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Once upon a time in Fitness

By May 6, 2016December 2nd, 2023No Comments

This is a long one my friends…sit back and get pissed.

I personally don’t agree with the word expert. I believe there is no expert in anything. As a qualified personal trainer with over 30 years’ experience, I am still learning and scratching the surface. Mastery what is it? We can be on the road to Mastery, there’s different approaches to Mastery and proficiency. I can say that I have been educating myself with the science of exercise for over 29 years. When we talk about bio mechanics and its place in exercise we talk about the relationship between physics and anatomy. We study structure and joint function, the relationship between muscles and all articulating surfaces. We study forces and how they enter the body, and the way those forces effect our structure. Remember “Structure equates to function”. So where does this relate to what you do? It relates in everything you do. It related to any motion, position, sport, activity, and even the sedentary person. I personally have studies my whole life on how to preserve the joint, respect the joint, don’t offend the joint tissues, stimulate the joint tissues, and challenge the ability to harmonize the use of the muscle along with the joint. Note: A muscle and a joint have a relationship with one another, why would you want to upset that relationship? It’s like you have exercises for your software, and we have exercises for our hardware. It is so crucial that we address both, this is what I have done my whole life. However think about this- now you do MMA, or any of the martial arts, Cross Fit, and piss poor rent-a-buddy-trainers, coaches and you get to violate it all. When you think about biomechanics the word BIO is related to living systems, life, biology and mechanics is a branch of physics, with concerns for forces and motions. Regardless of what your sport, or activity is do you understand that mechanics, bio-mechanics (the way you train, move, exercise) is based on math-physics. There is no room for anyone’s philosophy, opinion in regards to what exercise they are doing, or think they are doing correctly. Five plus five is ten, however you say “I disagree” well you don’t have to disagree. I don’t care that you saw it in a video post on Facebook, or Instagram, its math no room or reason for an opinion. Mechanics is totally based on math its engineering, and in this case of the body. I find it comical and sad that when people try to train for a sport, bodybuilding or rehab they say stupid things like: “What’s the problem its weak just lift more, or its tight just stretch it out” It’s not brain surgery right? Well outside of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, steroids, and genetically gifted humans… it is rocket science! Exercise is based on math, and when you start to move a limb in space attached to a grip device with some form of resistance… there are many different paths you can move in to achieve the same goals. The challenge comes to the person who just follows someone’s personal perceptions, emotions, and opinions. Motions in the body are mapped out they must move in a specific “Resistance Profile” To those of you who are reading this, I am not coming from a place where my philosophy or opinions are better than yours. Who cares about my opinion, I am stating a scientific fact about the math of it. It’s like for you to perform an overhead press there is a certain axis, distance, cadence, range, rhythm, resistance profile, path, torque, internal forces, it is 100% predictable. The press can be mapped out on a word document. I am positive that many of the people who think they are into hard core training, bodybuilding, Cross Fit, and many forms of Yoga, Pilates, and most defiantly group X training have no idea what they are doing, and totally relying on the uneducated trainer at the front of the class. Or how about the same gym goer or trainer who went to school to get all these advanced degrees, and certifications, after all that they still train like they did when they were 15, like some garage workout. I feel that the education hence the text book professional didn’t change the way they see exercise, let alone teach it. But it looks cool, look at him, look at her it must work. There’s an astronomical disconnect for most between what they study and what they apply. Regardless of the motion, single arm, single leg, a coordinated multi joint movement, it does not matter, it all can be mapped out with science, and bio mechanics. I don’t have to bore you with every little segment piece, and how it should move in a perfect path for amazing results, I can however zoom out and see the big picture. It does not matter what you’re training for- if it’s karate, MMA, UFC, any contact sport, advanced bodybuilder (If there is such a thing-hence who has the best genetics & drugs). It’s still imposing forces entering the human body- external meets internal, and how can we overcome the demand on the ligaments and tendons, moreover all our internal structures. Think about the body as it goes through a ridiculous curtsy lunge, (who invented it? And how did it get into the fitness industry? Boredom? It has so many trickling transverse forces creating collateral damage as a tiny earthquake travels across your hip and knee structures. If that’s not bad enough the overzealous uneducated trainer loads it with a kettle bell, or bar. This is something you can’t prepare for the body was not structured to do this exercise along with hundreds of others not mentioned here. What product are we selling today? I feel like I am trying to be a round earth educator to a flat earth society.

