Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

February 2022

Mastery and the White Belt Mindset

I am skeptical of anyone that refers to themselves as an expert, regardless of what field they are in. In my opinion, if someone considers themselves an expert they are sending a message that they know all there is to know about a certain subject; they have reached their capacity to gain any further insight and are content where they are. This is faulty thinking and smacks of arrogance. I believe that the only subject in which one can truly consider themselves an expert is knowledge of self, and even that should be an ongoing process. While no one truly knows you better than you know yourself, it is my belief that self-analysis and discovery should be a lifelong process, and it is a sign of personal growth.

The same can be said about the concept of mastery. Mastery of anything, whether it's a musical instrument or complex mathematics, is something that requires patience, practice, desire, and humility. It means never being content with one's knowledge; in order to succeed one must strive to learn more and to get better. Patience is required because the true nature of learning entails making mistakes. Practice is necessary to hone one's skills and improve technique. An individual must have the drive and the burning desire to improve in order to achieve mastery. This is what makes the time and effort worth it. Finally, a humble attitude helps to remind you that no matter how much you think you know, there is always someone out there that knows more. Knowledge can come from a variety of sources, and experience is the best teacher. He who knows will always work for he who knows why.

In martial arts, there is what is known as the "White Belt Mindset." A white belt is given to beginner students of the discipline, and it signifies that they are the least knowledgeable practitioners of the art in the dojo. As students progress they earn belts of different colors to indicate their change in skill level, and in most disciplines a black belt is considered the highest honor, although there are different degrees of black belt. Many martial arts instructors espouse (and they themselves practice) the "White Belt Mindset," which means that no matter what proficiency level they achieve, they still continue to learn and grow, both mentally and physically. They are not content with their current level of knowledge and skill, and have the beginner's mentality that dictates there is still much more to learn. Practitioners of the "White Belt Mindset" know that learning is a lifelong journey, and they believe that this is an important lesson to demonstrate to people of all experience levels.

Over 90 percent of Total Results clients have never used our exercise methodology before they walk into our studio. They are truly beginners, and we metaphorically give them a "white belt" when they go through an initial consultation and a sample workout. In many cases, working with someone who has never exercised before is easier than trying to teach someone who has a preconceived notion of what they think exercise is. A new client is often a blank canvas and is someone more receptive to teaching, as opposed to someone who needs to unlearn bad habits. We start new clients with a basic, generic routine which consists of compound exercises that are the easiest to learn. This enables the client to develop a proper feel for speed of movement, turnarounds, pace and correct breathing, while it helps the instructor to effectively gauge strength and skill levels, get proper machine settings, and help the client to gradually reach a more meaningful level of resistance and effort. This process also helps the instructor to troubleshoot or make adjustments or substitute exercises in the case of joint problems. In many cases, the concept of Occam's Razor applies; the simplest solution/explanation is often the correct one. Once the client reaches an appropriate level of proficiency, we will often introduce some new exercises that are commensurate with their ability to process and execute instructions that they are given. Many twice-per-week clients will perform two completely separate exercise routines each week, an A routine and a B routine. No matter how advanced a client becomes or how intensely they exercise, we always return to fundamentals: proper breathing, trunk and neck stabilization, and smoothness of movement. There are several Total Results clients that have been with us for over fifteen years, and they continue to make progress toward their goals while still being extremely receptive to instructions. These long-tenured clients are excellent examples of the "White Belt Mindset."

I have worked as an exercise instructor for over twenty years, and I could (and likely will) spend a lifetime attempting to master the nuances of my art and never feel satisfied with my level of knowledge. I see mastery as most people visualize the concept of perfection; it is something to constantly shoot for but is always just outside of my grasp. This is what gets me up in the morning at a ridiculously early hour. It is the pursuit of mastery that matters, not the achievement of it. I constantly review my performance, critique myself, question what I know, and look to see if there is truly a better way. In the end, I find myself going back to fundamentals of instruction such as where I stand during a session, voice volume and inflection, word/phrase choices, and being able to see the complete picture. It never hurts to have a refresher now and again, and periodic reflection is a healthy habit.

