photo credit: Mike Fleming
Physical fitness is a broad, and oversimplified topic. Most wellness experts agree that being physically fit is a top priority when one wants to achieve optimal wellness. We have all heard the formula for becoming physically fit: move more, eat less, and exercise. It seems so simple.
When I sit down to study biomechanics and prescribe exercise to my clients, my mind is fluttering around all the possibilities and variables of one single exercise. It never fails; this thought process brings me to a conclusion that the normal gym goer, the sports medicine doctors, and mostly the fitness education industry have it all wrong. I say to myself: “Why oh why do they treat exercise as ‘thing’ one does? Why do people have emotional attachments to certain types of exercise?” If the emotional attachment statement is confusing, ask a person who does Cross Fit how they feel about their Cross Fit gym and you will receive an emotional response. If that doesn’t work, insult the Cross Fit philosophy. That should work.
All of this is unnecessary (unless you are cashing a check from a media outlet). Treating exercise like a ‘thing’ one has to do be healthy is unnecessary because EXERCISE IS A PROCESS. Exercise is a process that presents a challenge to the body. The response from the body brings change to the body. These changes are adaptations: muscle growth, increased caloric expenditure, or fat loss.
Since exercise is a process, this means that the variables that make exercise a process are manipulatable. Exercise is a scientific process. This is the better way to simplify exercise for the general public. So, then? Who does have the ability to manipulate exercise? A person with a basic understanding of physics. I suppose the word ‘physics’ would scare you away from changing the way you think about exercise, don’t fret I do have something to offer you.
Tom Purvis of the Resistance Training Specialist Specialist© formulated an equation for exercise. The variables of the equation are: joint position, joint motion, specific resistance, specific time, effort, intention, and appropriateness. The combination of these variables will produce a specific outcome.
The joint position, joint motion, and specific resistance are mechanical influences. Specific time, effort, and appropriateness are conditional influences. The intentional aspect truly makes the specific exercise meaningful by connecting the exercise to the goal of the workout and overall physical fitness goal.
All of these variables combined determine the outcome. When you apply the variables to suit your desired outcome you can achieve your goal whether it be weight loss or healing from an injury.
For example; some women desire to change their body composition through lifting weights, however when they lift weights for a number of weeks they found that they had changed their body composition in an undesired way (bulking up). There are several factors that could contribute to this undesirable outcome: eating too many bad calories post workout, not sleeping enough, having body dysmorphia, or performing exercises not suited for their body. If this particular woman falls victim to performing exercises not suited for her she could have ‘bulked up’ because the aforementioned variables of an exercise were not acknowledged.
Here are examples of how each variable could produce undesirable results (over time:
1. Joint motions and positions: performing an exercise without proper form at each joint involved will place stress inside the joint eventually causing inflammation. People commonly mistake inflamed muscles for ‘bulking up’.
2. Specific resistance is the demand placed onto the body. i.e. dumbbells, bodyweight. There is an ideal amount of resistance and an overloading amount of resistance, guess which one can increase the size of a muscle? Overloading a muscle repeatedly will cause a muscle to increase in size. This is not a reason to deter from lifting weights; this is a reason to be assessed properly by a professional to know your starting points.
3. Specific time spent on the exercise, set, or rest can influence the outcome. If a set of exercises is done too quickly the exercise can be ineffective or contribute to overloading.
4. The effort or exertion levels are concerned with different types of metabolism that a muscle can use. If one spends too much time metabolizing one way (aerobically), it could be harmful for their hormone balance.
5. Appropriateness of the exercise is extremely unique to the individual. What’s good for you is not necessarily good for me. If I were to lead my U11 soccer team through a series of exercises I lead my U15 soccer team through, I might find that the performance capabilities were completely different therefore putting the girls’ I coach in harm’s way.
Finding the right amount and type of exercise for an individual is a process. By subscribing to a program built from a series of exercises and memorizing, one will most likely not achieve the goal they set out to achieve. Re-thinking exercise as a mechanical process and not just a way to burn calories will turn a mindless attempt at being optimally healthy into a strategic and motivating experience.
*My utmost gratitude for Tom Purvis’s Resistance Training Specialist program is evident through this entire series of posts. The journey of acquiring knowledge and leaving bias behind me has been a priceless one. For more information www.rts123.com