Adam Zickerman and Mike Rogers interview author, weight lifter, and personal trainer Bill DeSimone.
Bill penned the book Congruent Exercise: How To Make Weight Training Easier On Your Joints
Bill is well known for his approach to weight lifting which, focuses on correct biomechanics to build strength without undue collateral damage to connective tissue and the rest of the body.
So, whether you are an aspiring trainer, serious weight lifter, or even an Inform Fitness client who invests just 20-30 minutes a week at one of their seven locations this episode is chock full of valuable information regarding safety in your high-intensity strength training. A paramount platform of which the Power of Ten resides at all InForm Fitness locations across the country.
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Below is the transcription for Episode 20 - Author Bill DeSimone - Congruent Exercise
20 Author Bill DeSimone - Congruent Exercise
Adam: So there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think by the way that I don’t think of something Bill has said to me when I’m training people. Bill is basically my reference guide, he’s my Grey’s Anatomy. When I try an exercise with somebody, I often find myself asking myself, what would Bill do and I take it from there. Without further ado, this is Bill, and we’re going to talk about all good stuff. Joint friendly exercises, what Bill calls it now, you started out with congruent exercises, technical manual for joint friendly exercise, and now you’re rephrasing it.
Bill: Well actually the first thing I did was [Inaudible: 00:00:43] exercise, but the thing is I didn’t write [Inaudible: 00:00:45] exercise with the idea that anybody other than me was going to read it. I was just getting my own ideas down, taking my own notes, and just to flesh it out and tie it up in a nice package, I actually wrote it and had it bound it up and sent it off to Greg Anderson and McGuff and a couple others, and it hit a wave of interest.
Adam: A wave, they were probably blown away.
Bill: Yeah well, a lot of those guys went out of their way to call me to say boy, a lot of what I suspected, you explained here. But when I read it now, it’s pretty technical, it’s a challenge.
Mike: There’s a lot of, I think, common sense with an experienced trainer when you think about levers in general, and I think what you did in that manual was make it very succinct and very clear. I think it’s something that maybe we didn’t have the full story on, but I think we had some — if you have some experience and you care about safety as a trainer, I think you are kind of looking at it and you saw it observationally, and then I think when we read this we were like ah, finally, this has crystalized what I think some of us were thinking.
Adam: Exactly. You know what I just realized, let’s explain, first and foremost. You wrote something called Moment Arm Exercise, so the name itself shows you have technical — that it probably is inside, right? So moment arm is a very technical term, a very specific term in physics, but now you’re calling it joint friendly exercise, and you called it also congruent exercise at one point. All synonymous with each other, so please explain, what is joint friendly exercise or fitness?
Bill: It’s based more on anatomy and biomechanics than sports performance. So unlike a lot of the fitness fads that the attitude and the verbiage comes out of say football practice or a competitive sport, what I’m doing is I’m filtering all my exercise instruction through the anatomy and biomechanics books, to try to avoid the vulnerable — putting your joints in
vulnerable positions, and that’s so complicated which is why I struggled with so much to make it clearer. So I started with moment arm exercise, and then I wrote Congruent Exercise, which is a little broader but obviously the title still requires some explanation. And then — how it happened, as for my personal training in the studio, I would use all this stuff but I wouldn’t explain it because I was only dealing with clients, I wasn’t dealing with peers. Since it’s a private studio and not a big gym, I don’t have to explain the difference between what I’m doing and what somebody else is doing, but in effect, I’ve been doing this every day for fifteen years.
Adam: I have to say, when you say that, that you didn’t explain it to clients, I actually use this information as a selling point. I actually explain to my clients why we’re doing it this way, as opposed to the conventional way, because this is joint friendly. I don’t get too technical necessarily, but I let them know that there is a difference of why we’re doing it this way, versus the conventional way. So they understand that we are actually a cut above everybody else in how we apply exercise, so they feel very secure in the fact that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, but I digress.
Bill: Generally what I do is any signage I have, a business card, website, Facebook presence, all lays out joint friendly and defines it and kind of explains itself. I would say most of the clients I have aren’t coming from being heavily engaged in another form of fitness. They’re people who start and drop out programs or they join a health club in January and drop out. It’s not like I’m getting somebody who is really intensely into Crossfit, or intensely into Zumba or bodybuilding, and now they’re banged up and need to do something different. The joint friendly phrasing is what connects me with people that need that, I just find that they don’t need the technical explanation as to why we’re not over stretching the joint capsule in the shoulder. Why we’re not getting that extra range of motion on the bench press, because again, they haven’t seen anybody doing otherwise, so I don’t have to explain why I’m doing it this way.
Adam: Yeah but they might have had experience doing it themselves. Let’s take an overhead press for example, having your arms externally rotating and abducted, versus having them in front of you. There’s an easy explanation to a client why we won’t do one versus the other.
Bill: But I have to say I do not get people who do not even know what a behind the neck press is. Now in Manhattan is a little bit different, more denser.
Adam: So for this conversation, let’s assume some people know, or understand in a way what the conventional is, but we can kind of get into it. What is conventional and what’s not conventional. So it’s joint friendly, how is it joint friendly, what are you actually doing to make it joint friendly?
Bill: Well the short answer is that I use a lot less range of motion than we’ve got accustomed to, when we used to use an extreme range of motion. If bodybuilders in the 60s were doing pumping motions, and then you wanted to expand that range of motion, for good reason, and then that gets bastardized and we take more of a range of motion and turn it into an extreme range of motion — just because going from partial motions to a normal range of motion was good, doesn’t make a normal range of motion to an extreme range of motion better. And in fact —
Adam: What’s wrong with extreme range of motion?
Bill: Well because —
Adam: Don’t say that you want to improve flexibility.
Bill: Well the HIIT guys who would say that you’re going to improve flexibility by using —
Adam: HIIT guys means the high intensity training sect of our business.
Bill: So the line about, you’re going to use the extreme range of motion with a weight training exercise to increase flexibility. First of all, either flexibility is important or it’s not, and that’s one of those things where HIIT has a little bit of an inconsistency, and they’ll argue that it’s not important, but then they’ll say that you can get it with the weights. That’s number one. Number two, a lot of the joint positions that machines and free weight exercises put us in, or can put us in, are very vulnerable to the joints, and if you go to an anatomy and biomechanics textbook, that is painfully obvious what those vulnerable positions are. Just because we walk into a gym or a studio and call it exercise instead of manual labor or instead of — instead of calling it submission wrestling and putting our joints or opponents’ joints in an externally rotated abduct and extended position, we call it a pec fly, it’s still the same shoulder. It’s still a vulnerable
position whether it’s a pec fly stretching you back there, or a jiujitsu guy putting you in a paintbrush, but I don’t know, for most of the pop fitness books though, if anybody else is really looking at this. Maybe not in pop fitness, maybe Tom Pervis —
Adam: What’s pop fitness?
Bill: If you walk into a bookstore and look in the fitness section for instance, any of those types. No offense, but celebrity books, glossy celebrity fitness books, but I don’t know that anybody — and the feedback that I’ve gotten from experienced guys like [Inaudible: 00:08:26] or the guys we know personally, is — even McGuff said yeah, I never associated the joint stuff with the exercise stuff.
Adam: Let’s talk about these vulnerabilities that you’re talking about and extreme ranges of motion. So we have to understand a little bit about muscle anatomy to understand what we mean by the dangers of these extreme ranges of motion. So muscles are weaker in certain positions and they’re stronger in other positions. Maybe talk about that, because that’s where you start getting into why we do what we do, like understanding that muscles don’t generate the same amount of force through a range of motion. They have different torque potentials.
Mike: And is there a very clear and concise way of communicating that to a lay person too, like we have practice at it, but in here, we’re over the radio or over the podcast, so it’s like describing pictures with words.