I love sports- I mean no harm- I am only stating an objective fact.

I wrote this dissertation for everything sports related. To the Coaches, Athletic trainers, Strength coach, Conditioning specialist, PT’s and everyone who has a hands on experience with a professional athlete. I will make this as simple as possible: I said to the head strength coach “If a ball club had a mandate- guidelines based on true anatomical/ joint function, (Science not gym talk- leave the egos at the door) we would be able to remove bad habits, and robotically reprogram our neuromuscular system (Engrams) and retrain the brain to create no harm! He said what? I said “Let’s try to tweak these useless moves that lead to injury, and add more that carry over to the sport. I want to create better relationships with the joint and the muscle OK? He said “Why didn’t you say that” I guess I need to work on my presentations!

I can and I will give you the best work out of your life! However whenever someone’s argument is … “yea well I feel it” or “Yea but it works” I have to wonder at what cost, and what was the collateral damage. So I think of an analogy… “Let’s give a two year old a quart of milk, and tell them to pour it into a glass. They pour and fill the glass, but keep pouring, and spill it all over the floor. They say “well daddy I still got it in the glass” What’s happening to the mess around the outside of the glass? I think about people who perform a certain type of exercises and they say “I feel it here” Or… it seems to work, I’m sore” This may be the type of person who feel accomplishment by getting a couple of splashes into the glass. However never think of all the collateral damage. For example… if you are doing an upright row, (with a kettle bell?) Or a 300lb clean and you feel it in your traps, or deltoids, you may have some degree of benefit, but at what cost? You are offending the structures of the bicep tendon, the bursa, and supraspinatus every time you do this. The same time you are offending your wrist structures. Wouldn’t it be worth it if we combined two moves that still train your deltoids, and traps without all the added risks, and collateral damage?

It’s just like two drugs… if you have one med you can take that has indications, and contraindications, and the other drug has no more benefit, just huge risk, and more side effects… why do we choose the second drug? It does not make sense! It is what you do, and it’s how you do it. So here is an exercise, even done slowly and in control, it’s a poor choice considering, we have so many options, and people choose this MYTH that has occurred over time. It stood the test of time; it must be a good exercise? NO, it’s just a myth that continues today, and we are using the poster children that happened to get away with it. We are using these people as examples of “you should be able to do it just fine”.

Think about this my friends- Let’s say you a carpenter, and your building a house. I have to tap this nail, and if your skilled at tapping the nail in, it’s done in two or three shots… you will perfectly “seat” the nail. There will be no bends, no hammer marks, track marks, no splitting etc… I know that if you have to do 100 reps of an exercise just to get a little benefit, there are better more productive ways. I also know another organization who just says “slam it in there” They are just hitting the nail sideways, with the side of the hammer, and eventually because it seems to mend the wood together it works just as well. However there is a lot of damage, track marks, split wood, bent nails etc…. (Exercise stupidity)

People are thinking so much about the benefit, they are unaware of the risks. When you start to use joints and stray away from normal function, or the way it was designed to move, dictated by structure, the more risk there will be. Monkeys see monkey do gym goers, general public, some coaches (who didn’t make the roster) weekend certified personal trainers (Rent-a buddies) don’t know how to weigh out risk. There are FIVE basic common sense way to assess risk and stupidity.

1- How far do you stray away from normal function?

(This is Dictated by structure… The more unnatural the motion, the higher the risk)

2-How much force you do it with?

This is not about how much weight you use. It is related to how fast you are moving. When you move with speed there is more impact associated with changing direction. Imagine an upright row; the inertia carries the weight up for you-at the top it actually gets lighter. The momentum is lifting it not you! However as it drops down, and you’re slowing the eccentric (resistance the way down) or said another way: when you transfer from eccentric to concentric, there will be a HUGE spike in resistance. This is where all the impact is felt by you! SO… this 35 lb. kettle bell, or whatever you’re doing it with will be 0 zero at the top, and 45 or 50lbs at the bottom. Whenever we change direction there is a spike in resistance. It’s like going from drive in your car, and shifting in a split second to reverse!

3- How long you do it for.

4 sets of 10 vs. 2 reps?

We create dysfunction that leads to imbalances, and eventually pain, and faulty movement patterns from that joint… we compensate, and become injured.

4- How often do you do it?

