Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

November 2021

How Can You Maximize Your Potential?

All of us are dealt a genetic hand of cards at birth. There are some things that you cannot change, such as height, eye color, or the sex you were born to be. Some people have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases of modern civilization, like heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Unfortunately, many people use that as an excuse. Just because your mother suffered from osteoporosis (which is completely preventable) doesn't mean that you have to follow the same path. Even if you are predisposed to a condition, that doesn't make it inevitable. Lifestyle and personal choices will go further toward determining your physical appearance and health (or lack of health) than your genetic predispositions. Everyone has the potential to be strong, healthy, and free from chronic disease; the question is, what are you going to do about it?

I am a firm believer in being in charge of your own destiny. All of us have the capacity to accomplish great things, based on the gifts we have been given. In the realm of learning, there is what is referred to as the fixed and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset states that our abilities are essentially set in stone, while adopting the growth mindset means that you believe anything is possible with the right attitude, desire, and work ethic. In order to maximize your physical and intellectual potential, one must adopt the growth mindset and maintain it going forward. Not all of us can be astrophysicists or Olympic athletes, but if we think positively, live with purpose, and strive to challenge ourselves mentally and physically, we can be the best possible versions of ourselves and reach heights that we thought were impossible.

How can you maximize your potential?

Keep an open mind and a learner's (beginner's) mindset. Don't be satisfied with what you think you know, or with your current level of achievement. Celebrate your accomplishments, but don't rest on your laurels. In the martial arts, even those who acquire high level black belts speak of having a "white belt mentality." Always try to learn something new, and find a way to relate it to your everyday life. This will stimulate your brain and keep you sharp. In order for life to continue to have meaning and for us to be at our best, we need new challenges to face, even when we reach retirement age.

Eat a diet consisting of single-ingredient whole foods. Go organic, whenever it is possible. Contrary to what we've been told by the big food industry (and a lot of clueless doctors), consuming refined and processed carbohydrates, rather than saturated fat, is what makes us fat and causes chronic disease. Here is a little-known fact: our brains are made up of about 70 percent fat, so consume plenty of fat from quality sources (animal meat, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, nuts). Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, drink alcohol in moderation, stay hydrated, and avoid sugar as much as possible.

Perform regular Total Results workouts once or twice per week. No other form of activity can match the metabolic effect of a high intensity, slow speed weight training workout. Muscle tissue has the greatest impact on determining your body's shape (within your genetic blueprint), and working at a significant level of effort is what is required to stimulate the growth mechanism. This will also enable you to build healthy bones, stabilize connective tissue, and keep your joints properly lubricated. This will make the performance of everyday tasks that much easier, in addition to protecting you against injury (it's hard to reach your potential if you are regularly injured or sick). Every workout is an opportunity to meet a challenge head-on and set a new goal for yourself.

Incorporate supplementation into your lifestyle. Eating a diet similar to our paleolithic ancestors is certainly more nutritious than the typical modern Western diet, but not all of us are perfect, and some deficiencies can occur (particularly if you suffer from chronic disease). I recommend supplementing with Vitamins C and D, fish oil, magnesium, and zinc. If you are over the age of 50, I would also recommend taking Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which will enable your body to effectively manufacture cholesterol, another substance your body needs in order to optimize cell and brain function. This is critically important if you are taking a statin drug, which brings me smoothly to my final recommendation.

Get off medications! Unfortunately, modern conventional medicine has devolved into simply handing out prescriptions to patients. I could go on and on about the pharmaceutical industry, but space is limited. Suffice to say, ALL prescription medications merely treat symptoms rather than correct the underlying problem at the cellular level. In addition to only treating symptoms, prescription medications (and many over the counter drugs) carry with them nasty side effects that create other problems in your body. Be your own advocate, do your own research, and have a frank conversation with your physician about taking charge of your health.

Anything in life that is worth dreaming is worth doing. If there is something that you want, you can do it if you want it badly enough and are willing to pay the price to get there. The price does not have to be that steep, but it does require patience and dedication. Take charge and get started today.

