42 Comparing and Contrasting Congruent Exercise Methodologies

InForm Fitness Podcast


We are welcoming back our guest from Episode 20, Bill DeSimone. As you might remember Bill is a personal trainer himself and the author of the book, Congruent Exercise: How To Make Weight Training Easier On Your Joints.
The reason we have invited Bill back to join us is to discuss Episode 36 that was released a couple months ago featuring body-builder Doug Brignole. Doug too is an author and his book is titled Million Dollar Muscle: A Historical and Sociological Perspective of the Fitness Industry.
Here in Episode 42, Bill, Adam, and Mike will be comparing and contrasting their different methodologies and philosophies regarding weight training with that of body-builder, Doug Brignole.
Bill DeSimone
Congruent Exercise: How To Make Weight Training Easier On Your Joints bit.ly/CongruentExercise
Adam Zickerman
Power of 10: The Once-A-Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolutionhttp://bit.ly/ThePowerofTen
Doug Brignole
Million Dollar Muscle: A Historical and Sociological Perspective of the Fitness Industry bit.ly/MillionDollarMuscle
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Adam:             I know it sounds like we’re disagreeing with everything Doug has said on our last interview. We agree 90% that we’re on the same page. The idea of paying attention to the biomechanics, protecting the joints. Using a speed that’s safe, trying to use as little momentum as possible. Understanding that we’re trying to get stronger, we’re not trying to become a boxer or an athlete. I mean, his idea, his approach to general fitness and exercise; we’re a lot in closer in agreement than we are in disagreement, I would say.

Tim:                 Hello and welcome to the InForm Fitness Podcast, with New York Times bestselling author, Adam Zickerman. I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting Network and a client of InForm Fitness. Now, here in episode 42, we are welcoming back our guest from episode 20, Bill de Simone. As you might remember, Bill is a personal trainer himself, and the author of the book, Congruent Exercise: How to Make Weight Training Easier on Your Joints. So the reason why we invited Bill back to join us was to discuss episode 36, that was released a couple of months ago, featuring bodybuilder, Doug Brignole. Doug, too, is an author and his book is titled Million Dollar Muscle, a Historical and Sociological  Perspective of the Fitness Industry. Today, Bill, Adam and Mike will be comparing and contrasting their different methodologies and philosophies regarding weight training with that of Doug’s. Interestingly though, over the past 41 episodes, Doug and Bill’s episodes are our top two and most downloaded episodes of the InForm Fitness Podcast. I have a feeling this one just may surpass both of them.

Adam:             I’m glad to be doing this episode right now because it brings up a point about the whole idea of our podcast in the first place. Which is that I don’t want our podcast to be one big advertisement for InForm Fitness and my business, and our one way of thinking. I want to really educate, I want to bring up the points and the things in exercise that are important to talk about and try to figure out. There are still a lot of questions in exercise that we don’t have answers to. So I like to bring in other opinions that aren’t necessarily of my own, and when we had Doug Brignole on, the bodybuilder a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people — first of all, it was one of our most downloaded episodes, people love that episode. However, the people that know me and my philosophy and have been listening to all of the other episodes said, you know Adam, did you actually agree with everything Doug was saying? I mean, he seemed to have contradicted you on a couple of points there, so what’s with that? Because again, people are perceiving this podcast as maybe just one big advertisement for my philosophy, and we don’t know everything and there are big questions out there. And what I wanted to do now, I want to bring Bill de Simone back, because he also did a biomechanics episode with me, and that was also one of the most downloaded episodes. So obviously, we’re hitting a nerve on this subject and I’m doing this not necessarily to show that Doug was wrong, per se, but I’m doing this because I want to point out that everything that we’re doing, Bill, Doug, myself, we’re trying to figure things out. We’re still trying to figure things out as we safely apply exercise to our clients, and give them what they’re looking for. So let’s start with one of the subjects that Doug and I had talked about, which is this idea of compound movements versus isolation movements, and the virtues of both. So why don’t we start with that.

Doug:              As you said, a component movement is a multi-joint, multi-muscle movement that some people refer to as functional.. Which is absurd, because it suggests that something that isn’t compound is dysfunctional. But that would almost suggest that if you do isolation exercise, that somehow your body isn’t going to be able to coordinate all of its various muscle strengths at the same time, it’s absurd. I mean, yes it’s true that if you’re doing deadhand clings, you get skilled at doing deadhand clings. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can cross that over into something that doesn’t look anything like a deadhand cling. Just means that you’re learning a skill, you’re learning to coordinate all of the muscles that participate in that movement, in a particular event. But the idea that it’s a compound movement, will then make you better able to use those participating muscles, as compared to isolation exercises, has no logic in it whatsoever.

Adam:             Now, you agree with that for the most part, right?

Bill:                 Yeah, when he says compound movements though, I’m not sure if he’s referring to the circus tricks people do in the name of functional exercise. Combining a…

Adam:             I think what he’s really talking about is just your real basic compound movements; leg press, chest press, I would say pull down. Compared to leg extension, leg curl, hip extension.

Mike:               Bicep curl.

Adam:             Bicep curl.

Bill:                 I’m not really sure where he’s going with that because what’s the context for this? Who is claiming that compound movements are better or making you more coordinated?