If I do it twice a month it would be very different than 3x per week.

5- How well we prepare of progress up to it?

If I look at a person doing face pulls… a part of me wants to say “What’s this person doing? This person is totally out of any functional path for the shoulder girdle, fact is they thinks their training posterior should girdle muscles. This face-puller in reality is compromising wrist structures… all based on a feeling! (He saw it somewhere) However I can say that this person… (Although the exercise has high risk, minimal benefit) they have been preparing for this over the last three months. It was within a range that for some reason they already had in their shoulder. I can’t pretend it is as dangerous for him, as it is for most. The subject just put the pulley too high, the ropes too short, and yanking 40 lbs as they elevate their shoulders and screw up their wrists. However regardless of this unorthodox mindless move most are focusing on the illusion of benefit.

Let’s continue:

It’s not about what you do… but how you apply it. Some people feel as long as someone can be out of breath, sweat, fell it, muscles are tired, and they think it’s working and congruent. Some turn that into a license to do any stupid exercise that comes to mind. They feel that’s a good indication of a great workout. The mistake is that they have no ability to detect the milk that was spilled all around the glass by the 2- year old. The risks they can’t figure out, because they never studied joint function, forces. In a nutshell the human structure is nothing more than joints, and levers. There are “Optimal angles, paths, active ranges, torque and shearing, vectors, which all make up one final sum=a resistance profile. People need to focus on the benefit, and NOT the risk, by thinking of application, recovery, frequency, progressing, regressing, and preparing for it beforehand. IE: Some can run, and they get in better shape, some run, and they break down. That should tell you it’s not about running. It’s what the person was prepared for. We are putting these stresses on the human body, and crossing our fingers that it adapts, or fails. Some take time off from exercise, and on day one try to make up for 3 years!

Some things in fitness you cannot prepare for:

If I just grab a hammer and start nailing things for an hour, I will offend my skin a bit, and my body will adapt by building up a callus. However if I grab a hammer and try to build a roof all in one day… tomorrow I have so many blisters… still from forces, but I was not in any way prepared for that. Those blisters are not an indication of adaptation, it from stress and breakdown. I have offended the tissue. The difference ultimately between a callus, and a blister is the rate of progression or the increments of progression. That’s the difference between bone strength, and a bone fracture. That’s the difference between tendon strength, and tendonitis. We have all these different tissues in our bodies. We all heal at different rates, and we stress all of these tissues when we exercise. Muscle is the tissue that adapts the quickest. Muscle has more blood flow among other reasons. Muscles will adapt and make you ready for your next workout. HOWEVER that doesn’t necessarily mean, the tendons, ligaments, hyaline cartilage are prepared again for another workout. I get it we do need variety, and I don’t want to bore you with taking away some of you exercises. I am saying that I can fix them! You need some strategic variety in your workouts. We need to have alternative muscle resistance profiles. One exercise in your tool box accomplishes one goal, and the other exercise another… right? I recommend the next time you train that “region” ie: back, you may have an alternative set of exercises. We can have a set number of days that we workout. ‘Workout A’ Workout B’ and Friday is workout ‘A’ again. The next week it transitions into ‘B’ ‘A’ “B” We need to define what A would be and B would be. These strategic variations would have ever changing resistance profiles. An example may be a simple cable chest press with a 2- pulley cable system like Free Motion Fitness. The first time training chest we may have the opposition and or load lines close to arms to apply the proper path of resistance as we horizontally adduct the shoulder girdle. The next time we set the cable slightly wider to challenge the elbow flexors and increase the pull on the humerus as we go to midline. We can change the profile from heavy to light, and light to heavy. Remember just because I we/you have the ability to alter the resistance profile, doesn’t mean we have a license to change exercises! We/I/ you need to find a professional that can demonstrate these alterations safely and provide strategic regressions if necessary. We still want the resistance profile to match the personal strength profile, and the bodies force tolerance profile. IE: If it’s a single joint movement like a curl is being performed we know we are weak at full extension, your strongest somewhere in the midrange, and weak again towards end range. However that does not mean we change the profile so that it’s heaviest at full extension. This gets a bit technical based on bell curves, and joint function. The great news is those who are professional and have done their homework have the ability to customize resistance profiles, which means this will offer the greatest return in benefits.

