Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advanced Routines: Doing Less -- Better

After one is familiar with the possibilities of the range of movement they do not articulate now from day to day because of the decreased needs for such movements in contemporary living, and do articulate them a certain number of times each day as the necessary requirement for maintaining and even enhancing that range, a few adept and enthusiastic trainees wonder if there is anything “more” they can do.

Rather than suggesting the “more” one expects to hear in terms of increased repetitions or resistance, the greater progression is achieved by actually doing less -- better. That is, instead of doing that range of movement for 50 repetitions, what is now suggested is that one REDUCE the number of repetitions -- but at the extremes of the range, hold that position for a second longer -- so that while the fullest range has already been achieved, further contraction continues with no discernible additional movement.

But at such extremes of the range of movement, the natural resistance to further muscle contraction, increases the effort needed merely to maintain that position -- for a moment longer. This is the obvious disconnect that a machine that measures or requires movement, will therefore fail to be meaningful -- but the awareness of this possibility, increases that intensity of effort dramatically and productively, even beyond the action of the heart to instruct.

This is the realm of possibility that the heart muscle does not have -- this ability to pause at the extremes -- because it must move from one extreme to another unfailingly. That is the singularly reliable movement and work of the heart -- while the skeletal/voluntary muscles have the capacity and luxury of determining the range as well as the pace -- at will.

For that reason, the heart rate is usually used as the measure of circulation when actually, no such consequences are implied, or even necessary. That was apparent 40 years ago when isometric exercises became an overnight rage and was as quickly abandoned -- because when all the muscles are maintained in a prolonged period of contraction -- circulation virtually stops while the heart rate increases dangerously.

The mistaken parameter of measurement, and its undoing as a valuable conditioning model, was that the exertion was measured by the length of time that maximum contraction could be maintained -- rather than just momentarily and safely for a second.

That natural instinct and pace for most unconditioned movement, is not to pause at all, but to immediately move in the other direction as soon as the most extreme range is attained and using that resistance to rebound in the other direction. When such momentum is eliminated, the amount of effort (work) required to move to extremes and hold them for even one second, increases geometrically, which one notices, increases the intensity of that contraction noticeably -- and one may become aware of this sensation for the first time, beginning with this one second pause -- and movement in and out of it.

The original suggestion in isometrics was holding the contracted position from 3-5 seconds, which because of the competitive impulse to do “more,” in the wrong parameters -- became 6-10, and then 12-20, and then many passed out before suffering too damaging effects.

A one-second pause seems to be well within the range that can be maintained safely and productively for virtually everyone, while eliminating the rebound effect -- to make such movement, immeasurably “better.”


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