Over the last two weeks, the New York Times and the Washington Post published two “must-read” articles around intelligent strength training.


Dan Riley, the long-time strength and conditioning coach of the Washington Redskins (winning multiple Super Bowls with head coach Joe Gibbs) and later the strength coach for the Houston Texans, has had the single greatest influence on how professional and high-level college football players strength train. In fact, Dan’s influence is largely responsible for the intelligent strength training that took place across the NFL in the 1980’s and 1990’s (Important side note: The strength training performed in professional and college football has regressed significantly over the last decade). 

The Prophylactic for Aging

A team of researchers including our close colleagues Dr. James Fisher, Dr. James Steele (both of Southampton Solent University in the United Kingdom) and Dr. Wayne Westcott recently published one of the most important scientific papers in perhaps a decade on the topic of strength training and aging.  The paper, titled, "A minimal dose approach to resistance training for the older adult; the prophylactic for aging" appeared just three weeks ago in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology.  As the title suggests, the authors summarize the many health related benefits of resistance exercise (strength training) and state that despite the preponderance of evidence supporting the efficacy of resistance training in delaying the onset of biological aging, the vast majority of adults still do not engage in resistance training.  Thus, the focus of their paper was to introduce a prescription along with the benefits of performing a minimal dose of resistance training. Fisher and colleagues summarize their objective stating, " However, this article is intended to determine the approximate minimal necessary volume and frequency to identify a 'minimal dose' of RT for the evidenced health benefits."

Classic Movie Scene and How Learning to Surf is Like Strength Training

In one of my all time favorite scenes from one of the modern classic rom-coms, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Paul Rudd’s character attempts to teach the heartbroken Peter (played by Jason Segal) how to surf.  You can watch this 1:30 scene here:

The Major Limitation of a Free Weight: Unilateral Resistance

Arthur Jones, founder of Nautilus Sports Medical Industries and later the MedX Corporation succinctly stated, "Man is a rotary animal."  When we contract our muscles, we are causing rotational movement around a joint or a series of joints.  Herein lies the primary limitation of a free-weight; while our joints are causing rotary movement, gravity acts on a free-weight in only one direction.  The end result is that in most free-weight exercises, the targeted muscle is exposed to direct resistance for only a small portion of the range of motion.  An intelligently designed machine includes mechanical elements that make the resistance omnidirectional; thus our muscles must create limb movement that directly opposes the resistance throughout the entire range of motion.  This is the foundational advantage of machines when compared to free-weights; an advantage that the vast majority of exercisers and fitness professionals are completely unaware of.  Arthur Jones says it best: "Since the "direction of movement" of the involved body-parts is constantly changing, the "direction of resistance" must change in exact accord, automatically, simultaneously, instantly; again, this requirement can only be provided by a rotary form of resistance."

A New Perspective on Exercise for Overweight and Obese Kids

Authors of a editorial published in the journal "Psychology and Health" argue that parents, educators, and healthcare professionals should consider taking a different approach to the ever growing issue of childhood obesity.

Our Favorite Area of Research

One of the most important discoveries in the field of exercise over the last 10-15 years is that resistance training is far more beneficial for our health and the prevention of chronic disease than we ever would have imagined. Traditionally, we assumed resistance training outcomes centered around increases in muscle strength, muscle size, improved athletic ability, and increased bone mineral density. We relegated health improvements to aerobic exercise. A considerable body of research has shifted our understanding and all but deconstructed this false dichotomy that resistance training is for strength and aerobic exercise is for "health." But why is strength training so beneficial for our health? Emerging science tells us that the answer is, in short, "myokines." Myokines are proteins that are created when our muscles contract. These myokines influence the "crosstalk" between different organs in an autocrine, endocrine, or paracrine fashion. Through these channels, it appears that myokines may have a profound positive effect on metabolic disorders, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and a number of cardiovascular disease risk factors. 20 years ago we knew that resistance training made you stronger. 10 years ago we realized that it makes you healthier. We now are starting to understand that myokines are the probable physiological mechanism for the myriad of health benefits we see from resistance training (benefits that most exercisers, researchers, and health care professionals are still unaware of). The next time someone asks you why you strength-train, your answer should be, "To produce myokines, Bro."

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