Adam:             His whole point is that compound movements are inefficient.

Bill:                 If by compound movements, we’re talking about…

Adam:             He’s basically saying that compound movements are considered like functional movements and that you need to do compound movements because it helps the muscles work together. The muscles learn to work together in a compound movement, and the argument is that if you’re only doing isolation movements, you’re not — the muscles aren’t learning to work together.

Bill:                 Well, the first problem though is that there is no muscle isolation. You’re isolating a joint, but no matter how much you think there’s an isolation happening — it’s more like emphasis, because other muscles are helping stabilize and they’re assisting, even in a single joint movement. So there’s no real isolation.

Adam:             He’s really — everything he’s talking about — because you listened to the whole thing — everything he’s talking about is really about muscle development, hypertrophy, efficiency. So getting mechanically efficient.

Bill:     So that’s really the context though is — we’re talking about bodybuilding and muscle development too, right?

Adam: Yeah, we are; that’s what we do too. That’s where some of the disconnect is. Again, his argument is that compound movements aren’t going to be as beneficial for muscular development, because you’re — on a squat, for example, the quadriceps are not going to get the full amount of that load, they’re going to get 30% of that load. So the quads are going to get 30% of that load, based on direction of the forces. The force going through the tibia to the floor.

Bill:     Let’s talk about then, because in that case, I don’t agree with it at all.

Adam: Well, that’s — Tim, go to three. Can you go to three?

Tim:     I can.

Doug:  Like a lamppost is vertical, because a lamppost is vertical to gravity. So it’s balanced over its base. But if you try to anchor that lamppost at a 45 degree angle, you have to bolt it down to the ground with a lot more force, a lot more bolts, because now it wants to fall. So a lever that is parallel to gravity or whatever resistance it is, is going to be a zero neutral lever. And one that is perpendicular to gravity or whatever you happen to be using for resistance, is going to be what I call a 100% lever, a maximally active lever. So when you look at a squat and you realize that the lower leg is the operating lever of the quadricep, and you realize that it doesn’t even reach a 45 degree angle, you say wow, it’s actually closer to neutral than it is to fully active.

Bill:     No. Like, identifying the levers is half of the discussion. So when the femur, for instance, is horizontal at the bottom of a squat, that is where the resistance is working through its biggest lever. But that’s only half the story, because where that hits in the muscle torque curve is also important. So when you go from standing in a spot, where there’s zero resistance [ph] moment arm, so no work to oppose, and now, you squat down to where your femur is horizontal and you have a maximum resistance moment arm.

Adam: For the hip extensors, not the knee extensors.

Bill:     No, it’s for both. It’s murky because it’s not as clean a look as a single joint, but when your femur is horizontal in a squat…

Adam: And the weight’s going down perpendicular to it.

Bill:     Yeah, the weight is going somewhat down in the middle of the femur. In other words, the slight…

Adam: It’s on your shoulders, if it’s on your shoulders and you’re bending over…

Bill:     Yes, let’s paint the — a lot of this stuff works better in diagram and print, but to paint the picture, there’s a barbell on your back. When you’re standing upright, the line of that weight is going through all of your joints; so there’s no lever created for the weight to — for you to work against, as far as the weight is concerned. And now, as you descend and your femur goes horizontal and your torso leans forward a bit, your center of gravity is splitting the femur horizontally. So that is the biggest resistance moment arm, for both the glutes and the quads. So that’s the mechanically hardest part of the squat, the sticking point. But it also happens to be very close to the joint angles for peak muscle torque, for both the quads and the glutes.

Adam: In other words, where the muscles can generate the most power, their most power, their most strength.

Bill:     Right. So the more visible lever is the one that the resistance works through, but internally, depending on where you are in a joint’s range, you have varying degrees of muscle torque.  So identifying the lever is half of it, but knowing that it hits at the right point in the muscle’s strength is the other half. Now, in something like a barbell squat, leaving other joint concerns out of it. If you don’t lock out at the top and you don’t bottom out. If you go from that almost locked out to the femur being horizontal…

Adam: Almost horizontal.

Bill:     Approximately horizontal, your effort feels very even. There’s no sticking point and there’s no lockout, so that makes an efficient exercise. So there’s no place to rest, there’s no place for the muscle to hide. So it’s not necessarily less efficient than a leg extension. Since you can’t lock out in a leg extension, it’s very obvious and your quads are burning by, say, the first rep or two. It’s very obvious how efficient that is. You make a little tweak to a squat or a leg press and it’s just as efficient. Where it gets inefficient is where you lock out or you bottom out. So just like you wouldn’t rest the weight stack on the leg extension to take a break to do another repetition. If you don’t lock out in the squat or the leg press, you’re not giving yourself that rest. So as far as which is more efficient, you could make the argument that the squat is more efficient because you’re also working the glutes at the same time.

Adam: But you’re also performing appropriately at their muscle torque, at the right time.

Bill:     Right. Now, that’s putting aside all of the other joint issues with those exercise.

Adam:             Yeah, like the lower back.