Bill: The easiest way to show it to a client who may not understand what muscle torque is, is to have them lock out in an exercise. Take a safe exercise, the barbell curl, where clearly if you allow your elbows to come forward and be vertically under the weight, at the top of the repetition, clearly all of a sudden the effort’s gone. There’s no resistance, but if you let your elbows drop back to rib height, if you pin your elbows to the sides through the whole curl, now all of a sudden your effort feels even. Instead of feeling like — instead of having effort and then a lockout, or having a sticky point and then a lockout, now it just feels like effort.
Adam: Or a chest press where your elbows are straight and the weights are sitting on those elbows, you’re not really working too hard there either.
Bill: Same thing. If you have a lockout — what’s easy to demonstrate is when the resistance torque that the machine or exercise provides doesn’t match your muscle torque. So if your muscle torque pattern changes in the course of a movement, if you feel a lockout or a sticking point, then it’s not a line. If all you feel is effort, now it matches pretty evenly. Now here’s the thing, all that really means, and part of what I got away for a moment on — all that really means is that that set is going to be very efficient. Like for instance, the whole length of the reputation you’re working. It’s not like you work and lockout and rest, all that means is that it’s going to be a very efficient set. You can’t change a muscle torque curve, so if you were just to do some kind of weird angled exercise, you wouldn’t get stronger in that angle. All you would do is use a relatively lower weight. Nobody does like a scott bench curl, nobody curls more than a standing curl. You can’t change the muscle torque curve, you might change the angle, which means the amount of weight that your hand has change, to accommodate the different torque at that joint angle, but you’re not changing where you’re strongest. If you could, you would never know you had a bad [Inaudible: 00:11:36], because if the pattern — if the muscle torque pattern could change with a good [Inaudible: 00:11:44], it would also change with a bad [Inaudible: 00:11:47], and then you would never know. Take a dumbbell side raise, everybody on the planet knows it’s hardest when your arms are horizontal. Your muscle torque curve can never change to accommodate what the resistance is asking. Now if you go from a machine side raise, which has more even — like where those two curves match, that set feels harder because you don’t have to break. You do a set of side raises with dumbbells to failure, if it feels — if it’s a difficulty level of ten, of force out of ten, and then you go to a machine side raise and go to failure, it’s like a ten, because you didn’t have that break built into the actual rep. So the moment arms, knowing how to match the resistance required by the exercise and the muscle torque expressed by your limbs, that makes for a more efficient exercise. In terms of safety, it’s all about knowing what the vulnerable positions of the joints are and cutting the exercise short, so that you're not loading the joint into an impingement, or into like an overstretched position.
Mike: How different are these…. like thinking about limitation and range of motion on them, we mentioned that before and I think it’s kind of adjacent to what you’re talking about is — we also want to help people understand that if they’re on their own exercising or there are other trainers who want to help their clients, and for our trainers to help our clients… troubleshooting, we know generally how the joints work, where the strength curves exist, but how to discern where those limitations are. Like you said before, that one of the things you do is you limit range of motion and get much more stimulus and muscle.
Bill: I’m saying limit range of motion because that might be the verbiage that we understand and maybe listeners would understand, but it’s really a lot more complicated than just saying, use this range of motion. So for instance, in a lower back exercise, say a stiff leg or dead lift, which, when I used to misinterpret that by using a full range of motion, I’d be standing on a bench with a barbell, and the barbell would be at shoe level. My knees would be locked, my lower back would be rounded, my shoulders would be up my ears as I’m trying to get the bar off the ground, and so yes, I was using a full range of motion.
Adam: That’s for sure.
Mike: That can be painted for that description.
Bill: It’s also pretty much a disaster on your lower back waiting to happen, at least on your lower back.
Adam: I’ve got to go to a chiropractor just listening to that.
Bill: Exactly, but you still see it all the time. You see it all the time on people using kettle bells, you see that exact posture. The kettle bell is between their legs, their knees are locked, their lower back is rounded, and now they’re doing a speed lift. At least I was doing them slow, they’re doing speed dead lifts, so if I was going to do an exercise like that, it wouldn’t be an extreme range of motion, I’d be looking to use a correct range of motion. So for instance, I wouldn’t lock the knees, and I would only lower the person’s torso so that they could keep the curve in the lower back. Which might require a rep or two to see where that is, but once you see where that is, that’s what I would limit them to.
Mike: Do you do it at first with no weight with the client?
Bill: That’d be one way of lining it up.
Mike: Just sort of seeing what they can just do, make sure they understand the position and stuff.
Bill: So for instance, the chest press machine I have in the studio is a Nitro —
Adam: [Inaudible: 00:15:37] Nitro.
Bill: And it doesn’t — the seat doesn’t adjust enough for my preference, so the person’s elbows come too far back. So for instance, to get the first rep off the ground, the person’s elbows have to come way behind the plane of their back, which —
Adam: So you’ve come to weigh stack them
Bill: Weigh stack, right.
Mike: It’s like our pull over, you know how we had to pull it over at one point?
Bill: So what I’ll do is I’ll help the person out of the first repetition, help them out of the bottom, and then I’ll have my hand to the clipboard where I want their elbow to stop. So as soon as they touch my hand with their elbow, they start to go the other way.
Adam: So they’re not stretching their pecs too far.
Bill: Well more specifically, they’re not rotating their shoulder capsule. So that’s another thing we tend to do, we tend to think of everything in terms of the big, superficial muscles — right, those are the ones that don’t get hurt, it’s the joints that [do]. That was one thing of all the stuff I read, whether it was CSCS or Darton’s stuff or Jones’ stuff, there was always a little murkiness between what was the joint and what was the muscle. That stuff was always written from the point of view of the muscle.
Adam: What’s a joint capsule, for those that don’t know what a joint capsule is. A shoulder capsule.
Bill: It’s part of the structure of what holds your shoulder together, and so if the old [Inaudible: 00:17:06] machines, 1980 vintage, that bragged about getting such an extreme range of motion, some of them… it really took your shoulder to the limit of where it could go to start the exercise, and we were encouraged to go that far.
Adam: And what would happen?
Bill: Eventually it just adds to the wear and tear that you were going to have in your shoulder anyway. And that’s if people stayed with it, I think a lot of people ended up dropping out.
Mike: Often times exacerbating what was going on.
Bill: You rarely see, it’s occasional that we have that sort of catastrophic event in the gym, it’s occasional —
Mike: Almost never happens.
Bill: A lot of the grief that I take for my material is well, that never happens, people do this
exercise all the time, people never explode their spine. Well a) that’s not true, they do, just not in that persons’ awareness, and b) but the real problem is unnecessarily adding to life’s wear and tear on your joints. So it’s not just what we do in the gym that counts, if somebody plays tennis or somebody has a desk job or manual labor job — let’s say a plumber or some other manual
labor guy has to go over his head with his arms a lot, that wear and tear on his shoulder counts, and just because they walk into your gym, and you ask them about their health history, do you have any orthopedic problems and they say no, yes. I’m on the verge of an orthopedic problem that I don’t know about, and I’ve worn this joint out because of work, but no I have no orthopedic problems at the moment. So my thing is, the exercise I’m prescribing isn’t going to make that worse.
Adam: Well you don’t want to make it worse, and that’s why you’re limiting range of motion, that’s why you’re matching the strength curve of the muscle with the resistance curve of the tool you’re using, whether it’s free weight or machine or the cam.
Bill: Yeah, we’re supposed to be doing this for the benefits of exercise. I do not — I truly do not understand crippling yourself over the magical benefit of exercise. I mean there’s no — in 2014, there was a lot of negative publicity with Crossfit, with some of the really catastrophic injuries coming about. There’s no magic benefits just because you risk your life, you either benefit from exercise or you don’t, but you don’t get extra magic benefit because you pushed something to the brink of cracking your spine or tearing your shoulder apart.