More on resistance profiles

It really depends on the type of resistance you choose. You can pick a dumbbell … its gravity based, inertia based, it’s always pulling down no matter how far away from the floor it always weighs the same. Unlike tubing the more you pull (deform) it the more tension it offers. If we look at multiple joint movements like a chest press with cables pulling outward, there will be many profiles with this resistance pulling outward with all my horizontal adductors. This profile will invite elbow flexors, typically not found in a dumbbell chest press. We changed the profile from anterior to posterior (dumbbell chest press) … to a cable pulling slightly outward that can become a strategic way to find the resistance that is custom fit for the individual. I have eliminated elbow pain during an extension, and or press by changing the profile. It could be a structural pain, or just something that bugging them today… we don’t know however when we apply the resistance a different way, it can be a solution for most people. Exercise is client defined… like I always say “running is not good for you or bad for you” it’s about what you’re prepared for! That’s what determines whether it’s going to build you up or break you down. I have learned how to alter exercise and remove joint stresses. This will give you the muscle sensations you’re looking for without the joint pains you have taken for granted. Moreover people think that’s what is supposed to feel like. People feel that’s part of it… SO SAD.

Let’s get passive for a moment:

If you try to reach over your head and we assume that we have 180 degrees or so… however you may only have actively 160 degrees. You have 160 on the left, and 180 on the right. Shoot the text book said! My question is what stops you at 160? Why can’t you go any farther? There are many possibilities of what can be limiting this joint to move freely without internal / external structures limiting its path. There could be muscles that are tight, or boney barrier / structures where one bone bumps into the other. Unfortunately we have this default tradition that nobody seems to question that says “well if you have a tight muscle, you need to stretch it out. Now someone grabs the arm and forces it farther. When we do this we are imposing force in a joints extreme positon where you may be adding an obnoxious physical stimuli’s that creates more inflammation / protective responses and that stretching actually makes you tighter. That same stretch can also be stimulating a bone spur. Think about this… when one joint has to move farther, and can’t you will compensate and move different joints in a different plane and really screw the system. I also see many people grab there arm force it back, and actually arch their back to get it there. Really? My point is we don’t know what we don’t know, and who can we trust? Did you know that if you don’t have 180 degrees of should flexion you better not do a pull-up / chin-up? When you drop down from the bar, you will force your shoulder girdle to a position you could have never obtained on your own- with tremendous stress of your weight. Some people are just a bit arrogant as they say “Ah its tight, I think I need to stretch it out again” When it comes to strength training, you may rip your arm up and increase more range of motion in that joint, however you do not have integrity in that extra 20 degrees you just obtained. So now you do an externally rotated overhead press with no strength in that extra 20 degrees that you passively got into. You can only imagine how many people look at a body part and say “Oh my leg only goes this far” they now grab it and pull it farther. That’s passive stretching because my hands and my leg helped me get to that positon which is a waste of time. What would have worked was if I actively without touching myself raised my leg to a new range and let my body adjust to that range as I breathe and relax. To explain: I raise the leg and all the muscles in the front of the leg contract as they start to relax and elongate the muscles in the back of the leg. ?) Muscles are made to contract and or create tension. They are little motors, or servants based on need right? The need is to mobilize, or stabilize. Now sometimes people think that muscle tension is bad. Most feel the need to foam roll it, massage it, or stretch it. I want you to realize this can make everything worse. The body has its own wisdom, and has the ability to fix itself most of the time. We need recovery, rest, and correct exercise practice. Sometimes the body will tighten up for a reason to protect you, so maybe you don’t need to rip and stretch it. Remember there are other muscles surrounding the muscles that you are trying to stretch, and going along for the rip ride. I will end this with one fact. Many people feel that if they loosen all their muscles they will move better. Yea let’s loosen all the bolts in the engine of your car. Did you know that there are some people that actually believe that muscles form knots! Feel and real are not the same thing. Please do not feel I’m raining on your parade. I am simply saying if you love to put your foot up and stretch your hamstrings, it may not be doing exactly what you think, or want it to do. Don’t be mad however if you think your rolling out your ITB band with a foam roller. The truth is there is an entire web that encapsulates your entire muscle of called fascialata (fash-a-lotta). Sounds like a new Starbucks drink. In regards to the leg the thickening on the outside of the leg serves as a tendon of structure for these muscles, and tendons do not change in length. You will never stretch your ITB band period. If you lay on a foam roller and you have this surface pushing into your thigh against the ITB region… do you think the ITB is the only thing receiving compression? Or are you squashing deeper muscles too?