Bill:     Like the lower back, but also the knee in the leg extension. So my approach to compound versus — or multi-joint versus single joint movements is, both — you need to be aware of the vulnerable joint positions in both of them. So to me, the issue is, which is the easier workaround? And that might be different based on your client. I know if I personally barbell squat, my back is going to bother me. Even though I know what ranges I want to stay in. So to me, the easier work around is just to go to the leg press. But for somebody who has the technique down of a barbell squat, and if their back can handle it and if they’re staying well within their margin of error, maybe it works for them. Which is a little bit different than trying to correlate a handcling or any more of these explosive movements and trying to relate that to a wellness program. In that terms, I agree with him completely. There’s no reason for people to do ballistic type stuff, unless that’s your sport. Unless your sport is Olympic lifting and you have to learn how to cling.

Mike:   I guess, you know something. We’re talking about — I think Adam sort of mentioned numbers and Doug talked about it in the podcast also, about percentages. And I guess it’s hard — it’s difficult to discuss, what percentage of the quadricep are being recruited when you do a squat, versus the percentage of the quadricep when you’re doing the leg extension? Like 90%  versus 60%, that type of thing. And I guess that Doug comes from a bodybuilding background. Are his arguments more appropriate for that type of setting, and let’s just say, he is right and the leg extension is much more efficient — or a simple movement is made more efficient than a compound movement. Does it matter anyway for muscle development or for general fitness anyway?

Bill:     And there is the real question, why is the person working out. So if someone is in a wellness mindset, in other words, they want to work out so they get through the physical parts of their day  better, and their joints don’t hurt. And they maybe they fit in their clothes better and they look more toned, there’s no need for them to take a bodybuilder’s approach to, I have to get this muscle as bunched up as possible. But also, there’s no need for that person, say our client, to put their joints at any more risk than they need to. So if someone wants to be a powerlifter or they want to be a bodybuilder, and they’re convinced that the barbell squat is the greatest thing they can do for themselves, you’re probably not going to convince them not to. But there’s probably no reason for somebody who doesn’t have any ambitions in the barbell squat, to subject the rest of their joints to that type of risk.

Adam: Understood, I agree.

Bill:     Some of the content of your last podcast though, a lot of it has to do with the context. So he’s obviously from the bodybuilding world and what he sees going on in bodybuilding gyms are probably much different from my context. Whereas I’m in a studio like you guys, so I’m not really exposed to a lot of the trendier parts of the fitness industry, to react against. I mean, I can just look at a technique or an exercise and figure out if it’s useful and use it or not. I’m not seeing it every day. For instance, in my studio, no one is doing a deadhang cling anyway. So we have a little different context for the comment.

Mike:   I think sometimes exercise programs, we think about it and I think sometimes we might be thrown into that category sometimes too, because we want to see our clients progress and be able to do more. It shows them that they’re getting stronger, if they lift 50 pounds and then 60 pounds and 80 pounds and then so on. Is that an appropriate goal for a general exercise program, to just be able to get the maximum amount of whatever your muscle can do? And how much do you want to balance that with, what the joint may or may not be able to do, and how far do you want to test it, I guess, in a way.

Bill:     Well, I would say protecting the joint is number one, but then again, that is my thing.

Adam: And I would say most of our listeners are of that ilk. I mean, we’re not — I don’t think too many bodybuilders are listening to these podcast episodes.

Bill:     Probably, right.

Adam:             Unless some of Doug’s friends tuned into that interview.

Mike:   He had a lot of people who listened to it though.

Adam: Yes, he did. So along the same lines, I’d like to kind of have you comment on this because I think the answer is the same. When he talks about tricep pushdowns versus dips. So can you play that clip, Tim?

Doug:  Getting back to what we were talking about before, about parallel levers versus perpendicular levers. When you see someone doing a bench dip or a parallel bar dip, and you notice that their forearm is almost vertical, it only breaks from the neutral vertical position by about 11 degrees—which means your tricep is only getting about 11%. So here’s the math I do on that. If you’re a 180 pound guy and you want to figure out how much load each tricep is going to get, you say okay, I’m 180 pounds, I’m going to divide that by two arms, that’s 90. The length of your forearm is about a 12:1 ratio, so you have a magnification of 12. So you say 90×12 x 11% active lever, gives you about 119 pounds of load per tricep, at a cost of 180 pounds of effort. But if that same person were to lie on a flat bench, with a pair of 20 pound dumbbells, where the periforum does actually cross gravity at 100%, you do the same math, you say 20×12 x 100% is 240 pounds of load per tricep, at a total cost of 40 pounds. So this is efficiency. Why would you bother doing an exercise that costs you 180 pounds of effort but only load your tricep with 119 pounds? When you can do 40 pounds of cost and 240 pounds of load, and it’s not like it’s working a different head of the tricep. All three heads are working in both ways, it’s just that they have drastically different efficiencies.

Bill:     Wow. I’ll take his word for it on the calculations.

Adam: You followed him on that, right?

Bill:     I followed it, I didn’t necessarily agree with it. I followed where he was going but again now…

Adam: This is along the lines of what we were talking about before, correct?

Bill:     It’s the same thing. The choice between skull crushes and dips is, are your elbows healthier than your shoulders? That’s the choice. Let’s leave the joint issues aside. If you dip to your elbows at 90 degree bend, and your elbows are towards the rear with your torso held somewhat vertically. And at that 90 degree bend, now, you straighten your elbows and almost lock out. That’s a pretty good match for how the resistance lever changes, according to the muscle torque, for your triceps. The same thing with skull crushes, the 90 degree bend is the maximum moment arm, and then if you stop short of locking out, you’re keeping some of the resistance torque on the triceps. So that’s also a good match.