Adam: Well they talk about them being functional or natural movements, that they do encourage these full ranges of motion because that’s what you do in life.
Mike: Well I mean like in sports for example, you’re extending your body into a range of motion — and also there are things in life, like for example, like I was saying to Adam, for example, sometimes you have to lift something that’s heavy and you have to reach over a boundary in front of you to do so.
Bill: Like… putting in the trunk of a car, for example.
Mike: Things like that, or even —
Adam: So shouldn’t you exercise that way if that’s what you’re doing in every day life?
Mike: If your daily life does involve occasional extreme ranges of motion, which that’s the
reason why your joints of kind of wearing and tearing anyway, is there something you can do to assist in training that without hurting it? Or exacerbating it?
Bill: You know it’s interesting, 25 years ago, there was a movement in physical therapy and they would have back schools, and they would — it was sort of like an occupational oriented thing, where they would teach you how to lift, and at the time, I thought that was so frivolous. I just thought, get stronger, but lifting it right in the first place is really the first step to not getting injured.
Mike: Don’t life that into the trunk unless —
Bill: Well unless you have to, right? For instance, practicing bad movements doesn’t make you invulnerable to the bad movements, you’re just wearing out your free passes. Now sport is a
different animal, yes you’re going to be — again, I don’t think anyone is doing this, but there’s enough wear and tear just in your sport, whether it’s football, martial arts, running, why add more wear and tear from your workout that’s there to support the sport. The original [Inaudible: 00:21:52] marketing pitch was look how efficient we made weight training, you can spend more time practicing. You don’t have to spend four hours a day in the gym, you can spend a half hour twice a week or three times a week in the gym, and get back to practicing.
Adam: I remember Greg [Inaudible: 22:06] said to a basketball coach that if his team is in his gym more than 20 minutes or so a week, that he’s turning them into weight lifters and not basketball players.
Bill: Well there you go. Now —
Mike: The thing is the training and the performance goals in getting people stronger, faster, all that kind of stuff, is like unbelievable now a days, but I’ve never seen more injuries in sports in my entire life than right now.
Bill: It’s unbelievably bogus though is what it is. You see a lot of pec tears in NFL training rooms.
Adam: So why aren’t they learning? Why is it so hard to get across then?
Bill: Well for starters, you’re going to churn out — first of all you’re dealing with twenty year olds.
Adam: So what, what are you saying about twenty year olds?
Bill: I was a lot more invincible at twenty than I am at sixty.
Mike: Physically and psychologically.
Bill: The other thing for instance. Let’s say you’ve got a college level, this is not my experience, I’m repeating this, but if you have a weight room that’s empty, or, and you’re the strength and conditioning coach, because you’re intensely working people out, briefly, every day. Versus the time they’re idle, they’re off doing their own thing. Or, every day the administrators and the coaches see people running hoops and doing drills, running parachutes and every day there is an activity going. What looks better? What is more job security for that strength and conditioning coach?
Adam: Wait a second. What is Jim the strength training coach doing? He’s working one day a week and what’s he doing the rest of the week?
Mike: And what’s the team doing the rest of the week?
Bill: But again, don’t forget, if you’re talking about twenty something year old athletes, who knows what that’s going to bring on later.
Adam: You are seeing more injuries though.
Bill: Right. A couple of years ago, ESPN had a story on a guy. He had gotten injured doing a barbell step up, so a barbell step up, you put a barbell on your back, you step onto a bench, bring the other foot up. Step back off the bench, four repetitions. Classic sports conditioning exercise, in this guys case either he stepped back and twisted his ankle and fell with the bar on his back, or when he went to turn to put the bar back on the rack, when he turned, it spun on him and he damaged his back that way. Either way, he put his ability to walk at risk, so the ESPN story was, oh look how great that is he’s back to playing. Yes, but he put his ability to walk at risk, to do an exercise that is really not significantly — it’s more dangerous than other ways of working your legs, but it’s not better.
Adam: The coaches here, the physical trainers, they don’t have evidence that doing step ups is any more effective in the performance of their sport, or even just pure strength gains. Then lets say doing a safe version of a leg press or even squats for that matter.
Bill: And even if you wanted to go for a more endurance thing, running stadium steps was a classic exercise, but stadium steps are what, three or four inches, they made them very flat. Even that’s safer because there’s no bar on your back. So on the barbell step up, which I think is still currently in the NSCA textbooks, the bar is on your back. If the bench is too high, you have to bend over in order to get your center of gravity over the bench, otherwise you can’t get off the floor. So now you’re bent over with one foot in front of you, so now you don’t even have two feet under you like in a barbell squat to be more stable. You have your feet in line, with the weight extending sideways, and now you do your twenty repetitions or whatever and you’re on top of the bench, and your legs are burning and you’re breathing heavy, and now you’ve got to get off. How do you get off that bench when your legs are gassed, you’re going to break and lock your knee, and the floor is going to come up — nobody steps forward, they all step backwards where you can’t see.
Mike: Even after doing an exercise, let’s say you did it okay or whatever and whether it was congruent or not congruent, sometimes, if it’s a free weight type of thing, just getting the weight back on the floor or on the rack. After you’ve gone to muscle failure or close to muscle failure —
Adam: So are these things common now, like still in the NFL they’re doing these types of training techniques?
Bill: I don’t really know what’s happening in the NFL or the college level, because frankly I stopped my NSCA membership because I couldn’t use any material with my population anyway. So I don’t really know what they are — I do know that that was a classic one, and as recently as 2014 — in fact one other athlete actually did lose his ability to walk getting injured in that exercise.
Adam: It’s cost benefit, like how much more benefit are you getting —
Bill: It’s cost. My point is that the benefit is — it’s either or.
Mike: That’s the thing, people don’t know it though, they think the benefit is there. That’s the problem.
Bill: They think that for double the risk, you’re going to get quadruple the benefit. What, what benefit? What magic benefit comes out of putting your ability to walk at risk?
Mike: One of my clients has a daughter who was recruited to row at Lehigh which is a really good school for that, and she, in the training program, she was recruited to go. She was a great student but she was recruited to row, and in the training program, she hurt her back in the weight room in the fall, and never, ever was with the team. This was a very, very good program —
Bill: Very good program, so it’s rowing, so a) it’s rough on your lower back period, and b) I’m completely guessing here, but at one time they used to have their athletes doing [Inaudible: 00:28:22] and other things —
Adam: Explain what a clean is —
Bill: Barbells on the floor and you either pull it straight up and squat under the bar, which would be like an olympic clean, or you’re a little more upright and you just sort of drag the bar up to your collarbones, and get your elbows underneath it. Either way it’s hard on the back, but at one time, rowing conditioning featured a lot of exercises like that to get their back stronger, that they’re already wearing out in the boat. They didn’t ask me, but if I was coaching them, I would not train their lower backs in the off season. I would let the rowing take care of that, I would train everything around their back, and give their back a break, but they didn’t ask.
Adam: I don’t know why they didn’t ask you, didn’t they know that you’re a congruent exerciser?
Bill: You’ve got to go to a receptive audience.
Mike: I think because there are things we do in our lives that are outside, occasionally outside our range of motion or outside — that are just incongruent or not joint friendly, whether it’s in sports or not. The thing is, I’m wondering are there exercises that go like — say for example you have to go — your sport asks for range of motion from one to ten, and you need to be prepared to do that, if you want to do that, the person desires to do that. Are there exercises where you go — can you be more prepared for that movement if you are doing it with a load or just a body weight load, whatever, up to say level four. Are there situations where it’s okay to do that, where you’re going a slight increase into that range where it’s not comprising joint safety, and it’s getting you a little bit more prepared to handle something that is going on.
