Monday, September 17, 2007

The Real Value of Variable Resistance

Popular in the last century into this, has been the notion of the desirability of “variable resistance” throughout the full range of a muscle working in isolation -- but thinking that the importance must be in varying the resistance mechanically in some fashion -- rather than that it is the natural way the muscles work -- invariably, and one simply needs to allow it to work in that way.

Yet in the design of most exercise apparatus, it has regarded the body as something to be worked against rather than incorporating the genius of its natural design and millions of years of evolution. Variable resistance makes possible contraction as well as relaxation -- because it is that difference in change of state, that produces a favorable effect in performing work or ensuring the health of the body.

If the weight varies even without any movement producing it, allows for the possibility of relaxation and contraction, which produces a flow -- of circulation and respiration (fluid and gases). Meanwhile, a resistance that does not vary even throughout an obvious and extended movement, does not allow this same flow because the change in muscle tension does not vary.

When a person does a 200 lb. bench press (lying on their back), the bottom limit must be that the person must exert at least 200 lbs of pressure against the bar at all times -- or the bar will go through their chest and crush their spinal cord. However, to get a bar moving upward, requires just slightly more than 200 lbs of pressure -- but that difference is minimal compared to going from 0 to 220 lbs of pressure that a maximally variable apparatus would produce.

That’s the reason an exercise performed for at least 25 repetitions will cause a person to “fail” regardless of whether the weight is light or heavy -- because the entirety of that exercise, despite seeming to be done while breathing, is really being done anaerobically -- or with the person holding their breath, for all practical purposes. However, the interesting thing is that such a manner of performance is not producing true muscular failure -- but causes a cessation of effort because the flow to the head and brain is usually constricted during the performance, and that is the critical regulator of activity throughout the body.

If one goes to the gyms throughout the world and watches people training with weights, and is not distracted by the dramatic movements ostensibly being performed, and note carefully the increasing constriction (of blood flow) and distress registering at the neck and face, one will know what I am talking and understand why such activity is perceived by the brain, as something it doesn’t want to do -- and is disabling and dangerous to do.

It doesn’t have to be that way -- with the proper attention to what really is happening, and not simply, what one thinks is happening, or wishes is happening.


At September 18, 2007 12:41 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

A funny thing happens at the extremes of every movement -- and that is that it resists further movement, quite naturally and unfailingly. If one knows what those extremes of the range of movement are, simply moving into that position and trying to move further, produces its own natural resistance. However, what most people and exercises think are the natural range of movement is not -- or they wouldn’t be doing those exercises, no matter how conventionally and routinely they are prescribed as the appropriate exercises for exercising that part of one’s body. The explanation may have absolutely nothing to do with the reality of what is happening.

That’s why it is quite possible and proven daily, that one can do hundreds of repetitions of certain movements without obtaining the results promised -- or any feedback that that is in fact, the proper exercise for working that part of the body -- which when properly done with the proper movement, immediately confirms that fact to the exerciser.

As it is, most people live in such fragmented realities of knowledge, that they do not expect that one thing should have any direct relationship to anything else, and how to get from here to there, is just a mystery of wishful thinking. In their educational lives, the knowledge they’ve been taught may be entirely theoretical and academic, rather than actual verification and confirmation of their actual experiences. Instead, they are taught to dismiss their own experiences as anecdotal and invalid -- rather than the truth of their own experience, and it is this truth that is reality, and not the generalization many are thought to believe is the inviolable truth for everyone.

Such generalizations are particularly likely to be untrue for those of exceptional abilities and constitutions. Some people can stand up all day doing heavy manual labor (although they are increasingly rare) which most people couldn't stand for one day. So to take that workload for the exception and think that that is the perfect prescription for everybody else to also achieve that level of “fitness” is hopefully seen as the absurdity it is -- yet that is what most physical instructors recommend -- and why people avoid them like the plague.

But if one understands that it is not the resistance that produces muscle contraction and relaxation, but the proper positions the muscles have to move in, those movements, without resistance, are the proper movements for ensuring and maintaining optimal movement capabilities -- and increasing those ranges daily as the intelligent objective.

Amazingly, a lot of people are never thought what a proper, simple muscle function is -- moving from full contraction to full relaxation -- and how that ability can transform the body and one’s actions. So they believe that simply random activity and movements, somehow creates the miracles they are wishing for.