Adam: So let me just explain that real fast. When you’re doing skull crushes and you have your forearms parallel to the ground, and you have weight at the end of your hands, you’re multiplying that weight by the longest lever, the whole length of your forearm. Which is just what that weight is, at that moment. Well, that also happens to be at the 90º angle of your elbow, that also happens to be the strongest part of your tricep. That’s when your tricep is at its strongest. As you lift the weight, the lever changes, meaning the weight gets lighter. The lever shortens as you go up, which is okay because the tricep strength muscle torque is also decreasing. That’s the skull crushes. Now, is the same thing happening during dips?

Bill:     Now, with the dips, when your elbow is bent at 90º, not necessarily your shoulder. So your elbow is a little bit behind your torso. If you stop there, that’s the biggest resistance moment arm for your body weight in the dips. Without tearing your shoulders out. And now, as you straighten your elbows, the resistance lever is shrinking and it’s matching what your triceps can do. Now, a couple of things about what you said there. When your forearm is horizontal, it’s heaviest; see, that’s the whole thing with levers and moment arms, it’s not heavier, it’s the same  dumbbell.

Adam: No, of course. The torque is…

Bill:     Technically, it’s the resistance torque…

Adam: The resistance torque, the foot pounds are increased.

Bill:     Now, here’s the problem with both of those exercises. Conventionally, you start both of those exercises where the resistance torque is lightest. You start both of those exercises with your arms locked. So it’s very easy to…

Adam:             To fool yourself into using too much weight, yeah.

Bill:     Exactly, you use too much and as soon as your elbows bend, now, the bigger lever — the bigger resistance moment arms kick in, and now, it becomes unmanageable. The levers and the moment arms, it’s not just theoretical, it’s got a very real, practical effect. Especially when you start the exercise with the smallest resistance lever.

Adam: When choosing a weight, they choose a weight and they start with their arms locked out, which doesn’t feel like a lot of resistance. It can be a lot of weight, but since the weight is right over your elbow and your straight arm, you’re not really feeling that resistance yet. As soon as you bend back, if you picked a weight that’s too heavy for your triceps to handle, you’re going to literally crush your skull. So yeah, the technique should be this. If you’re going to do skull crushes, pick a weight that feels appropriate at the 90º degree, not at the top.

Bill:     Well, the thing to do would be to try to either start at the bottom, so you know right away the weight is too heavy. So if you’re using dumbbells for skull crushers, for instance, you start on the floor and you start with the dumbbells by your ears as you’re lying on the floor. And now, you’ll know right away if it’s too heavy. Or the trainer or the person doing the exercise, the first time you do it, you have to guess light.

Mike:   That’s the key, you guess light. When you don’t know, you’ve got to think really, really light. When any client asks me, how to advise them at a travel gym or somewhere, I say, listen, unless it’s the exact same thing, you don’t know. Especially if it’s on a machine, you have to just guess light and work up from there.

Adam:             Particularly when there’s that like timber effect that you have to worry about.

Bill:     Nice quote, I like that.

Adam: I think I got that from you.

Bill:     It was, in the Moment on Exercise, yeah.

Adam: I steal a phrase while I’m interviewing the person that came up with it.

Bill:     It’s flattering. By the way, that dynamic, when we talk about going from the easy part — starting with the easy part of the exercise and progressing into the hard part, or zero moment arm into maximum moment arm. That is predictable, you can know that before you do it. But you have to make a point of studying it, reading Moment Arm Exercise or the biomechanics chapters in virtually any personal training certification will give you enough information to know what’s happenings. I think most people look at exercise in a magazine or look at someone in the gym doing the exercise, and just tries to copy what they see.

Adam: So moving onto some other points. Doug is of the opinion that, again, for muscle hypertrophy, for muscle development, that static exercises are inferior to dynamic exercises. That if you really want to build, statics are not enough. Let’s listen to what he has to say.

Doug:  There have been a number of studies that have shown that isometric exercise is far less productive, both from the perspective of developing a muscle, enlarging the muscle, and from the perspective of gaining strength through a muscle’s entire range of motion. It gains strength right where you’re holding it. It gains a little strength in the other parts of the range of motion, but not nearly as much. So if you want strength, let’s use the word functional strength. Strength through a muscle’s entire range of motion, you’re better off using range of motion. So is there a place for isometric? Sure, if you have an injured joint…

Adam: …Rehab.

Doug: …Then you use it as part of your rehabilitation, but this idea that we’re going to do planks as the best exercise for the abs would be like saying, well let’s just do static everything then. Let’s just do static wall squats, where you just hold the squat position. Let’s just do static barbell holds, let’s just do static pectoral holds. I mean if it’s good for one, it’s good for all. If it’s not good for one, it’s not good for all.

Adam: So I heard that and first off, I kind of really heard that. And I’ve always wondered about, is dynamic exercise better than statics? And I have a lot of clients do planks, and it is metabolically demanding but maybe — I don’t know, maybe — he’s a bodybuilder, so he’s spent the last 40 years playing around with maximizing his hypertrophy. Do you think he has some insights that us mere mortals don’t have?