Adam: So for example, for a golf swing, when you do a golf swing, you’re targeting the back probably more than you should in a safe range of motion in an exercise. I would never [Inaudible: 00:30:32] somebody’s back in the exercise room to the level that you have to [Inaudible: 00:30:34] your back to play golf. So I guess what Mike is asking is is there an exercise that would be safe to [Inaudible: 00:30:41] the back, almost as much as you would have to in golf.
Bill: I would say no. I would say, and golf is a good example. Now if you notice, nobody has their feet planted and tries to swing with their upper body.
Mike: A lot of people do, that’s how you hurt yourself.
Bill: But any sport, tennis, throwing a baseball, throwing a punch. Get your hips into it, it’s like standard coaching cliche, get your hips into it. What that does is it keeps you from twisting your back too much. In golf, even Tiger who was in shape for quite a while couldn’t help but over twist and then he’s out for quite a while with back problems.
Mike: Yeah, his story is really interesting and complicated. He did get into kind of navy seal training and also you should see the ESPN article on that which really — after I read that I thought that was the big thing with his problems. Going with what you just said about putting your hips into it, I’m a golfer, I try to play golf, and I did the TPI certification. Are you familiar with that? I thought it was really wonderful, I thought I learned a lot. I wasn't like the gospel according to the world of biomechanics, but I felt like it was a big step in the right direction with helping with sports performance and understanding strength and mobility. One of the bases of, the foundation of it, they — the computer analysis over the body and the best golfers, the ones that do it very very efficiently, powerfully and consistently, and they showed what they called a [Inaudible: 00:32:38] sequence, and it’s actually very similar, as you said, in all sports. Tennis, golf, throwing a punch, there’s a sequence where they see that the people who do it really, really well, and in a panfry way, it goes hip first, then torso, then arm, then club. In a very measured sequence, despite a lot of people who have different looking golf swings, like Jim [Inaudible: 00:32:52], Tiger Woods, John Daley, completely different body types, completely different golf swings, but they all have the — if you look at them on the screen in slow motion with all the sensors all over their body, their [Inaudible: 00:33:04] sequence is identical. It leads to a very powerful and consistent and efficient swing, but if you say like if you have limitations in you mobility between your hips and your lumbar spine, or your lumbar spine and your torso, and it’s all kind of going together. It throws timing off, and if you don’t have those types of things, very slowly, or quickly, you’re going to get to an injury, quicker than another person would get to an injury. The thing is, at the same time, you don’t want to stop someone who really wants to be a good golfer. We have to give the information and this is a — people have to learn the biomechanics and the basic swing mechanics of a golf swing, and then there’s a fitness element to it all. Are you strong enough, do you have the range of motion, is there a proper mobility between the segments of your body in order to do this without hurting yourself over time, and if there isn’t, golf professionals and fitness professionals are struggling. How do I teach you how to do this, even though it’s probably going to lead you to an injury down the line anyway. It’s a puzzle but the final question is, what — I'm trying to safely help people who have goals with sports performance and without hurting them.
Bill: First of all, any time you go from exercise in air quotes to sports, with sports, there’s almost an assumption of risk. The person playing golf assumes they’re going to hurt a rotator cuff or a back, or they at least know it’s a possibility. It’s just part of the game. Football player knows they could have a knee injury, maybe now they know they could have a concussion, but they just accept it by accepting it on the court or the turf. They walk into our studio, I don’t think that expectation — they may expect it also, but I don’t think it really belongs there. I don’t think you’re doing something to prepare for the risky thing. The thing you’re doing to prepare for the risky thing shouldn’t also be risky, and besides, let them get hurt on that guy’s time, not on your time. I’m being a little facetious there, I don’t buy the macho bullshit attitude that in order to challenge myself physically, I have to do something so reckless I could get hurt. That’s just simply not necessary. If somebody says I want to be an Olympic weightlifter, I want to be a power lifter, just like if they want to be a mixed martial artist, well then you’re accepting the fact that that activity is your priority. Not your joint health, not your safety. That activity is your priority, and again, nobody in professional sports is asking me, but I would so make the exercise as safe as possible. As safe as possible at first, then as vigorous as possible, and then let them take that conditioning and apply it to their sport.
Adam: If a sport requires that scapulary traction at a certain time in a swing or whatever they’re asking for, I don’t really think that there’s a way in the exercise room of working on just that. Scapular traction, and even if you can, it doesn’t mean it’s going to translate to the biomechanics and the neuro conditioning and the motor skill conditioning to put it all together.
Bill: You can’t think that much —
Adam: I’m just thinking once and for all, if strong hips are what’s important for this sport, a strong neck is what’s important for this. If being able to rotate the spine is important and you need your rotation muscles for the spine, work your spine rotationally but in a very safe range of motion. Tax those muscles, let them recover and get strong so when you do go play your sport, lets say a golf swing, it’s watching the videos and perfecting your biomechanics, but there’s nothing I think you can do in the gym that is going to help you really coordinate all those skills, because you’re trying to isolate the hip abductor or a shoulder retractor.
Mike: Well I was going to say, I think isolating the muscles in the gym is fine, because it allows you to control what happens, you don’t have too many moving parts, and this is kind of leading up to the conversational on functional training.
Adam: Which is good even if you can do that. You might notice there’s a weakness —
Mike: Yeah but if you’re going to punch, you don’t think okay flex the shoulder, extend at the —
Adam: There are a lot of boxers that didn’t make it because they were called arm punchers.
Bill: So at some point you can’t train it. You need to realize gee that guy has good hip movement, let me direct him to this sport.
Adam: So I think what Mike’s asking is is there some kind of exercise you can do to turn an arm puncher, let’s use this as an example, turn an arm puncher into a hip puncher? If you can maybe do something —
Bill: I think it’s practice though.
Mike: I think there’s a practice part of it. Going back to the golf swing, one of the things that they were making a big deal out of is, and it goes back to what we mentioned before, sitting at a desk and what’s going on with our bodies. Our backs, our hips, our hamstrings. As a result of the amount of time that most of us in our lives have, and we’re trainers, we’re up on our feet all day, but a lot of people are in a seated position all the time.
Adam: Hunched over, going forward.
Mike: Their lower back is —
Bill: Hamstrings are shortened, yeah.
Mike: What is going on in the body if your body is — if you’re under those conditions, eight to ten hours a day, five days a week. Not to mention every time you sit down in your car, on the train, have a meal, if you’re in a fetal position. My point is, they made a big thing at TPI about how we spend 18-20 hours a day in hip flexion, and what’s going on. How does that affect your gluten if you’re in hip flexion 20 hours a day. They were discussing the term called reciprocal inhibition, which is — you know what I mean by that?
Bill: The muscle that’s contracting, the opposite muscle has to relax.
Mike: Exactly, so if the hip is flexed, so as the antagonist muscle of the glue which is being shut off, and therefore —
Bill: Then when you go to hip henge, your glutes aren’t strong enough to do the hip henge so you’re going to get into a bad thing.
Mike: Exactly, and the thing as I said before —
Adam: What are they recommending you do though?
Mike: Well the thing is they’re saying do several different exercises to activate the gluten
specifically and —
Adam: How is that different than just doing a leg press that will activate them?
Mike: Adam, that’s a good question and the thing is it comes back to some of the testimonials. When you deal with clients, often times if you put them on a leg press, they’ll say I’m not feeling it in my glutes, I’m only feeling it in my quads, and other people will say, I’m feeling it a lot in my glutes and my hamstrings, and a little bit in my quads.
Adam: But if they don’t feel it in their glutes, it doesn’t mean that their glutes aren’t activated, for sure.
Mike: Bill, what do you think about that?
Bill: I think feel is very overrated in our line of work. I can get you to feel something but it’s not — you can do a concentration curl, tricep kickback, or donkey kicks with a cuff, and you’ll feel something because you’re not — you’re making the muscle about to cramp, but that’s not necessarily a positive. As far as activating the glutes go, if they don’t feel it on the leg press, I would go to the abductor machine.