Think of this as a journey rather than a destination. People are individuals, and everyone has different goals they want to accomplish. When one goal has been reached, set another goal. Even though exercise is a means to an end for many of you, striving for mastery and maintaining a "White Belt Mindset" will keep you mentally and physically sharp and help you to achieve excellence along the way.

Posted February 24, 2022 by Matthew Romans

Equipment Design, Function, and Protocol - Requirements for Success

There is far more to the Total Results exercise philosophy than simply going to muscular failure while using a specific speed of movement. The philosophy encompasses numerous elements and has many requirements that must be satisfied, otherwise the end result will be less than optimal. Most readers have been inside a traditional gym or health club before and have seen the ridiculous behavior in such an environment; there is no cohesive exercise philosophy among the patrons or owners of the establishment, and the equipment is generally terrible. A reasoned exercise philosophy should have a foundation rooted in the classic sciences, as well as an understanding of human behavior and psychology. The studio environment is just as important as the instructor's use of language or the exercise equipment that is used. Finally, a clear and concise communication of expectations and objectives must be understood by both the instructor and the client. In short, all of these ingredients must be in place in order to achieve success. These are the pillars of the Total Results exercise philosophy.

The first element is the studio environment. As I mentioned earlier, most commercial gyms are a haven of distractions and ridiculous behavior. Simply put, nobody that is interested in a deep and meaningful exercise experience can achieve much benefit amid such a circus. Gyms are generally too hot, crowded and full of people who know less than nothing about proper exercise. A proper studio environment should be clean, cool, properly ventilated, and most of all private. Meaningful exercise requires deep focus and concentration, and it must be quiet enough to be able to listen to and process instructions from your instructor. At Total Results, we keep the temperature around 68 degrees, with humidity between 40 and 60 percent (the optimal range) and fans are stationed near each machine. This enables the client to work intensely without overheating, and a workout should be completed without a drop of sweat. The best part of all is that there is no one else in the studio besides the instructor and the client. Distractions are all but eliminated and privacy is assured.

There must be a clear and concise communication between the instructor and client about what is to be expected from both parties, as well as the objectives of exercise. These should be re-emphasized periodically. Safety and efficiency are paramount. It should be clearly understood that working at a high level of intensity in order to stimulate positive change is not a social activity and is most definitely not fun, and that to achieve optimum metabolic benefit requires focus, attention to detail, and a willingness to learn something that is very new for most people. There should be a desire to want to improve, and I believe that the best motivation is intrinsic. Ralph Weinstein said it best in his most recent article when he quoted former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz: "Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. But attitude determines how well you do it."

A foundation in the classic sciences is the backbone of the Total Results philosophy, and it sets us apart from the traditional weight training and steady-state aerobics that most people have been brainwashed into believing in over the last 40 years. We call upon principles derived from biology, chemistry, physics, motor learning, biomechanics, and anatomy and physiology. From physics we understand that force = mass x acceleration, and that excessive force is the root cause of injury. Avoiding abrupt acceleration is paramount to maximizing safety and optimizing muscular loading, which is a requirement to stimulate muscle growth and other physical improvements. Biology teaches us how the body utilizes energy, not just in everyday life, but what fuel is used for a high intensity workout. It teaches us that we use both the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways during our brief and infrequent exercise sessions, and it guides the instructor's decision about exercise frequency, intensity, and duration. An understanding of anatomy and physiology enables us to know muscle and joint function, which guides us in determining exercise selection and settings, and knowing the structure of joints allows us to anticipate making adjustments in the case of injury. Knowledge of motor learning and biomechanics principles enables us to help clients learn proper form. We perform gross motor movements that are not based on anything other than proper muscle and joint function. The problem with so-called "functional training" is that it is too rooted in performing or mimicking a specific skill. Every time you try to mimic a sport-specific skill or other types of movements in weight training, the risk of injury exponentially increases due to high levels of force. Finally, a basic understanding of chemistry helps us to provide nutritional and supplementation guidance to our clients so that they can maximize their genetic blueprint and get the most out of the exercise stimulus that we create during workouts.