Bill:     No. Going to the body building, right. Just from observation, there does seem to be something about moving your [Inaudible: 26:10] space that works. And whether it’s going to failure or the pump, or whatever the mechanism is, clearly, most guys who are overdeveloped are moving weights in space. Maybe it has to do with accumulating lactic acid and prompting hormonal changes. But let’s go to the end of that passage where he talks about planks. And if it’s good for one muscle, it’s good for all. The difference between planks and other…

Adam: Abdominal exercises?

Bill:     Other core and abdominal exercises. Their job is to prevent unwanted movement, not necessarily to create movement. So elsewhere in the podcast, he says that the primary role of the abdominals is to move your hips and ribs closer together.

Adam: But really, the hips coming up to the ribs, not the other way around. Because he was defining why you call something the origin and why you call something the insertion.

Bill:     I’ll deal with that in a minute but let’s just go back for a second here. As a bodybuilder though, he thinks in terms of limbs moving, right?

Adam: Yes.

Bill:     Curls, pectorals, lats, etc. The limbs are moving. When you’re getting into planks though, the role of the abdominals isn’t necessarily to bring the hips and ribs closer together. Except in a sneeze or a cough. The role of the abdominals is to protect from hyperextension of the back, because if you get forced into hyperextension, you hurt your back, whatever mechanism. So the role of the front of the abdominals is to prevent hyperextension. The role of the [Inaudible: 27:50] and rotators around the spine, isn’t to create a twist around the spine. Which would ring out the discs, which is pretty much universally contraindicated for spine health. The role of those muscles is to prevent twisting. So the more appropriate ways to exercise those muscles is with a plank, or is with some kind of static hold because that’s how they’re going to have to function.

Adam: But when you’re doing a plank, are you talking about, it is appropriate for the abs for the plank or are you talking about…

Bill:     Yes.

Adam: But it’s the spinal muscles that are really stabilizing during the plank. I mean, the abs too, of course.

Bill:     Elsewhere in that podcast, you talked about doing a leg raise and the [Inaudible: 28:33] pulled on the vertebrae creating more of an arched — back, but that’s only half of what happens there. Mike, in that podcast, you said, what if you maintain a posterior pelvic tilt and that’s the key there. If you use your abdominals to pull your hips into a posterior tilt, in other words, you’re flattening the curve of your back against the spine, and now, you’re doing the leg raise and your spine doesn’t move. Now, you’re using the abdominals to stabilize the spine. The raising of the leg just gives you a bit of a flow in the exercise, and that you have something to count. Or you move it from an easier position, where your legs are straight up, to a harder one, where they’re more horizontal. But that is a stabilizing exercise and it’s using the front of the abdominals. In practice, a two leg raise, both legs at the same time, is probably too hard for most people to do and maintain that posterior tilt. Which is why you see things like single leg raises and dead leg exercises come out of physical therapy. But the whole idea of using your abdominals to create the posterior tilt and then moving your legs, that’s valid, that’s legit, as far as stabilizing the spine and using your abdominals appropriately.  Now, it may be that planks won’t give you protruding abdominals, like that protruding six pack. And just from observing bodybuilders over time, and they’re pumping their biceps and they have biceps that lift off their arm like a softball. And most of us high intensity guys have something on our upper arm, but it’s certainly not a — name a current bodybuilder.

Adam: I can’t.

Bill:     I can’t either. So maybe moving the hips towards the ribs with force is what gives you — maybe, by whatever mechanism, it gives you those protruding abdominals. But as far as training the spine appropriately — the abdominals appropriately to stabilize the spine, planks are fine. Planks are appropriate.

Adam:             So when he makes a blanket statement that if dynamic movement is good for one muscle, it’s good for all, that might not be true because some muscles are meant to be stabilized and they’re not primary movers. So strengthening them might not require any dynamic movement.

Bill:     And again, keeping the body building context, most of what bodybuilders are talking about are the superficial muscles that give your body shape. They’re talking about deltoids, pectorals, lats, biceps, triceps, quads, glutes. Those muscles that are supposed to move limbs, or propel you in space, probably are best trained with movement. As opposed to the muscles around your spine, the deep muscles in your hips, rotator cuff. Who’s main job is to hold the posture steady.

Adam: So you really think, let’s say for your deltoids, lateral deltoids. Do you really think that like, a lateral raise, going through safe range of motion, is better than doing a static hold lateral raise? For muscle development.

Bill:     Do I think so? Not necessarily.

Adam: I mean, are there studies that compare statics versus dynamic for a particular muscle group?

Bill:     I will say from a practical point of view. If you’re using isometric for — let’s say you use it for biceps. I do think there’s a difference between pulling against something as hard as you can, in terms of straining the joint, straining one point the articulation. As opposed to resisting a negative, for a minute. They’re both static. One I think is harder  on the joints than the other, but as far as which is better for the muscle? I couldn’t even guess.

Adam: There are people that kind of feel strongly one way or the other on this, and I don’t know what they’re basing it on.

