Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

May 2019

Overcoming The Mental Hurdle of Muscular Failure - by Matthew Romans

The word "failure" naturally has a negative connotation. In most other walks of life, failure is synonymous with not getting the job done, coming up short, or simply not being good enough. All of us have experienced failure in one form or another in our lives, and even though it has been said that we learn far more from our failures than our successes, the mere idea of the word failure is something that is unpleasant to most of us. At Total Results, we view the word failure in a completely different light. In the context of a high-intensity strength training workout, achieving momentary muscular failure means success.

Pushing to and beyond momentary muscular failure can do a psychological number on many of us in a couple of ways. First, the idea of no longer being able to move the machine's movement arm can be startling. Second, the burning that you feel in your muscles as exercise intensity increases (what we often call exertional discomfort) is often uncomfortable and unpleasant to deal with. This is why we proceed slowly in the first several sessions with new clients; in addition to teaching proper form and speed, finding proper settings in the machines, and mastering turnaround technique, we want clients to gradually get used to the discomfort that is a byproduct of intense exercise. We want to prepare you for the arrival of momentary muscular failure so that you are physically and psychologically ready to handle it. The ability to keep emotions in check and maintain focus as the exercise becomes more demanding is one of the most important skills a trainee can develop.

Why is achieving momentary muscular failure so important? Remember that the workout itself is merely the stimulus; the improvements that we seek occur as a result of maximizing recovery between sessions, getting enough sleep, hydrating and eating properly, and managing stress. Pushing to and beyond muscular failure ensures that we have done all that we can to stimulate the body, and it is also important from a standpoint of maintaining insulin sensitivity by flushing out the glycogen (stored carbohydrate) from the muscle cells. There are only two tangible measurements of muscular effort, zero and 100. Zero effort will not stimulate any benefits, and while we still do not know what the specific percentage of effort is required for optimum stimulus, we are safe in assuming that a maximum effort (going to muscular failure) will get the job done.

What can you do to overcome this hurdle? I'm reminded of a phrase that our colleague Al Coleman once used: "don't run from the discomfort, chase after it." The fear of exertional discomfort is often far worse than the discomfort itself. While the discomfort is unpleasant it is brief, lasting no more than three minutes, and once you accept the fact that the discomfort is inevitable it is easier to deal with. Try also to understand that the primary objective of each exercise is not to move the weight or complete a certain number of repetitions, but rather to inroad the musculature. Don't focus on whether the weight is moving or not; instead, focus on breathing freely and pushing against the movement arm, especially as movement slows or even stops. Muscular failure can come on suddenly or occur gradually; sometimes you'll know it's coming a repetition or two before it happens, and other times it feels like you've hit a wall. I can't explain exactly why this happens, but it can vary from one person or exercise to the next. The important thing is to not give into one's instincts when things get tough.

Arthur Jones once said that exercise begins at failure. While it's very natural to experience some distress upon reaching muscular failure, sharpening your mental focus when the exercise becomes most difficult will help you to achieve the optimal exercise stimulus. At Total Results, failure is success!

Posted May 31, 2019 by Matthew Romans

The Lumbar Extension - by Matthew Romans

The leading cause of missed days from work is lower back pain. This can occur as a result of a traumatic injury, overuse injury, genetic abnormality, or most often simple muscular weakness. One of the most unique and vital machines we have at Total Results is the MedX Lumbar Extension, which addresses the lower back. It is virtually impossible to find anything like it in a commercial gym setting, and while other equipment manufacturers have tried to produce variations and facsimiles, nothing comes close to the engineering genius that went into producing this revolutionary piece of machinery. The primary muscles involved in this exercise are the erector spinae and multifidus muscles, those responsible for extension and rotation of the spine. As Arthur Jones, founder of Nautilus Equipment Corporation states, "To the degree that muscular weakness is a factor in spinal pathology, the most important muscles are the extensor muscles of the lumbar spine&" (from: The Lumbar Spine, The Cervical Spine, and the Knee - Testing and Rehabilitation)

Arthur Jones founded the Nautilus corporation in the 1960s and forever changed the field of exercise. While Nautilus manufactured many machines that involved the lower back musculature (such as the Hip & Back and Lower Back machines), there was no mechanism in place to lock in the pelvis and most effectively target the spinal erectors. As a result, these machines were not truly able to measure or inroad (fatigue) strength levels in this vital musculature without involving the thigh and hip structures.