Mike: I mean okay, whether it’s feel it’s overrated, that’s the thing that as a trainer, I really want the client to actually really make the connection with the muscle part.
Bill: Well yeah, you have to steer it though. For instance, if you put somebody on the abductor machine and they feel the sides of their glutes burn, in that case, the feel matches what you’re trying to do. If you have somebody doing these glute bridging exercises where their shoulders are on a chair and their hips are on the ground, knees are bent, and they’re kind of just driving their hips up. You feel that but it’s irrelevant, you’re feeling it because you’re trying to get the glutes to contract at the end of where — away from their strongest point. You’re not taxing the glutes, you’re getting a feeling, but it’s not really challenging the strength of the glutes. So I think what happens with a lot of the approaches like you’re describing, where they have half a dozen exercises to wake up the glutes, or engage them or whatever the phrase is.
Mike: Activate, yeah.
Bill: There’s kind of a continuity there, so it should be more of a progression rather than all of these exercises are valid. If you’ve got a hip abductor machine, the progression is there already.
Mike: The thing is, it’s also a big emphasis, it’s going back to TPI and golf and stuff, is the mobility factor. So I think that’s the — the strength is there often times, but there’s a mobility issue every once in a while, and I think that is — if something is, like for example if you’re very, very tight and if your glutes are supposed to go first, so says TPI through their [Inaudible: 00:42:57] sequence, but because you’re so tight that it’s going together, and therefore it’s causing a whole mess of other things which might make your club hit the ground first, and then tension in the arms, tension in the back, and all sorts of things. I’m thinking maybe there are other points, maybe the mobility thing has to be addressed in relation to a golf swing, more so than are the glutes actually working or not.
Bill: Well the answer is it all could be. So getting back to a broader point, the way we train
people takes half an hour, twice a week maybe. That leaves plenty of time for this person to do mobility work or flexibility work, if they have a specific activity that they think they need the work in.
Mike: Or golf practice.
Bill: Well that’s what I’m saying, even if it’s golf and even if — if you’re training for strength once or twice a week, that leaves a lot of time that you can do some of these mobility things, if the person needs them. That type of program, NASM has a very elaborate personal trainer
program, but they tend to equally weight every possible — some people work at a desk and they’re not — their posture is fine. Maybe they just intuitively stretch during the day, so I think a lot of those programs try to give you a recipe for every possible eventuality, and then there’s a continuum within that recipe. First we’re going to do one leg bridges, then we’re going to do two leg bridges, now we’re going to do two leg bridges on a ball, now we’re going to do leg bridges with an extra weight, now we’re going to do two leg bridges with an elastic band. Some of those things are just progressions, there’s no magic to any one of those exercises, but I think that’s on a case by case basis. If the person says I’m having trouble doing the swing the way the instructor is teaching me, then you can pick it apart, but the answer is not necessarily weight training.
Mike: The limitation could be weakness but it could be a mobility thing, it could be a whole bunch of things, it could be just that their mechanics are off.
Bill: And it could just be that it’s a bad sport for them. The other thing with postural issues, is if you get them when a person’s young, you might be able to correct them. You get a person 60, 70, it may have settled into the actual joints. The joints have may have changed shape.
Adam: We’ve got people with kyphosis all the time. We’re going to not reverse that kyphosis. You have these women, I find it a lot with tall women. They grow up taller than everyone else in their class and they’re shy so they end up being kyphotic because they’re shy to stand up tall. You can prevent further degeneration and further kyphosis.
Bill: Maybe at 20 or 25, if you catch that, maybe they can train out of it, but if you get it when it’s already locked in, all you can do is not do more damage.
Adam: So a lot of people feel and argue that machines are great if you want to just do really high intensity, get really deep and go to failure, but if you want to really learn how to use your body in space, then free weights and body weight movements need to be incorporated, and both are
important. Going to failure with machines in a safe manner, that might be cammed properly, but that in and of itself is not enough. That a lot of people for full fitness or conditioning if you will, you need to use free weights or body weight movements —
Mike: Some people even think that machines are bad and only body weights should be done.
Adam: Do you have an opinion about if one is better than the other, or they both serve different purposes and they’re both important, or if you just use either one of them correctly, you’re good.
Bill: Let’s talk about the idea that free weights are more functional than machines. I personally think it’s what you do with your body that makes it functional or not, and by functional, that’s —
Adam: Let’s talk about that, let’s talk about functional training.
Bill: I’m half mocking that phrase.
Adam: So before you even go into the question I just asked, maybe we can talk about this idea, because people are throwing around the expression functional training nowadays. So Crossfit is apparently functional training, so what exactly was functional training and what has it become?
Bill: I don’t know what they’re talking about, because frankly if I’ve got to move a tire from point A to point B, I’m rolling it, I’m not flipping it.
Adam: That would be more functional, wouldn’t it.
Bill: If I have to lift something, if I have a child or a bag of groceries that I have to lift, I’m not going to lift a kettle bell or dumbbell awkwardly to prepare for that awkward lift. In other words, I would rather train my muscles safely and then if I have to do something awkward, hopefully I’m strong enough to get through it, to withstand it. My thought was, when I started in 1982 or so, 84, 83, somewhere in the early 80s I started to train, most of us at the time were very influenced by the muscle magazines. So it was either muscle magazines, or the [Inaudible: 00:48:24] one set to failure type training, but the people that we were training in the early 80s, especially in Manhattan, they weren’t body builders and they weren’t necessarily athletes. So to train business people and celebrities and actors etc, like you would train an athlete seemed like a bad idea. Plus how many times did I hear, oh I don’t want to get big, or I’m not going out for the Olympics. Okay fine, but then getting to what Mike said before, if someone has a hunched over shoulder or whatever, now you’re tailoring the training to what the person is in front of you, to what is relevant to their life. 20 inch arms didn’t fascinate them, why are you training them to get 20 inch arms? Maybe a trimmer waist was more their priority, so to my eye, functional training and personal training, back in the 80s, was synonymous. Somewhere since the 80s, functional training turned into this anti machine approach and functional training for sport was [Inaudible: 00:49:32] by a guy named Mike Boyle. His main point in there is, and I’m paraphrasing so if I get it wrong, don’t blame him, but his point was as an athlete, you don’t necessarily need to bench heavy or squat heavy or deadlift heavy, although it might be helpful, but you do need the muscles that hold your joints together to be in better shape. So all of his exercises were designed around rotator cuff, around the muscles around the spine, the muscles around the hips, the muscles around the ankles. So in his eye it was functional for sport, he was training people, doing exercises, so they would hold their posture together so that that wouldn’t cause a problem on the field. That material was pretty good, went a little overboard I think in some ways, but generally it was pretty good, but then it kind of got bastardized as it got caught into the commercial fitness industry, and it just became an excuse for sequencing like a lunge with a curl with a row with a pushup, to another lunge, to a squat. It just became sort of a random collection of movements, justified as being functional, functional for what? At least Boyle was functional for sport, his point was to cut injuries down in sport. Where is the function in stringing together, again, a curl, to a press, to a pushup, to a squat, back to the curl, like one rep of each, those are more like stunts or feats of strength than they are, to me, exercise,
Adam: So when you’re talking about the muscles around the spine or the rotator cuffs, they’re commonly known as stabilizer muscles, and when we talk about free weights versus machines, a lot of times we’ll say something like, well if you want to work your stabilizer muscles, you need to use free weights, because that’s how you work the stabilizer muscles. What would you say to that?
Bill: I would say that if they’re stabilizing while they’re using the free weights, then they’re using the stabilizer muscles, right?
Adam: And if they’re stabilizing while using a machine?