Bill:     I don’t know either. Let’s put it this way. I do think that in a non-therapy setting, because if you’re in rehab, the calculation is different. In a non-therapy setting, I do think the more appropriate way to train the bigger, more superficial muscles is with some kind of movement, whether it’s single joint or multiple joint. And the muscles around the core, with static, static contractions, because that’s how they’ll function in life. If you go to lift something out of the trunk of your car, something heavy, a bag, you lean over, you want your back to stay steady while your glutes and your arms do the lifting. You don’t have to be whipping kettlebells around and doing silly human tricks to train functionally. You can also just be maintaining your posture while you’re lifting weights, because that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Adam: Right. So we talked about that on a recent episode, exactly that. The idea of mimicking those movements in the gym, because you happen to do it once in a while outside of the gym.

Mike:   Bill, what do you — just in light of what you just said, in regards to stabilizing core muscles. What’s your just overall view on the rotary torso exercise, as far as strengthening obliques, [Inaudible: 33:59], abdominals.

Bill:     Well, I think you have to be careful that your obliques, which are going to help you twist — I know there’s part of the twist that’s bringing your shoulder forward can easily overpower the parts around — the muscles around your spine, that bring the other shoulder backwards. So if you’re doing the rotary torso, you don’t really want the person twisting. In other words, you don’t want them pushing back as much as they’re pulling forward. Just so that you don’t overpower those back — those deep spine muscles. For instance, the old fashioned floor crunch where you did a little twist on the way up. You didn’t really pull the bottom shoulder backwards, so you never twisted your back on that exercise. On a rotary torso, again, if someone is overly enthusiastic, and in addition to pushing forward, they’re trying to pull back. Like in a dumbell row, or a lawnmower, you know that lawnmower motion? I could easily see the forward motion overpowering the back motion, and now you’re back in the position of wringing the discs. So I think in terms of coaching people on it, I think as long as they feel both hip bones on the seat. In other words, as far as they can go without moving the hip bone off the seat. So if one hip bone lifts off, you know they’re twisting a little too much. If both hip bones are in tact, the range of motion is going to be less, but it’s going to be a little safer.

Mike:   Would you ever — what do you think about just getting them rotated, say, whatever at 25 or 30 degrees, and just holding it at that position?

Adam: Under tension, with a band or something.

Bill:     Well, like I said, 25 or 30 degrees, I think 25 degrees of rotation, 25 -30 degrees of rotation is the right amount. More is not better. So if someone tries to go further than that, then they’re flirting with trouble.

Mike:   That’s the, trying to recreate the golf swing, things like that where, how far do you actually train the muscles that you want to be strong, or stable, when you have to actually do a rotating movement in order to do something that you want to do.

Bill:     I think I wrote somewhere that practicing bad biomechanics doesn’t make you invulnerable; you’re just wearing out that joint faster. A golfer for instance, to practice that extreme swing beyond what you have to do on the course, is just adding more bad movements to his back.

Mike:   Right, and then adding resistance to it also.

Bill:     Resistance and reps and speed probably, right. So I don’t know, do you remember Don Mattingly years ago?

Mike:   We’re New Yorkers, of course.

Bill:     I figured I could still get away with that reference.

Adam:             I was still a Yankee fan back then.

Mike:   He lives in L.A. — he coached the dodgers too.

Bill:     Oh okay. Well at the end of his career, his back went out and he said…

Adam: That’s why he’s not in the Hall of Fame right now.

Bill:     He said, yeah, I’ve been doing this exercise for 20 years and it has never hurt me before. Well okay, you’re doing whatever you’re doing plus thousands of swings on the field. You only get so many bad movements out of your back. So you can either waste them in the gym or in competition.

Adam:             He obviously reached his limit.

Bill:     You would never tell a guy like that, never twist but if anybody like that ever asked me, I would look at what they were doing in the gym and steer them away from the stuff that is clearly contradictory with regard to joint safety, in the gym.

Mike:   My comment was more rhetorical, about like associating with golf, but I wanted to bring it up because it’s what I think it’s what a lot of our listeners, and what a lot of people still think about trying to strengthen their backs or increase their range of motion, in order to efficiently and hopefully safely, do a golf swing. Just bringing up rotary torso as an exercise, which some people just love to feel because oh my god, my obliques are feeling it, and other people are…

Adam: And they want to go to the extreme of the range of motion, they love that stretch, which I never let them go into.

Mike:   The reason why I actually — I don’t know if I read it or I’m just thinking common sense wise. When I want somebody to do a rotary torso, with range of motion, it usually wouldn’t go beyond about 25-30º. And often times, less, and often times, even less than that. But I just wanted to get your opinion, based on what we were talking about in regards to the static core type of stuff. And if you think that is actually better for creating stability for a golf swing.

Bill:     Yes but it’s also worth working on range of motion, just not with weights.

Mike:   Correct, right.

Bill:     And that’s where, whatever you want to call it, bodywork, stretching, if someone is into yoga. There is something to be said about trying to increase your range of motion, but not with weights.

Mike:   Right. Go ahead.

Bill:     The old, very old [Inaudible: 39:29] idea that strengthen your muscles safely and then practice so your body knows how to use your muscles. I think that’s still good.

Adam:             I agree, yep.

Mike:   Honestly, from a training perspective, the thing I encourage is like if your golf swing is your golf swing, and you need to be at a certain point on the back swing and you need to be at a certain point on your follow through. I’ve literally just recommended a very slow motion swing, to the point of slow motion that you get to the point of your maximum back swing, wherever that is, with whatever limitations your body has. And then, very slowly, bringing the club through, so you’re not actually adding this projectile force, rotating with your body.