When Jones sold Nautilus in 1986 and created the MedX corporation, he established the first truly valid means of strength testing. The centerpiece of the MedX testing equipment line was the MedX Medical Grade Lumbar Extension machine, complete with computer feedback. Total Results' MedX Exercise Lumbar Extension machines were built on this framework but have enhanced cams to more effectively match strength with resistance. This machine (and all MedX selectorized equipment) has a weight stack without guide rods, which virtually eliminates friction. There are three seat settings and an adjustable foot plate, to accommodate people of varying heights. The machine has padded knee restraints (to minimize involvement of the thighs) and a rotating sacral pad to minimize irritation as your spine extends. A seat belt will be snugly fastened to contain the pelvis and arrest reactionary force. The Lumbar Extension has a possible range of motion of 80 degrees, and there is a range limiter than can alter either your starting or ending position to enable a safe and pain-free range of motion.

To begin the Lumbar Extension exercise, your instructor will have you enter the machine by first sitting on the seat and then swinging your right foot across (this guards against unilateral loading of the spine and pelvis). The positioning of the foot plate and knee restraints will be dependent upon achieving an angle of between 120 and 130 degrees at the knee joint, with the knees on a slightly higher plane than the hips. Once the seat belt has been fastened and the knee restraints have been sufficiently tightened, the movement arm will be brought to its starting position. Generally we set the start position at 50 degrees on the range of motion protractor; this was arrived upon years ago at the advice of the late Gary Lindahl, who was a physical therapist and owner of a high intensity exercise studio in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The client will lightly grasp the handles of the movement arm, and while keeping the shoulders relaxed and the head in neutral position, should gradually increase the amount of force applied to the pad across the shoulder blades to commence movement. A squeeze technique will be applied, beginning with the third repetition, by pressing the movement arm against the end point for a few seconds and then gradually easing out. Once momentary muscular failure and thorough inroad have been achieved, the movement arm will be slowly and safely returned to the bottom out position.

Regular exercise for the spinal erector muscles is essential for maintaining good posture and spinal health, especially as an increasing number of us spend more time sitting at work and in our daily commute. The mere act of performing the function of trunk extension opens up the space between the vertebrae, which helps to relieve compression and impingement, and can be of great benefit to those with conditions like disc herniation and sciatica. I believe this exercise should be performed at a minimum of once per week; our exercise protocol and equipment are the ideal combination to optimize your strength and make spinal surgery largely unnecessary.

Posted May 23, 2019 by Matthew Romans

The Vegetarian Myth, a book review by Matthew Romans

A few weeks ago a colleague sent me a video interview with Lierre Keith, who is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. The interview covered a wide variety of subjects, but discussed at length was the vegan lifestyle and philosophy, as well as modern agriculture. I have to admit that when I saw the subject heading of the video I was skeptical, but as I started to watch the interview I became more intrigued. I discovered that Ms. Keith lived as a vegan for twenty years, and in the interview she touched on how she got into that lifestyle and what eventually caused her to rethink her choices. I was so impressed by the interview that I purchased and read her book "The Vegetarian Myth", and there are some takeaways from the book that I would like to share with you.

The author explains the reasons why most people embrace the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, and the close links to the animal rights movement:

-First are moral vegetarians, who believe it is wrong to kill animals for any reason.

-Second are political vegetarians. According to Ms. Keith, "these vegetarians aren't looking for truths about sustainability or justice. They're looking for the small slice of facts that will shore up their ideology, their identities."

-Finally, there are nutritional vegetarians, who live the lifestyle because they believe it is inherently healthier than a more ancestrally-based diet.

While most vegetarians are sincere in their beliefs, they fail to understand a couple of things. First, nature has no moral code. As Ms. Keith says "nature is no more moral than immoral. It's amoral, by definition." Both animals and plants in the wild are either predator or prey, and all living things must eventually die. Second, we humans were not designed to live on a diet solely consisting of plants and grains. Cows can live exclusively on grass; the bacteria in their stomachs digest the cellulose from the grass, and in turn, the cow consumes the bacteria. This is how cows have evolved to live, but we humans are largely carnivores. We were designed to eat primarily meat and fat, and it in no small part contributed to our larger brains and our ability to reason.