Bill: They’re using their stabilizer muscles.
Adam: Could you work out those stabilizer muscles of the shoulder on a machine chest press, the same way you can use strength in stabilizer muscles of the shoulder on a free weight bench press?
Bill: Yes, it’s what your body is doing that counts, not the tool. So if someone is on a free weight…
Mike: Is it the same though, is it doing it the same way? So you can do it both ways, but is it the same?
Bill: If you want to — skill is very specific, so if you want to barbell bench press, you have to barbell bench press.
Adam: Is there an advantage to your stabilizer muscles to do it with a free weight bench press, as opposed to a machine?
Bill: I don’t see it, other than to help the ability to free weight bench press, but if that’s not why the person is training, if the person is just training for the health benefits of exercise to use it broadly, I don’t think it matters — if you’re on a machine chest press and you’re keeping your shoulder blades down and back, and you’re not buckling your elbows, you’re voluntarily
controlling the range of the motion. I don’t see how that stabilization is different than if you’re on a barbell bench press, and you have to do it the same way.
Adam: You’re balancing, because both arms have to work independently in a way.
Bill: To me that just makes it risky, that doesn’t add a benefit.
Mike: What about in contrast to lets say, a pushup. A bodyweight pushup, obviously there’s a lot more going on because you’re holding into a plank position which incorporates so many more muscles of your entire body, but like Adam and I were talking the other day about the feeling — if you’re not used to doing pushups regularly, which Adam is all about machines and stuff like that, I do a little bit of everything, but slow protocol. It’s different, one of our clients is unbelievably strong on all of the machines, we’re talking like top 10% in weight on everything. Hip abduction, leg press, chest press, pull downs, everything, and this guy could barely do 8 limited range of motion squats with his body weight, and he struggles with slow pushups, like doing 5 or 6 pushups. 5 seconds down, 5 seconds up, to 90 degrees at the elbow, he’s not even going past — my point is that he’s working exponentially harder despite that he’s only dealing with his body weight, then he is on the machines, in all categories.
Bill: So here’s the thing though. Unless that’s a thing with them, that I have to be able to do 100 pushups or whatever, what’s the difference?
Mike: The difference is —
Adam: The question is why though. Why could he lift 400, 500 pounds on Medex chest press, he could hardly do a few pushups, and should he be doing pushups now because have we discovered some kind of weakness? That he needs to work on pushups?
Bill: Yes, but it’s not in his pecs and his shoulders.
Mike: I’m going to agree, exactly.
Bill: The weakness is probably in his trunk, I don’t know what the guy is built like. The weakness is in his trunk because in a pushup, you’re suspending yourself between your toes and your arms.
Adam: So somebody should probably be doing ab work and lower back extensions?
Bill: No he should be doing pushups. He should be practicing pushups, but practicing them in a way that’s right. Not doing the pushup and hyper extending his back, doing a pushup with his butt in the air. Do a perfect pushup and then if your form breaks, stop, recover. Do another perfect pushup, because we’re getting back into things that are very, very specific. So for instance, if you tell me that he was strong on every machine, and he comes back every week and he’s constantly pulling things in his back, then I would say yes, you have to address it.
Mike: This is my observations that are more or less about — I think it’s something to do with his coordination, and he’s not comfortable in his own body. For example, his hips turn out
significantly, like he can’t put his feet parallel on the leg press for example. So if I ever have him do a limited range of motion lunge, his feet go into very awkward positions. I can tell he struggles with balance, he’s an aspiring golfer as well. His coordination is — his swing is really, I hope he never listens to this, it’s horrible.
Adam: We’re not giving his name out.
Bill: Here’s the thing now. You as a trainer have to decide, am I going to reconfigure what he’s doing, at the risk of making him feel very incompetent and get him very discouraged, or do I just want to, instead of doing a machine chest press, say we’ll work on pushups. Do you just want to introduce some of these new things that he’s not good at, dribble it out to him a little bit at a time so it gives him like a new challenge for him, or is that going to demoralize him?
Mike: He’s not demoralized at all, that is not even on the table. I understand what you’re saying, I think there are other people who would look at it that way. I think he looks at it as a new challenge, I think he knows — like we’ve discussed this very, very openly. He definitely — it feels like he doesn’t have control over his body in a way. Despite his strength, I feel that — my instincts as a trainer, I want to see this guy be able to feel like he’s strong doing something that is a little bit more — incorporates his body more in space than just being on a machine. If I’m measuring his strength based on what he can do by pressing forward or pulling back or squatting down, he’s passed the test with As and great form. He does all the other exercises with pretty good form, but he’s struggling with them. He has to work a lot harder in order to do it, and to be it’s an interesting thing to see someone who lifts very heavy weights on the chest press and can barely do 4 slow pushups.
Bill: Let’s look at the pushups from a different angle. Take someone who could do pushups, who can do pushups adequately, strictly and all. Have another adult sit on their butt, all of a sudden those perfect pushups, even though probably raw strength could bench press an extra person, say, you can’t do it, because someone who is thicker in the hips, has more weight around the hips, represented by the person sitting on their back, their dimensions are such that their hips are always going to be weighing them down. So that person’s core — like a person with broader hips, in order to do a pushup, their core has to be much stronger than somebody with very narrow hips, because they have less weight in the middle of their body. So some of these things are a function of proportion.
Adam: You can’t train for it, in other words you can’t improve it.
Mike: Women in general have their center of gravity in their hips, and that’s why pushups are very, very hard.
Adam: I have an extremely strong individual, a perfect example of what you’re talking about right now. I know people that are extremely, extremely strong, but some of these very, very strong individuals can do a lot of weight on a pullover machine, they can do a lot of weight on a pulldown machine, but as soon as you put them on the chin-up bar, they can’t do it. Does that mean they’re not strong, does that mean that they can’t do chin-ups, that they should be working on chin-ups because we discovered a weakness? No, there’s people for example who might have shitty tendon insertions, like you said about body weight and center of gravity, if they have really thick lower body. I notice that people who have really big, thick lower bodies, really strong people — or if they have really long arms, the leverage is different. So it begs the question, lets start doing chin-ups, yeah but you’ll never proportionally get better at chin-ups, given your proportions, given your tendon insertions, given your length of your arms. So maybe Mike, this person is just not built to do push-ups and you’re essentially just giving him another chest and body exercise that is not necessarily going to improve or help anything, because it’s a
proportional thing, it’s a leverage thing. It’s not a strength thing, especially if you’re telling me he’s so strong and everything else.
Bill: The only way you’ll know is to try.
Mike: Well that’s the thing, and that’s what I’ve been doing. We just started it, maybe in the last month, and frankly both of us are excited by it. He’s been here for a few years, and he is also I think starving to do something a little new. I think that’s a piece of the puzzle as well, because even if you’re coming once a week and you get results, it gets a little stale, and that’s why I’ve tried to make an effort of making all the exercises we’re doing congruent. Joint friendly, very limited range of motion, and the thing is, he’s embracing the challenge, and he’s feeling it too. I know the deal with soreness and stuff like that, new stimulus.
Bill: In that case, the feeling counts, right? It doesn’t always mean something good, it doesn’t always mean something bad.
Mike: Right, it is a little bit of a marketing thing.
Adam: It’s a motivator. It’s nothing to be ashamed of for motivation. If pushups is motivating this guy, then do pushups, they’re a great exercise regardless.
Bill: Getting back to your general question about whether free weights lends itself to stabilizing the core better or not, if that’s what the person is doing on the exercise, then it is. If the person is doing the pushup and is very tight, yes, he’s exercising his core. If the person is doing the pushup and it’s sloppy, one shoulder is rising up, one elbow to the side, it doesn’t matter that it’s a pushup —
Adam: He’s still not doing it right and he’s still not working his core.