An exercise protocol is only as good as the equipment that is being used, and muscular function should dictate equipment design. If a machine does not properly track muscle and joint function, then optimal loading of the muscular structures cannot occur. Simply put, terrible equipment equals a terrible exercise experience. Most exercise machines that you see in commercial facilities are poorly engineered. They are often laden with friction, utilize independent movement arms (which are dangerous and far more difficult to control), and have cams (which vary the resistance based on leverage) that are incorrect and backwards because they are based on a speed of movement that is way too fast. Arthur Jones created Nautilus machines in order to improve upon the only tool that was largely available at that time: the barbell. Jones created his "Ten Requirements for Full Range Exercise'' as a guideline for equipment design, but also as a sub-philosophy for training, and although many of his requirements have been rendered moot, a couple of them still have great value, such as the need for direct and variable resistance. Jones's machines were a quantum leap forward for weight training safety and efficiency, but even vintage Nautilus equipment was far from perfect. Ken Hutchins encountered problems with friction, independent movement arms, and backward cams when he utilized slower movement speeds during the Nautilus Osteoporosis Study, and it prompted him to first retrofit many of the Nautilus machines, then to start designing his own equipment to his specifications. Hutchins understood that a machine must have minimal friction in order to accommodate a proper slow speed of movement, and the equipment that we have at Total Results was built by Ken in order to improve upon machines made by Nautilus and MedX (also started by Arthur Jones).

A perfect example of Ken's engineering prowess is our Seated Leg Curl machine. The machine's floating seat helps to minimize knee irritation, while the coupled movement arm allows and encourages the necessary hip extension to maximally engage the hamstring muscles. The evolution from a standard prone Leg Curl machine of the vintage Nautilus days to the machine that we currently have in our study is rather lengthy and involved, but suffice to say that the end result is spectacular. Function truly dictates design.

Finally, those that practice or teach an exercise philosophy should have an understanding of human behavior and an interest in psychology. One of the most interesting aspects of being an instructor is getting a chance to learn about different people, their personalities, and also finding out the best way to get them to understand what I am teaching. We also want to minimize negative behaviors that get in the way of achieving the primary objective of exercise, thorough inroad of the musculature. This includes breath holding/Val Salva, facial grimacing, wiggling, and adjusting while under load. There must be an emphasis on stabilization of the trunk and neck musculature (through proper joint alignment/positioning, and the use of seat belts), for no meaningful loading of the target musculature can occur without it. No other traditional weight training protocol recognizes this fact. Additionally, in order to optimally load the musculature, we need to strive for smoothness of movement. While I believe that 10/10 speed is still the best guideline to use, each individual is different in terms of neurological efficiency and skill. Some clients may benefit by moving slightly faster. Therefore, I am less fanatical than I used to be about achieving ten seconds for each excursion. Smoothness of movement is what we should strive to accomplish. Keeping these concepts in mind will allow you to move smoothly and continuously on a variety of exercises with different ranges of motion.

Total Results understands the importance of all of these factors, and we have manipulated all of the variables necessary to give you the best chance to achieve the success you desire. Our studio environment and equipment, combined with our knowledge of the classic sciences and ability to communicate objectives and expectations is what sets us apart from the rest of the industry. Working to connect with our clients on a deeper level forges a very powerful and successful partnership. One can try to implement our exercise protocol in a commercial setting, but the experience usually falls far short. Experience the difference; it's never too late to start.

Posted February 11, 2022 by Matthew Romans