up on new developments in exercise, nutrition, and medicine. Client safety is our foremost concern; this is something that is addressed during our initial consultation and is reinforced in every single exercise that is performed during a workout. This is a standard that you are not likely to find in a commercial gym.

Our exercise environment is also unmatched. We have a studio that is private (no more than two clients in the workout space at a time), distraction-free, and is cool, dry, and well-ventilated. Our exercise equipment is engineered specifically for our exercise protocol and cannot be replicated in a commercial gym or home studio. Most of our machines are cammed, which enables us to properly match strength and resistance throughout a range of motion (based on leverage factors), and we can customize seat settings to accommodate people of varying heights (our tallest client was 6'10" and our shortest client was 4'7").

The role of a Total Results exercise instructor is that of a teacher. We are teaching an exercise protocol that is very different from what most clients are accustomed to, so it is our job to communicate effectively and efficiently. This is certainly very evident in the first few sessions, but education is a continuous process. We initially select the exercises that are the easiest to learn, and as the client's proficiency with the protocol increases, we add or subtract exercises as necessary. We are experienced in working with and around a variety of injuries and physical limitations, and we select the exercises based on your needs. It's important for the instructor to be a "looming presence"; standing close enough to provide assistance if necessary, but also far enough away to observe all of the involved joints and not invade personal space. Form discrepancies should be corrected immediately and repeatedly; this is how clients become more proficient with proper form, speed of movement, and turnaround technique. Feedback is provided by the instructor during and after the workout, and we keep detailed records of every workout that is performed. Body composition, circumference, and weight measurements are taken within the first few sessions, and then taken again three or four months down the road; this way there are as many markers of progress as possible. We will also talk at length about proper nutrition and help you to stay on track.

You will work more purposefully, efficiently, and safely under the supervision of a Total Results instructor than you will on your own or with a "trainer." Exercise is an investment in yourself, and we want you to get your money's worth - every single time. Schedule your free initial consultation today!

Posted April 23, 2019 by Tim Rankin

The Leg Press

The Leg Press is the most important and most demanding exercise that is performed in a Total Results workout. It involves all of the musculature of the lower body, most specifically the quadriceps (responsible for extension of the knee), the hamstrings (responsible for knee flexion), and the buttocks (which perform the function of hip extension). It is such an important exercise that it is generally the first one we teach to beginning clients during an initial consultation. This machine's movement arm tracks horizontally rather than upward at a 45 degree angle (like many plate-loaded machines that you see in commercial gyms), so it is safer for your lower back. It is also safer than a traditional barbell squat because you are loaded through the pelvis rather than through the shoulders (which vertically loads and compresses your spinal column).

The Leg Press has what Arthur Jones (the founder of Nautilus and Med-X exercise equipment) referred to as a "knock-on effect", meaning that it has a tremendous impact on your overall exercise stimulus that will trigger growth in muscles that are not directly involved in this particular exercise. Since this exercise involves such a large amount of muscle, it is usually performed near the beginning of a Total Results workout because we want to do the most demanding exercises when the body is relatively fresh.

The Leg Press machine is engineered to properly track muscle and joint function and facilitate safe and easy entry and exit. It has adjustable start and end positions as well as shoulder restraints to accommodate varying limb lengths and height. There are three adjustable head pads available to ensure safe head and neck position. Other features include a cradled seat for your sacrum (tail bone) and non-slip foot board. Finally, the seat back has three different positions: vertical (often used to perform calf raises), middle (for leg press), and reclined (to perform more of a squatting movement).

The machine's design allows for clients to reach momentary muscular failure at various points in the range of motion from one workout to the next, and you don't have to worry about being put into a compromising or unsafe position the way you would in a barbell squat. This machine is truly a marvel of engineering and is a quantum leap ahead of its predecessors and contemporaries.

Posted April 22, 2019 by Tim Rankin

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