I think I will make a turkey lettuce tomato sandwich put it on my plate roll it, and believe that only the lettuce was compressed. I am not a fan of passive stretching for the reason I could not have done it on my own actively.

Let’s talk about injuries:

Let’s say you therapist, or doctor says your shoulder, or low back needs 6 months to fully heel. Please understand that’s just an average. Some people take 3 months to recover, some take 9. A doctor needs to give an answer based on statistics, averages, and not individual commitments. It’s the commitment that starts the healing process. Question: How many times has someone told you to drink 3- quarts of water per day, or ice that 3 times per day? I know you didn’t have the time to get to it, so you drank 2- quarts in one sitting, and iced longer at night right? The statement is my friends are you willing to do what it takes to be one of those 3-month recovery people or do you want to go by statistics? We all have default ideas of what we need to do to get to recovery.

Ego’s and know it all’s

When people talk about resistance exercising they say, “Oh, no, no, no, look at that guy… look at that girl, look at how they look. That’s the evidence.” Just because someone looks fit and healthy does not make what they are doing evidence. Again, that is NOT the evidence. It is very short-sighted. The way someone looks has nothing to do with the safety or effectiveness of an exercise. It has to do with their overall environment (i.e. choices). With that being said, a person’s physique is not the best indicator of whether an exercise is effective, ineffective, or even potentially unsafe.

One of the reasons you are reading this book is to take a look at things from a different perspective. I understand you may have a tough time digesting what I am about to say. I know I did for a long time. Think about it, where do we all learn how to work out? Most people learn in the gym – even if someone says, “no, no, no, I learned in school,” Let me ask you this, where did your teacher learn how to work out? THE GYM! That is where we all learned, in the gym. We all learn the same things in the same place. All the supported material is the same, monthly workout magazines, people’s opinions, and the rent a buddy trainers. It is very difficult, because when I write about an exercise, I know someone’s feelings will get hurt. “Why”, one may ask me, because that is the only thing that keeps some of these exercises alive, an emotional attachment. It is crazy to think, but people are married to some of these exercises. I know if I talk about the exercises you really love, I will be presenting facts, and I do not care if I hurt your feelings. Why? We all came from the same place, we all learned from the gym. It is not my fault that we were not taught the facts. That is my mission, to teach the facts and put the exercise in perspective. Yes, I may talk about an exercise you love and are emotionally attached to, so try not to lose your mind. Try to put it in perspective and not get angry with me. I really want to emphasize an open mind when I post, or write a book. Leave the emotional attachment to what you know at the front cover.

I am sure you have seen, heard or experienced it yourself in the gym “Yeah, I hurt, but you know, it’s a good kind of hurt.” That is exactly how many people determine whether an exercise is good or bad, effective, ineffective, etc. They based it on how they felt. The “no pain, no gain” theory was prevalent. In our society. Yet, the “no pain, no gain” theory is very misleading. I will repeat that the “no pain, no gain” theory is very misleading. A person thinks that because they feel an exercise in a certain place, it must be the place that is working. That could not be more misleading.

Thinking an exercise is working based on how it feels, is what I call a sensation. A sensation is a learned thing. Sometimes what is in your head can either enhance a feeling you think you have, or it can get in the way of a feeling you maybe should be having. A sensation is not always the purest form, nor is it the most accurate form of indicating what is really happening in the body. So keep an open mind and respect the body and the way it functions, regardless of what the trainer says!

If someone is trying to get in great shape, and they have the mental capacity to do so, I can only hope they will listen to reasoning.

Question: Have you every trained your rotator cuff in the gym? Your version of internal / external rotation. Most people will not do that until an injury occurs, or after an injury. They do it and call it rehabilitation. Now they spend their time contracting muscles. Feeling thinks. Moving slowly, progressing slowly, light weight etc. What’s makes no sense is they are now addressing things that they should have been addressing before. The rehab should have been prehab. We need to use some time during the week to address structure, or the integrity of the tissue- internal conditioning that will carry over to activates, not wait to breakdown to address these injuries. We must remember that muscle can come and go, endurance can come and go, but cartilage will just go and go.

Just some facts based on science., getting you to think 🙂

Dave Parise CPT FPTA MES