Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nautilus Machines (Principles) Revisited

Like many people in the '70s, I was inspired and awakened by the brash thinking of the inventor of the Nautilus machines -- whose major thesis was that we didn't know what we thought we knew -- so far as exercise went. We largely accepted the dictatorial pronouncements of the physical education instructors -- who just knew what they were taught as dictatorially, because in those days, one didn't inquire after the truth oneself, but had come to rely on others, supposedly more educated and knowledgeable than they, to do the thinking for everyone else.

It was a very orderly world then -- of specialization into the various branches of "knowledge," each with their own laws seemingly not related to any others. It was a very centralized and formal hierarchy structure of information transmission -- presumably by a few researchers working in highly controlled laboratories, dutifully certifying and validating all that was true and knowable, and then passing their revelations on to the intermediaries of the media and educational institutions for further broadcast and propagation.

But the creator of the Nautilus machines was going around claiming there was such a thing as "self-evident truth," which he claimed was obvious to anyone seriously considering such matters for themselves. That was a very unique way of looking at life in an era in which public education because the norm for most learning "everything," when previous generations were not entirely reliant on learning everything, through such institutions.

Many previously, had discovered life/experiences for themselves -- but during the decades of the '50s and '60s, with the push for universal education of the same "perfected information," the powerful metaphor of the IBM mainframe computers occupying entire buildings, and all information subsequently being keypunched and processed through those machines, that was the vision of progress and the future. This was the machine age in which people became subservient to its machines.

But this was the beginning of that end -- where the ultimate machine, gives way to an even greater understanding beyond the control of the machines.

The thesis of the Nautilus machine, was that it was prefect in providing variable resistance throughout the full range of a possible movement centered around a single, focused axis of rotation (curve). Nobody could challenge that axiom -- that if one restricted the movement to those parameters, nothing else was possible. But was that all that was possible?

That is the problem with subsequent and similar machines -- the presumption that that movement or activity is all that is possible and meaningful, when in fact, they may measure that which is meaningless to measure -- a muscle moving in isolation to every other. That has no real world value, and conditioning in that manner, predisposes one to injuries -- because it is the recruitment and spreading the work over all the muscles and beyond that, all one's faculties and resourcefulness -- that is one's maximum guarantor of survival (fitness). That is to say, that it is not enough just to compete with one's muscles -- that one also hopes to recruit one's head and total resourcefulness in the challenge, to obviously a higher level of performance and actualization.

So while one may develop prodigious and formidable capabilities in isolation, one could not assume that it was possible to put them all together appropriately as required, unless integral to that exercise and conditioning, was the recruitment and integration of all one's capabilities -- and it is that conditioning, that one wanted to achieve -- and not any meaningless movement in isolation and contrivance.

Obviously, the proper conditioning movements to practice, were not exercises one did not do otherwise than in a gym, but that which could be done anywhere, anytime, under any conditions -- and particularly when one's momentary capability needed to be enhanced and optimized immediately -- and not just in six weeks, six month, or six years in the future, which obviously, has no meaning and usefulness.

Yet unfrotunately, that is what contemporary conditioning and fitness programs have come to mean -- virtually exclusively, and so there is this chasm of disconnect, between one's condition, and the shape they want to be in -- never to be actually achieved, but is always pushed further into the distant future of becoming, and never being, and actually arriving at that state.

That was the prevailing manner of thinking for that generation -- by which one went to school and prepared oneself to become something other than what one actually was -- without first understanding what one was, which as had been noted from the wise observers of all time, was the only truth worth knowing -- oneself, not that it was everything that could be known. But if one didn't know themselves, how would they know they were not already the person they thought they should become -- or how far they needed to go? One needed a starting point, a place of reference, an undeniable truth -- even if it wasn't what one wanted it to be.

That is to say, "the truth" was not simply what one wanted it to be, but was self-evidently true for any and every observer.

The problem with the Nautilus machines was that the movements for which they were designed to produce full range resistance doesn't require a machine -- because the greatest range of movement, provides its own ultimate resistance -- and nothing else is possible. The range that is most important to achieve, is the position of maximum contraction, and not maximum hyperstretching -- which the body never moves into a powerful and full contraction out of. But that is the range built into any machine, rather than its maximum range at the end of contraction -- if it was even necessary to do so.

When one moves in that direction, ultimately, one can go no farther -- while the muscles must be in maximum contraction. Movement out of that state into a relaxed state is not achieved by moving into the hyperextended range -- but only up to a relaxed, neutral range, yet the peculiarity of most resistance machines, is to provide that resistance in the hyperextended range -- in which it is dangerous or not productive to do so.

Thee is no need to provide resistance in the range of relaxation; nor is it necessary to build resistance against its ultimate contraction -- because that ultimate range itself, is a maximal contraction in and of itself, and adding more resistance, simply prevents one from attaining that maximum range.

The fallacy of the Nautilus principles, was that it required a machine to effect and achieve the very valid observations he made about the effectiveness of muscle stimulation for growth. The movements themselves -- done without the machines, are the most productive movements to do. The key to effecting a maximum contraction, is the movement at the extremities of the head, hands and feet -- that cause a shortening (contraction) of a muscle from it's insertion to point of origin -- precipitating a mass reaction of all the muscle structures towards the origin of all the muscles located below the sternum next to the heart.

Five minutes of such movements a day, pushing the blood back to the heart in this way, from the furthest extremities of the body, is all one needs to do to obtain the health benefits of exercise -- and retain and maintain readiness for doing whatever is necessary to do to achieve one's survival and fitness. This manner of movement, invariably stimulates muscle growth -- which is the heretofore great challenge of bodies aging and deteriorating. It doesn't have to be an inevitability, or difficult to achieve. But it does require the proper understanding and relationship of all these things.

Then, the greatest range of motion, the greatest muscle contraction, and the greatest resistence, all become one and the same thing.


At July 14, 2009 1:35 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Arthur Jones' last book, his autobiography, was titled, "And God Laughs..."


Post a Comment

<< Home