Posted November 27, 2021 by Matthew Romans

Speed of Movement and Pacing - Two Sides of the Same Coin

Most of our clients and regular readers of this blog understand that the Total Results exercise protocol is inherently unique. No other type of exercise methodology places as great an emphasis on the little details: instructional verbiage, entry and exit of the equipment, and recognizing and correcting form discrepancies. Our protocol utilizes a 10/10 speed of movement (on both the positive and negative phases of the movement), but 8-12 seconds in each direction meets an acceptable standard. This is done to maximize muscular loading, minimize momentum, optimize safety, and also to allow for the full benefit of our machines' cam effect. A kevlar belt is attached to the machine's weight stack, and the belt goes around the perimeter of an eccentric-shaped lobe (cam) that is connected to a pulley; this mechanism is what varies the resistance based on leverage factors throughout the range of motion of the exercise. Proper variable resistance is an essential part of obtaining the optimal exercise stimulus, and it's one reason that duplicating the Total Results exercise experience in a commercial gym is virtually impossible.

Total Results exercise founder Ken Hutchins talks about cams and speed of movement in his recent book "Cams Within Cams." According to Hutchins, "Speed is the most important factor affecting the resistance curve of an exercise. This remains the most important factor regardless of the tool - barbell, bodyweight, gymnastic tool, exercise machine." Clearly a standardized and appropriately slow speed of movement is necessary from an equipment (cam) design standpoint. Ken goes on to discuss this point a little further, saying that, "...A defined speed is the only way to obtain a reliable resistance curve. And specifying speed is also the only way to avoid confusion with exercise subjects." This is why most of the equipment that you see in home and commercial gyms is poorly manufactured; the engineers that designed these machines have not standardized their speed of movement and go way too fast. In such equipment, any cam effect is purely coincidental; take a look at most gym rats, and you will see what amounts to throwing and catching of the movement arm on an exercise machine. Incidentally, many of these same engineering flaws were present even in vintage Nautilus equipment of the 1970s and 1980s. Nautilus protocol recommended 2/4 speed (2 seconds on the positive and 4 seconds on the negative), and many of the old guard at Nautilus moved even faster than that during their workouts. In addition, the cams were often backward, with the resistance being too heavy in the most contracted position and too light in the start position. Utilizing a 10/10 speed also allows the instructor to recognize and correct form discrepancies during each exercise; only a standardized and creepy slow movement makes this possible.

But what about pacing? How important is it, and how do we define it? Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity of an object with respect to time. The Khan Academy says that, "Velocity describes how position changes; acceleration describes how velocity changes." This gives us some perspective. I would use the word pace to describe how consistent one's speed of movement is during an exercise, and I believe that pacing is an incredibly important factor in obtaining an optimal exercise stimulus. When judging pace, you want to determine if there is a uniformly smooth movement or if there are significant jumps in the movement, whether it speeds up or slows down. Certainly, we have an ideal standard in mind that we measure against, and not all ten second excursions are created equal. For example, you could take two seconds to perform the first half of the positive phase, and the second half in eight. In theory, your speed would be acceptable but your pace would not. In my judgment as an instructor, that repetition would be counted, but would probably not qualify for a graduation to a higher weight for the next workout. By the same token, you could take six seconds to complete the negative with a relatively consistent pace, but your speed would be too fast. Form discrepancies such as segmentation (which is often due to less than optimal neurological efficiency and motor control), off/oning, and ratcheting will have an impact on both speed and pace, but more often poor pacing is a result of a lack of concentration and spatial awareness.

If you struggle with proper pace and speed, what can you do to improve it? The first key is to focus! Shut everything else out of your mind for the twenty minutes of your workout and think about the task at hand. If your mind is allowed to drift elsewhere, it will be difficult to have good speed of movement and pace. Second, be an active listener! Intellectually process the instructions you are given. Your instructor will periodically utilize a cadence count to give you a reference point for speed and pace; use that to help develop a better feel for the stroke (distance from start point to end point) of each exercise. Some exercises have a greater range of motion than others, but ten seconds works well on all of them. Finally, you can silently count to yourself now and again as you go through the positive and negative excursions of the repetitions. For many years I discouraged clients from this practice, as I thought it led to segmentation of the movement, but I no longer believe that is the case. In fact, we have timers on many of our machines that clients can see in order to help pace themselves. One of the most important factors in motor learning is knowledge of results, and this practice of counting (or seeing the seconds tick off) provides immediate feedback of performance.

A slow speed of movement is a critical factor in exercise, but as we can see, pace is very important as well. Certainly, intensity of effort and getting to muscular failure are essential for spurring the body to make improvements, but just getting there isn't enough. It's how you get there that makes all the difference in the world. In reality, speed and pace go hand in hand, and a proper command of both are needed to achieve optimal form, and in turn, a quality exercise stimulus.

Posted November 12, 2021 by Matthew Romans