Maximum Gains in Minimum Time
If your goal is building muscle mass or athletic performance, there are tools and protocols that we have access to that can offer time saving advantages and superior results. Some of these protocols require an intensity energetically that I have found in training clients isn’t suitable for everyone’s nervous systems as was mentioned earlier. However, utilizing these principles to support building strength will be of service to everyone as they continue on their wellness journey.
The book Body by Science by bodybuilder John Little and fitness medicine expert Dr. Doug McGuff is a game changer. Backed by extensive research, they present a program to build maximum muscle in just 12 minutes a week of exercise. This super slow, super heavy, increasing weight slowing down on eccentric phase of movement absolutely works if your nervous system can handle maintaining a high level of intensity stably. Maintaining proper form is of paramount importance to do this safely and effectively and working with a trainer is advised.
This protocol can be used with weight machines or resistance bands. Dr. John Jaquish invented the X3 band which provides a much stronger latex band system able to create 300-600lbs of resistance. These bands are a very effective and easy way to ensure you are getting a high level of resistance, which will adapt based on range of motion, and get to fatigue very quickly. Again form and capacity to regulate the nervous system is key.
Utilizing a tool such as the ARX, the computerized strength trainer we had at HACKD that offers an isokinetic (constant speed) movement and tracks force output digitally each moment of each rep, both on the concentric phase of the motion (when the muscles are contracting) and the eccentric phase (when the muscles are expanding) offers a huge help for both the coach and the client.
There are several advantages to the isokinetic, user acting on the machine instead of the machine acting on the user mechanism of the ARX. First, because the work is being done by you on the machine instead of the machine working against you, even though it doesn’t feel like it, at no point are you ever holding weight that is too heavy for you. You are actually creating force, creating the resistance, and at any moment you can stop. This makes it much more unlikely for an injury to occur. If form gets compromised or micro tears start to occur that impact the strength bearing capacity of the muscular system, the body simply no longer can create the resistance and it lowers. The computer shows all of this in real time, including how our bodies are capable of creating much more force on the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement than the concentric (lifting) phase. This leads to the second advantage, which is the capacity to move a lot more weight aka produce a lot more force and do a lot more work in a much shorter time, because we are conceivably able to stay in a maximum output position for the full duration of the exercise, even as we fatigue. And, we can always set the motion to be isometric which allows us to train without movement, limiting strain on the joint, keeping maximum force in the safest way possible.
Now, as I have mentioned several times, regulating our nervous system is of paramount importance and not everyone’s nervous system is capable of staying steady through maximum intensity levels. This is also demonstrated by the ARX read out. Being able to steady our nervous system results in an expected graph depending on the exercise and the range of motion. As a coach, I would be able to tell a lot about someone on a deeper level by their ARX chart. And, it could be a mindset opportunity, a breath work opportunity, or something deeper going on in their system that required more rest and rejuvenation and therefore less intensity. I learned this over time with many clients.
EGYM is another tool that I fell in love with for maximum gains in minimum time, for different reasons than the ARX. EGYM creates weight more like tradition weight lifting protocols, but it has a beautiful digital interface, strength assessments that automatically program ideal weight ranges for different protocols, and keep you motivated and moving through a circuit workout. Protocols for power exist with EGYM that ARX doen’t offer. Efficient and fun and as easy as getting your butt kicked can feel.
Regarding power and athletic performance, there is nothing I have had the pleasure of using better than Proteus. Whether you are interested in improving your golf swing or overall function fitness level, the 360 degree resistance and computerized measurements (force, acceleration and location) tracking of the Proteus is next level. I was like a kid on Christmas the first time I got to play at their R&D facility and we had the pleasure of having one at HACKD to demo for a few months. If you have access to this machine, training on it will give you the neuromuscular advantages of learning functional movements patterns and building strength and power in a fraction of the time traditionally required.
Arena, invented by my dear, genius friend Zach Rubin, is my last shout out -- it gives you real time tracking of force and speed in a much smaller, at home footprint. Relying on robotic resistance and algorithms, Arena can simulate any force curve as well as dynamically adapt to users speed of movement, supporting maximum gains for both power and strength in minimum time, quantifying every step of the way.
Functional strength and power will continue to be one of my prime health metrics as I age.