Adam: It’s like Tai Chi style.

Mike:   But inevitably, it’s what you just said. It’s kind of like, getting your body used to being in this “extended range” of motion position that golf requires.

Bill:     And what Adam just said about Tai Chi style. So the idea is, you do it in slow motion so your body knows how to do it safely. But then, when you do it live, your body has done it before.

Mike:   It walked before it ran.

Bill:     It’s like if someone is playing volleyball or playing basketball, they should be doing some kind of jumping drill, not for conditioning, but just that they know to land safely. And then, when they have to do it in the competition, it’s not a shock.

Bill:     Which is something that is actually — that’s such an interesting point, because especially for sports, because everyone always measures how high you could jump, but not exactly how well exactly you could safely land.

Adam: Landing is a lot more important than jumping, isn’t it?

Mike:   For your longevity and being able to do the activity, the landing is infinitely more important than the height that you can actually achieve on the jump, that’s a good point.

Bill:     It’s not the fall, it’s the sudden stop.

Adam: It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep

Mike:   There’s a comedian who said, you just reminded me of it. It’s a stretch right now, pun intended. He said, they’ve got cars nowadays that get from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds because I don’t need that. I need a car that gets me from 88 to 54 in one second. I don’t even know who said it.

Adam: That’s a good point. This reminds me something else that came up while I was interviewing Doug, regarding sports specific training.

Doug:  I would say, if you’re sports conditioning, you’d want to mimic your sport as much as possible. The problem is, that a lot of people fantasize about being a sportsman of some sort, and then in the real world, they don’t actually do it. In other words, they’ll train like a boxer, but they’re never really going to box. They just like the idea that they’re training like a boxer. If your idea of working out is mostly fun, then that’s great. But if you’re lying flat on your back with a pair of 20 pound dumbbells and you’re going to explode with those 20 pound dumbbells up, you’re going to basically catapult those 20 pound dumbbells up. And that’s going to pull your arms up. So if your objective is to gain strength, basic usable strength, I would say always use a deliberate speed, not an explosive speed. Control it up, control it down. If your goal, if your niche, is so specific that you want to compete in boxing, you want to compete in tennis. Then you do want to actually mimic what you’re doing, but my observation has been that, especially in men, they have this fantasy that they want to be a 400 pound bench presser. They want to be a boxer, they want to be a swimmer, they want to be a surfer, and they want to—and there’s only so many hours in the day. You can’t spend three hours—I mean you’ve got to work, you’ve got to sleep. You probably have a job and family and you’ve got to pick and choose, you can’t do it all.

Adam: True, but you’re not saying however—let me just make sure that I’m clear on what you’re saying because we have clients that are true athletes. They’re amateur athletes, and let’s say you have a tennis player. You’re not suggesting that we kind of mimic with weights in the weight room a tennis stroke, just to improve their tennis stroke, are you?

Doug:  I would say that that could be part of what you do, not all of what you do, but I would definitely—if I had a tennis, a competitive tennis athlete, I would definitely work specifically on, let’s say, a backhand, trying to mimic some resistance on the backhand. So he’s getting an improvement of power on the backhand, or on an overhand. I mean, you don’t want these people to go out on the court or wherever they’re going and then—

Adam: Why don’t you just strengthen their deltoids that are involved in this and the posterior delts, anterior delts, congruently, according to muscle and joint function, and let them go out on the tennis court and start playing tennis.

Doug:  That would work also, but I’m just saying that if I had a tennis athlete, it wouldn’t hurt to also incorporate some very, very—I would say maybe 10%, 15% of how I would train them might be mimicking certain—especially if they have a weakness in a particular part of their game.

Bill:     I think it would hurt. I think Darden years ago pointed out that you don’t practice for tennis by playing badminton. Like, if the movement is similar, it just throws you off for the real movement. Some of that conditioning is more appropriately done on the tennis court than in a weight room. I would do what you suggested; strengthen the rotator cuff and the shoulders. Strengthen everything safely and then practice the drills with the ball. But you know, if you ever hear any HIIT influenced, say, college strength coaches, they’ll also admit that people around them want to see this type of behavior. They don’t want to see an empty weight room, because everybody got their workout done in 20 minutes and is now off killing time. They want to see people running with parachutes and doing all of the different stunts because it looks like something’s happening.

Adam:             The athletic trainers have to justify their existence. I know, it’s — but the thing is, I know it sounds like we’re disagreeing with everything Doug has said on our last interview but like, as you and I talked about offline not too long ago, Bill, we agree 90% that we’re on the same page. The idea of paying attention to the biomechanics, protecting the joints. Using a speed that’s safe, trying to use as little momentum as possible. Understanding that we’re trying to get stronger, we’re not trying to become a boxer or an athlete. I mean, his idea, his approach to general fitness and exercise; we’re a lot in closer in agreement than we are in disagreement, I would say. Wouldn’t you?