Another concept that vegetarians fail to recognize (or willfully ignore) is that exclusively plant and grain-based diets are nutritionally deficient and can lead to a greater risk of the so-called "diseases of modern civilization", due to a higher insulin response (insulin must be secreted by the pancreas in order for the nutrients to reach the cells). These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer. The author details the extent of the physical damage she suffered as a result of the vegan lifestyle: a degenerative disc condition in her back, crippling depression (as a result of eating no meat and very little saturated fat, which affects serotonin production and inhibits your brain's neurotransmitters), constantly feeling like she had an upper respiratory infection, and permanently damaged insulin receptors. Some of this damage was lessened or reversed as a result of switching to a more ancestrally-appropriate diet (plenty of meat, fat, and vegetables/fruits), but some of it is irreversible.

The section of the book I found particularly interesting was where Ms. Keith discusses the damage that modern agriculture has done to the topsoil. She talks about the dust bowl conditions in the midwest United States in the 1930s, particularly in Oklahoma (this should be familiar to anyone who has read John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath") as a result of overplowing cotton and wheat. This destruction of the topsoil has a disastrous effect on trees, grasses, and birds. The topsoil is the most nutrient-dense part of the soil, and planting crops like corn and wheat deplete the soil of valuable nutrients very quickly. Irrigation and artificial damming have had a negative impact on fish populations, particularly in the Mississippi River.

Something else to consider about modern agriculture's impact has to do with the U.S. government's policy of subsidization. Corn is cheap and readily available as a result of this policy, and large farms use it to feed their livestock, particularly chickens, pigs, and cows. While corn will make the animals grow much faster than their native diet, it will also make them sick. They have to be injected with antibiotics in order to combat the sickness prior to slaughter, and unfortunately those antibiotics get passed along to the consumer. This is why it is safer and more nutritious to buy meats from animals that are raised on their natural diet.

While I may disagree with the author on a few political points (particularly her opinions on climate change), I think her book is well-researched (she references a few authors of which I am familiar) and full of important information. "The Vegetarian Myth" provides solid evidence to support an ancestrally-appropriate nutritional philosophy based on human biology and evolution; it also ruffled quite a few feathers within the vegan community. Ms. Keith's twenty year experience with the vegan lifestyle gives her a unique perspective and credibility with readers. If you are interested in optimizing your health (as a Total Results client or prospective client, I know you are) or looking to explode myths, this is a book I highly recommend.

Posted May 16, 2019 by Matthew Romans

Your Right to Healthcare

There has been an increasing call over the last few decades in the United States for universal healthcare. Certain groups say healthcare is a basic human right. What they are actually referring to is not healthcare per se, but rather free medical care, run directly or indirectly through the federal government. Of course, nothing in life is free; rather, it is just a matter of who pays for it. I do not know which way the political winds will blow regarding healthcare and the level of government involvement in the near future. Suffice it to say that governments in general move more toward collectivist solutions rather than away from them over time. It was true of the Roman Empire and the British Empire, and it is true of the United States.

Regardless of whether you support government run and mandated medical care or not, you need to understand your actual, indisputable, human right to healthcare, and it is this: You have the absolute right to "care" for your own health! That's it! You have to take care of yourself, because no person or entity cares about your health like you do.

You cannot rely solely on Doctors, or the government, or your insurance company, or your spouse, or your neighbors to promote or maintain your health.

No one mandates or forces you to eat poorly, or overindulge (even if government policies have often promoted exactly that - search for our post on gluten and food enrichment as an example). No one prevents you from reading labels, understanding what you are eating, or studying the science behind proper nutrition. Likewise, no one prevents you from exercising regularly. No government agency has yet announced a ban on walking regularly, or getting moderate sun exposure whenever possible, or going to bed early in order to get adequate sleep at night. Since no one can prevent you from pursuing healthy lifestyle choices, it is incumbent upon you to do just that. That is, of course, if you want to live a healthy and productive life.