At September 19, 2007 12:29 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

One can't achieve the full range of movement unless one can obtain the greatest relaxation as well as the greatest contraction in a muscle.

Contraction means shortening -- so the question of vital importance is in what position must a muscle be in to be in its shortest position -- which will also be its strongest position.

I don't think that condition is considered by most people trying to achieve the maximum effect of a conditioning exercise -- as the singular important consideration and objective. Never mind the heart: it works perfectly and optimally as it is designed to do -- automatically.

It is the voluntary muscular system that can make a substantial difference in body functioning -- of which no thought is usually given except to burn as many calories as possible, which means, moving as inefficiently as possible. And so one actually conditions his body to work against himself by overriding its designed and evolved intelligence.

"Physical" education is not the exception in this way of instruction -- but actually the rule of a mass education strategies that teaches one to ignore and deny their own senses -- in favor of theories, explanations and rationalizations -- that the media, schools and universities have become quite proficient and expert at.

Thus, some have evolved even further beyond that to be able to detect the authentic from the phony -- and to trust their judgment in these realizations despite the overwhelming conformity of opinion otherwise. But such a confrontation, is always the beginning of science and real inquiry -- and not just accepting truths because of the weight of authority and hierarchy.

It's not the popular mode yet or the popular culture still controlled by the mass media institutions of the publishers, schools, universities, but as they grow older too, at some point they have to realize that what they wish to believe, or think irrelevant to believe, has ultimate consequences borne in reality that DO make a difference.

For most lives, it is the simple strategies they adopt to optimize their daily functioning and understanding of the world they live in. Some will see nothing but confused futility and despair, while a few, will see things with clarity, confidence and hopefulness.

That is the larger meaning and purpose of all these activities -- and not just a specialized and fragmented part with no relationship to the greater whole -- or anything else, for that matter.

At September 27, 2007 12:23 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

So increasingly, the physical has to merge with the mental, so that in everything one is doing, there is this unified, integrated, focused response that is supremely effective and efficient.

But usually, our expectations move in the other direction -- of not caring whether there is this kind of intensity achieved by integrating all effort. the excuse is that one is getting old and so should be expected to deteriorate -- rather than to improve, and so that expectation becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Champion athletes know that if they wish to hit a peak, it cannot be sustained for long -- but that singular moment of peak, is what distinguishes the quality of their performance -- and just plentiful mediocrity and indifference. Yet that is the popular model of conditioning that fails for so many -- of which they are told simply, they need to do MORE.

Achieving "peak experience," organizes one's entire being in a defining way for everything else they do by leaving that imprint of "perfection." Otherwise, everything devolves into one indistinguishable mass of indiscrimination.

If one can no longer tell any difference, one cannot make any difference -- and even if it did, what would it matter. That's how a quality of life disintegrates.

At September 27, 2007 12:49 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It's not the workload that is the transformative quality of exercise -- but the attainment of peak experience -- which necessarily has to be brief.

But that is all that is necessary. That "peak" is most simply achieved by simply moving any muscle in the body to its peak -- which is its furthest extreme of voluntary movement.

Bodybuilders are familiar with this concept as peaking the muscle -- but often the exercises and movements they perform, are not the ultimate range of movement for that muscle and bodypart -- but simply the range possible in that movement produced by the use of that apparatus -- with added resistance.

Any apparatus will actually restrict the furthest range of movement possible -- as in touching one's wrist to the opposite ear and continuing to move on in that direction. What kind of machine would one build to make that movement more productive?

None is necessary. The further one moves in that direction, the greater all the muscles in that half of the body are contracted -- without any need to provide resistance. The movement itself eventually provides its own resistance -- but only when the extremes are attempted. In the midrange, there is no resistance -- and that is where most machine manufacturers would provide the resistance. but if one continues to the logical extreme of the range of movement -- resistance is built-in.

That is the range most people don't have a clue exists because they've never been taught to explore the fullest range of their own movements -- but merely perform the movements they are taught, which are greatly restricted to the familiar pushups, situps, chinups, bench press, deadlifts, squats -- that do not even begin to explore the range of easily attainable human movements -- once one realizes they are possible!

That is how most conventional conditioning exercise, actually limits one's movements rather than greatly expanding those possibilities. The same is true for all conditioning.


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