Bill: Right, so it’s really how the person is using their body that determines whether they’re training their core appropriately, not the source of the resistance.
Adam: I’m sorry, I’ve done compound rows with free weights in all kinds of ways over the years, and now I’m doing compound row with a retrofitted Medex machine, with a CAM that really represents pretty good CAM design and I challenge anyone to think that they’re not working everything they need to work on that machine, because you’ve still got to keep your shoulders down. You’ve still got to keep your chest up, you still have to not hunch over your shoulders when you’re lowering a weight. I mean there’s a lot of things you’ve got to do right on a compound machine, just like if you’re using free weights. I don’t personally, I’ve never noticed that much of a benefit, and how do you measure that benefit anyway? How would you be able to prove that free weights is helping in one way that a machine is not, how do you actually prove something like that? I hear it all the time, you need to do it because you need to be able to —
Mike: There’s one measuring thing actually, but Bill —
Bill: I was going to say, a lot of claims of exercise, a lot of the chain of thought goes like this. You make the claim, the result, and there’s this big black box in the middle that — there’s no explanation of why doing this leads to this.
Mike: If you made the claim and the result turns out, then yes it’s correlated and therefore —
Bill: I was going to say getting to Crossfit and bootcamp type things, and even following along with a DVD program, whatever brand name you choose. The problem I have with that from a joint friendly perspective is you have too many moving parts for you to be managing your
posture and taking care of your joints. Especially if you’re trying to keep up with the kettle bell class. I imagine it’s possible that you can do certain kettle bell exercises to protect your lower back and protect your shoulders. It’s possible, but what the user has to decide is how likely is it? So I know for me personally, I can be as meticulous as I want with a kettle bell or with a barbell deadlift, and at some point, I’m going to hurt myself. Not from being over ambitious, not from sloppy form, something is going to go wrong. Somebody else might look at those two exercises and say no, I’m very confident I can get this. You pay your money, you take your chance.
Mike: As a measuring tool, sometimes you never know if one is better or worse but sometimes — every once in a while, even when we have clients come into our gym and you have been
doing everything very carefully with them, very, very modest weight, and sometimes people say, you know Mike, I’ve never had any knee problems and my knees are bothering me a little bit. I think it’s the leg press that’s been doing it, ever since we started doing that, I’m feeling like a
little bit of a tweak in my knee, I’m feeling it when I go up stairs. Something like that, and then one of the first things I’ll do is like when did it start, interview them, try to draw some lines or some hypotheses as to what’s going on. Obviously there might be some wear and tear in their life, almost definitely was, and maybe something about their alignment on the leg press is not right. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re completely wrong, but one of the things I’ll do first is say okay, we still want to work your legs. We still want to work your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes, let’s try doing some limited range of motions squats against the wall or with the TRX or something like that, and then like hey, how are your knees feeling over the past couple weeks? Actually you know, much much better, ever since we stopped doing the leg press.
Bill: Sometimes some movements just don’t agree with some joints.
Adam: There’s a [Inaudible: 01:05:32] tricep machine that I used to use, and it was like kind of like —
Bill: The one up here? Yeah.
Adam: You karate chop right, and your elbows are stabilized on the pad, you karate chop down. It was an old, [Inaudible: 01:05:45] machine, and I got these sharp pains on my elbows. Nobody else that I trained on that machine ever had that sharp pain in their elbows, but it bothered the hell out of my elbows. So I would do other tricep extensions and they weren’t ever a problem, so does that make that a bad exercise? For me it did.
Bill: For you it did, but if you notice, certain machine designs have disappeared. There’s a reason why those machine designs disappeared, so there’s a reason why, I think in the Nitro line, I know what machine you’re talking about. They used to call it multi tricep, right, okay, and your upper arms were held basically parallel, and you had to kind of karate chop down.
Adam: It wasn’t accounting for the carrying angle.
Bill: I’ll get to that. So your elbows were slightly above your shoulders, and you had to move your elbows into a parallel. Later designs, they moved it out here. They gave them independent axises, that’s not an accident. A certain amount of ligament binding happens, and then —
Adam: So my ligaments just were not coping with that very well.
Bill: That’s right. So for instance, exactly what joint angle your ligaments bind at is individual, but if you’re going in this direction, there is a point where the shoulder ligaments bind and you have to do this. Well that machine forced us in the bound position, so when movement has to happen, it can’t happen at the shoulder because you’re pinned in the seat. It was happening in your elbow. It might not be the same with everybody, but that is how the model works.
Adam: So getting back to your client on the leg press, like for instance — you can play with different positions too.
Mike: Well the thing is, I’m trying to decipher some of — trying to find where the issues may be. A lot of times I think that the client probably just — maybe there’s some alignment issues, IT bands are tight or something like that, or maybe there’s a weak — there can be a lot of different little things, but the machines are perfect and symmetrical, but you aren’t. You’re trying to put your body that’s not through a pattern, a movement pattern that has to be fixed in this plane, when your body kind of wants to go a little to the right, a little to the left, or something like that. It just wants to do that even though you’re still extending and flexing. In my mind and through some of the literature that I’ve explored, it has made me think I don't have the answer but I’m thinking something along the lines of, we’re working with this person’s issues. I still want them to be able to do a squat or a leg press in this fashion or that fashion. This is where they got some knee pain, this is where they didn’t, I don’t know exactly what the cause is or whatever, but no pain, exercise, okay. Pain, exercise, not okay, and that’s kind of where I’ve directed those types of things.
Bill: I think that’s where a lot of attempts at franchising one right way to exercise, where it fails. Whether it was Curves, where the attendees had to fit into those machines or they couldn’t exercise, or go back to the 80s when you had all these fitness centers all over the place, but it was one set to failure, no rest, it was cookie cutter. It doesn’t really catch because nobody has perfectly fluid joints that can fit into everything. In our type of environment where ultimately it’s personal training, we feature machines, but it’s personal training. At least we have the option to say if this hurts, we’re going to try an alternative, we’re going to work the same muscles in the same joint, we’ll just find the way it doesn’t work. I don’t see that you’re losing anything from it. I’m also not selling the equipment. That is what I’m selling though, that service of saying okay, this hurts, we have an alternative that maybe doesn’t hurt, and we can get the same benefit.
Mike: With my experience, that’s the thing with our business and what we all do quite well is understanding that we have basic movements. We know what we want to do to strengthen the quads, strengthen chest, strengthen the shoulders, but there are some customizations and things that we have to consider when we take a new client or an existing client over time and work with what’s going on. Psychologically, there’s so many different things to take in.
Bill: I do think though that one thing that was better in the early 80s, is because we had all these novice fitness centers around with the one right way to work out, even though that didn’t catch, I noticed the trainers who came through that system, you had a common vocabulary that you could work off of. At Sports Training Institute, which was around that time, we would get trainers from those types of novice fitness centers, and it was like that was sort of like the default workout. One set to failure, full range of motion on this machine, but if the client didn’t like going to
failure or if the machine didn’t agree with them, it would take us — we had the option of doing what we do now. Trainers today, people coming out of school today or even with multiple
certifications, there’s a definite — to me, there’s a lack of — it’s like the anything goes school of exercise. If I call it an exercise, it’s an exercise. There’s no common vocabulary, so a young trainer will come into the studio and see that I have a kettle bell. He’ll say great, I’m going to do… no you’re not, no, no no. Kettle bells hold the door open, that was for experimentation only and I was the guinea pig. No, we do not do that with clients. There’s too much of an anything goes mentality, just because some physical labor you did makes you breathless, makes you sweat, makes your muscles burn and pumps you up, doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. That I think is very common among newer trainers, and again I definitely sound like an old —
Mike: I think you’re definitely right. I think younger, newer trainers, they get high off of selling themselves as someone who is going to kill you, and they want their client to tell their friends, oh my god you’ve got to meet my trainer, he just beat the shit out of me, oh my god.