Also, many of us voluntarily engage in activities that put us at risk of injury or illness. We participate in sports where an injury occur, or we spend time in the outdoors where we can get infections like poison ivy or tick bites, or we engage in risky behaviors (ex. alchohol and drug consumption, reckless driving, extreme sports, etc.) that can increase the odds of injury or disease or even death. These are personal choices each of us make and they are choices that often add to the richness of our lives. However, we must realize that since we made these choices for ourselves, we alone are responsible for living with the consequences. We must pursue our vices and hobbies in moderation and we must prepare for our own health-related expenses. This preparation might include having decent medical insurance and/or saving a portion of our income for potential medical expenses. Also, tying into the above discussion, by living a healthy lifestyle, we are able to recover much more quickly from injury or illness than someone who is less healthy. Having a strong health "constitution" will serve you well over the course of your life.

If we take these recommendations to heart, our encounters with medical care will be few and far between, and that is how it should be. If we fully exercise our right to care for our own health, we can live the most productive and happy life possible.

If you haven't been exercising your right to care for your own health, start today! Have a modest sized, healthy dinner. Take a walk after eating, and go to be early tonight. Plan on exercising this week (Give us a call at Total Results - we can help!) Enjoy your recreational time, but exercise caution.

That is much better healthcare than you could ever get at the hospital, and at a fraction of the price!

Start your own health care today!

Posted May 10, 2019 by Matthew Romans

Learning is a Continuous Process - by Matthew Romans

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you think you know for sure that just ain't so."

The above quote has been credited to both Mark Twain and Will Rogers, among others. No one can say for sure who came up with it, but I think it's a humorous way of saying that we should never truly think we have things completely figured out. I'd like to think that as we age and gain perspective we develop an appreciation for how much more there is to learn. However, there are lots of people out there who, for whatever reason, seem content with their current level of knowledge and are unwilling to keep learning. As I have mentioned in previous articles, this is an example of what Dr. Carol Dweck, author of the book "Mindset", calls the "growth vs fixed mindset." Those with the growth mindset believe that learning is a lifelong process, while those with a fixed mindset have the attitude that they have learned everything they need to be successful. I believe that learning is a continuous process.

I have certainly been guilty of having a fixed mindset many times in my life. When I was younger, like many people, I thought I knew everything about a wide variety of subjects. It's not that I purposely disregarded the advice of my elders, it's that I simply thought I knew better. When I completed my high school football career and wanted to play college football, my head coach and my family encouraged me to pursue a program in Division II or III. I was stubborn; I thought I was good enough to play at Division I-AA (now known as FCS) Towson University. I was not big enough and didn't have a strong enough arm to effectively compete as a quarterback at that level, and while I enjoyed my experience there, I could have had a much better playing career at a smaller school. I thought I knew, but I didn't know. When it came to weight training in my teens and early twenties, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. I had taken physiology classes in college and read all the bodybuilding magazines. I couldn't understand why my progress was so slow and why I kept getting upper respiratory infections. I didn't know, and didn't know that I didn't know. Even after finally being introduced to proper exercise principles and eventually completing my Level One Super Slow Instructor certification, I thought I had arrived. I thought that having that certificate meant I had learned all that I needed to be an exceptional instructor. I didn't realize then that the learning had just begun.

More is learned from failure than success; most successful people would probably agree. Any great innovator or inventor will fail many times before he or she succeeds. That holds true for Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Alexander Graham Bell. Arthur Jones and Ken Hutchins, two people that I consider to be engineering geniuses in the field of exercise equipment design, probably learned more from equipment prototype failures than they did from their successes. In fact, their successful designs wouldn't have been possible without numerous failures. It was through trial and error during the Nautilus Osteoporosis Project that Ken refined our exercise protocol.

At this point in my early forties, I'm at least smart enough to know what I don't know. As another saying goes ,"if you're the smartest person in the room, then you're in the wrong room." This is why I seek out knowledge from a variety of sources and expose myself to opinions that often differ from my own. There is always something new to learn. At Total Results, we constantly question our methods, seek to gain greater insight, and search for a better way to give you the best exercise experience that money can buy. Our mission is your amazing, and since we consider ourselves to be teachers, we look to pass along to you the knowledge that we acquire. Even if you have been a Total Results client for several years, we like to think that there is always something new that you can learn.

Start the learning process today!

Posted May 09, 2019 by Matthew Romans