Bill:     Well, the difference between — practically between what he does, what I do, what you do, what other HIIT practitioners do. The difference between all of us is nothing compared to the difference between us and CrossFit and bootcamps. I mean, we’re talking about shades of difference. In my case, maybe trimming off parts of the extreme range of motion that some HIIT guys might be doing. Which is really, really nuanced differences compared to running people until they puke, for instance. Or barking at them to do more burpees, regardless of their form, regardless of their posture. Regardless of what’s happening to the person’s joints, but they hit a number, so high five them.

Adam: So before we wrap up, there is one more thing that I want to talk about, which was interesting to me. It’s about intensity and recovery and I’d like to play a clip from that.

Doug:  There is a right level of intensity. In my book, I have a chart where I show what happens if the intensity level is too low, what happens if it it’s too high, and what happens if it’s just right. Clearly just right has nothing been benefit, but if  it’s too low, you won’t get the benefit. If it’s too high, it’s like getting a sunburn. In other words, instead of giving you stimulation, you get injury, and when you have an injury, you actually basically have to heal. So some people think, hey, if I work out super intensely and I just work a body part once a week, in other words, take a longer amount of time in between workouts, I can compensate for the high intensity. No, you cannot, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t — It’s not like recovery time is the great equalizer, like if you do more frequency, you can do super low intensity. Or if you do super high intensity, just take a little extra time and everything will be fine, no. Pretty much the way the body works is, when you work a muscle, you’re going to have somewhere between a two day and four day amount of recovery, after which comes what they call supercompensation. That’s when the muscle’s getting stronger. So the goal is to not work that muscle again, assuming you worked it relatively hard, to not work it until you’ve passed recovery and have gotten into supercompensation.

Adam: So Bill, it seems that Doug is recommending for most people two or three days of recovery, and he doesn’t think that if you work out like super hard, going to muscle failure and everything, where you’re going maybe ten seconds beyond positive failure, for example, with maximal effort. That if you do that once a week, you can’t make up for that high intensity by just having extra rest. And a lot of, as you know, a lot of HIIT facility, high intensity training facilities, are recommending a lot of people work a full body, compound movements, six or seven exercises, complete failure, take a week off. Where do you sit on the intensity versus recovery continuum, if you will?

Bill:     I understand the theory because mentors said similar things 35, 40 years ago about not working out until you’re fully recovered. But then, it got ridiculous to where you’re suggesting working out once every three weeks. Stretching the recovery out so long that if you were to say, I don’t work out, most of the time, you wouldn’t be lying. If you’re working out once every three weeks. So for myself and the types of clients I’m training, I kind of moderate the intensity, based on how much they’re going to work out. So for people who are using us, for instance, because we’re their only physical activity. And maybe they’re going to work out twice a week, I’m going to moderate the intensity so that they can work out productively twice a week. Like I’m not going to try to drop them, so that they’re sore the second time. And the other thing with training too hard. It’s one thing if your muscles have to recover; it’s another thing if your joints have to recover. If failure looks like your teeth are clenching, your veins are bulging, spit’s coming out of your mouth. It’s more than your muscles that have to recover. So at this time in life, I tend to go a little easier on the intensity. I think the intensity can be managed also. Again, keeping in mind that most of the people I’m dealing with, are using me for their physical activity in life. These are not people who are regularly walking, running, doing sports. If they were, I would train them harder once a week, if it was that kind of physically active person.

Adam: Well, it’s very true and I’m glad you said that because a lot of people ask me. So what determines once or twice a week or more or less, and I always say, well it depends on what else you do outside of here, and the intensity level and your lifestyle. How much sleep, stress, there are a lot of variables that I ultimately take into account, before we decide about the frequency, intensity, duration.

Mike:   Plus, we want to see how they respond to the exercise itself. I mean, on its own, I think sometimes you just — you need some time to see how they feel, how they’re doing. They’re like, oh, well, you know.

Adam: As [Inaudible: 52:20] have always talked about and he does a lot of research in this area and that is the genetic component. And how we’re genetically going to respond to exercise and people are different in that regard. Or do you feel that pretty much, just work out hard, modulate it to an extent and then move on? Don’t overthink it?

Bill:     I put a lot of thought into not overthinking it. I’ve put a lot of thought into this and I came to the conclusion, don’t overthink it. And again, why is the person working out? If the person is intent on being a bodybuilder, looking like a bodybuilder, competing as a bodybuilder, then they’re going to do something excessive. Either with you or without you. That’s not necessarily the same as for the businessman or businesswoman who comes to you and says, I just need to get in shape and is very vague. And their idea of a hard workout is what you would call a Breikin workout but their perception of it is, oh wow, this is so hard.

Adam:             I’m with you.

Bill:     So yeah, I put a lot of thought into not overthinking it.

Adam: Alright, I think that’s a good place to end this, it was perfect.

Bill:     Very good.

Tim:     Thanks again to Bill de Simone for taking the time to join us once again here on the InForm Fitness Podcast. We will include links in the show notes to Adam, Bill and Doug’s books, so you can pick them up on Amazon and have them delivered right to your door. Hey, for those of you who reside near Manhattan, Port Washington, Denville, Burbank, Boulder, Leesburg and Reston, good news. There’s an InForm Fitness near you. Pop on over to informfitness.com to get a glimpse of each location. Better yet, set up a consultation to begin your own journey with The Power of 10. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, for Adam, Mike and Sheila, of InForm Fitness, I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting Network.