Bill: Personally I think that that is more of a turnoff than they realize. There’s a reason why, I don’t know about the city, but there’s Planet Fitnesses all over the place by me, and I judicially ride by them during some peak hours, and the parking lots are all full. It’s a much more low key, now granted maybe the quality of — I don’t really know what they’re doing inside, I’m going to assume it’s not too highly intensely vigorous based on their marketing.
Mike: Spend the ten bucks and find out.
Bill: The thing is, there’s a reason why people join health clubs in January and drop out the rest of the year. Something isn’t connecting, and I really think that hard ass presentation is part of it.
Adam: It was a great discussion. We’re in Manhattan right now, and Bill came all the way from New Jersey.
Bill: Central New Jersey as a matter of fact.
Bill: Cranberry, New Jersey.
Mike: Where is that?
Bill: Exit 8 off the turnpike.
Mike: It’s one mile off that exit.
Bill: As a matter of fact it is, but smaller than you guys have. 800 square feet, approximately a [Inaudible: 01:13:43], with other things, a couple cardio pieces. Mainly to say I have it, and if I can do one worthwhile thing with it, I’ll use it. Like a heavy rope, that’s kind of a silly piece of exercise equipment to be blunt, but I figured out one exercise I could do that’s not going to hurt people, that seems to work, so just to have it for variety and novelty, we have it. I have a Swiss ball, medicine ball, and various items, again, just for the novelty.
Adam: So do we by the way.
Bill: So the difference between what we do is virtually nothing compared to what we do — what any of us do compared to the bootcamps and —
Mike: The key is time efficient and safe.
Adam: Maybe we should invite some of those people on our podcast, people who think what we’re doing is bullshit and see what they have to say. They dare walk into our space.
Bill: It is interesting because the exercise industry has created this structure that I don’t think — I kind of think is a house of cards. It appears to have a lot of substance to it, but if you can’t apply it to most people who walk in your door, what good is it? That’s kind of why I got away from NCA type stuff and heavy industry stuff.
Adam: Let me tell you, you say that, but Crossfit is very popular from what I understand, and various bootcamps —
Mike: There’s a lot of boutique fitness centers.
Adam: I know a private equity company bought out Barry’s bootcamp —
Bill: Listen, I’m not giving investment advice, but I’m talking about as far as —
Mike: So you’re shorting it is what you’re saying.
Bill: No, but if you talk to people at any bootcamp by us, everybody is banged up.
Mike: All the physical therapists that we have here, they say that their business is fantastic because of Crossfit and bootcamps.
Bill: See those things, things like that normalize getting injured in exercise, but it’s just like
politics. If you say something outrageous, everything up to outrageous gets normalized, even if that stuff is outrageous.
Adam: Like a low carb diet, I’m eating 100 grams of carbs a day and that’s considered a low carb diet, well yeah. Compared to the average American diet of 500 carbs a day, but 100 grams of carb is not that low.
Mike: Jamie, my 630 on Tuesday morning, he said a girl in his office is hurt, her lower back is hurt, and she can’t wait to get back to Crossfit when her back feels better. It’s unbelievable, it’s like what!
Bill: Again, it normalizes getting injures as a part of exercise.
Adam: Well forever, it’s been no pain no gain, forever.
Bill: I think [Inaudible: 01:16:36] in the early days… granted there was some excessive — we overtrained and trained too hard, stuff like that, but there was a little more of a — [Inaudible: 01:16:47] and stuff like that, there’s a little more awareness of the exercise itself not causing new problems.
Mike: At the time, you said in your books, in your pamphlets, it was all about body builders at the time. People now, like everybody thinks, I’ve got to go to the gym, I’ve got to get fit. My cardio, my heart disease, I’ve got to make sure I’m healthy for my kids and all that kind of stuff. I think it’s everywhere now, and everyone feels that they have to participate in getting exercise, whether they do it or not.
Bill: See that person really can’t justify getting hurt at exercise. I’ve got to stay healthy for my kids, so I’m going to trash my back and lower rotator cuff in my workout.
Mike: That’s a separate thing, but the thing is the Crossfit thing, it’s amazing how the community and they just can’t wait to be back at their next session, which was yesterday. Tomorrow. The relatively, very intense classes or sessions —
Adam: I haven’t met too many people that have been doing Crossfit for years. I’ve been doing Crossfit for two years, three years —
Mike: I have a client right now who does it every weekend, and he’s got a lot of problems by the way. Shoulder problems, back problems —
Bill: See I can not relate to that guys’ thinking at all.
Mike: Honestly, here’s the thing going back to connecting with the — every time someone tells me they’re going to do their bootcamps or whatever, I’m like listen, be very mindful about what you’re doing. I never want to say don’t do it because — I used to do that and I saw that people stopped listening to me immediately.
Bill: Or worse, they stop coming to you.
Mike: I’ve wrestled with that for many years, and now I just try to encourage mindfulness and some people, they listen and other people just keep on going. Mike you’re going to kill me man, I went to the fitting room again, and man it was crazy.
Adam: We also get misrepresented and misunderstood when, for example, I’ve heard recently even, like some people were like I like that InForm Fitness, I like that concept of the once a week, high intensity workout, but I like working out every single day. So I don’t know if that’s for me, because I’d rather workout every single day, as if it’s a mutually exclusive decision. What I like to say, and that’s where we stand, that’s not what we say. We don’t say if you do this, don’t do anything else in your life. What we’re saying is all you need is one really highly intense workout per week, and then do all your other things if you like doing all your other things. If you’d like to get on a treadmill and burn off some steam every single day, then do so, but do so in moderation and do so carefully, and understand the risks associated with that. You don’t have to not do it. What you need to be careful of is overdoing too many really super duper intense workouts, that’s what we’re really saying.
Mike: Exactly. If you’re doing intense yoga or intense boxing, there needs to be more space in between weight training and those types of things.
Bill: Well I probably, especially over the summers, quote workout every day. I’m still only using weights once a week, but every day I’m either on a bike or I’m doing a fast walk with the dog.
Adam: You’re recreating man, you’re living. Nothing wrong with getting your heart pumping.
Mike: Honestly I’ve been encouraging, and I do this with myself. I use the cross ball — I really have no pains on my body, but I do a little of the cross ball stuff on my hips and my lower back, like foam roller type of things, and then some mobility exercises. Some pelvic tilts, I like some glute bridges and [Inaudible: 01:20:37], that type of thing. With some of my clients who are very, very tight on a regular basis or feel their lower back tightness, I just say try these things. They’re relatively innocuous, it doesn’t feel like much, but I teach them how to do it. Almost all of them are reporting, you know Mike, I’ve been doing that for a few weeks and I feel a little bit better. A little relief from the general strain, and that’s the kind of stuff I like to encourage on a daily basis. Keep their mind on their body —
Bill: I notice you have like pilates on the door. I really think once a week, high intensity, whether it’s machines or free weights, and the discipline like a pilates or yoga, or even if you want to use a non branded term, mobilization exercises, I think that’s an exactly right combination. As far as staying healthy and being physically capable as we get older, that’s the exact right combination. The days of heavy lifting, five times a week —
Adam: So there you go. If I was anti — if we stood for — we wouldn’t have an acupuncturist here, pilates instructor here, we wouldn’t have a massage therapist here. It’s not one size fits all number one, and they’re two different things. This is high intensity exercise to get you strong as hell in the safest manner possible, and then like you said, mix it in with some of these more body aware things.
Mike: The pilates instructor thinks what we do here is fantastic. We have a lot of clients between both of us, it’s fantastic.
Adam: Bill, thank you so much for coming here, I hope you come back. There’s so much more to talk about, will you come back for some more?
Bill: Of course I will, very good.
Mike: Thank you very much Bill, we appreciate it.