We aim to debunk the popular misconceptions and urban myths that are so prevalent in the fields of health and fitness and to replace those sacred cows with scientific-based, up-to-the-minute information on a variety of subjects. The topics covered include exercise protocols and techniques, nutrition, sleep, recovery, the role of genetics in the response to exercise, and much more.
Welcome to the InForm Fitness Podcast series REWIND, a listen back to the classic interviews we’ve had with the high intensity gurus & master trainers… names like Martin Gibala, Bill DeSimone, Simon Shawcross, Jay Vincent, Ryan Hall & Doug McGuff.
This is the 3rd of 3 parts with veteran competitive bodybuilder, “biomechanics” expert, author and public speaker Doug Brignole. On his website Doug describes himself as “Bodybuilder on the outside & science nerd on the inside.”
In part 3, Doug & Adam talk about Balance & Core training, intensity, reciprocal innervation. Enjoy!
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77: REWIND / Doug Brignole Part 3 Transcript
The Inform fitness podcast with Adam Zickerman is a presentation of inform fitness studios specializing in safe, efficient, personal high intensity strength training, in each episode Adam discusses the latest findings in the areas of exercise nutrition and recovery, the three pillars of his New York Times best selling book, The Power of 10. He aims to debunk the popular misconceptions and urban myths that are so prevalent in the fields of health and fitness. And with the opinions of leading experts and scientists, you’ll hear scientific based up to the minute information on a variety of subjects. We cover the exercise protocols and techniques of Adoms 20 minute once a week workout, as well as sleep recovery, nutrition, the role of genetics in the response to exercise, and much more.
Greetings, Adam here. Welcome back to the inform fitness podcast rewind. It’s our listen back to classic interviews with some of the best high intensity gurus, master trainers, researchers and doctors in the business. This is part three with Doug Brignole, on his website, Doug aptly describes himself as a bodybuilder on the outside, and a science nerd on the inside. In this episode, we discuss balance and core training intensity and something called reciprocal intervention. Enjoy. You know, we started this whole talk, you know, talking about myths and belief systems. And here, here’s another topic where that’s fraught with a lot of different belief systems. So I think you’d agree that many physical therapists and trainers misuse the word balance when they refer to doing specific type of exercises that improve balance, aren’t they really referring to improving proprioception rather than balance? And isn’t proprioception and balance two different things?
Doug Brignole 1:53
Yes, absolutely balances equilibrium. Balance has an inner ear. Also, the bottoms of your feet, and your eyes are the sensors that basically inform you, whether you’re standing upright, or leaning to the right are about to fall, whether the ground you’re standing on is flat or not the that is actually balanced. And as people get older, their senses start to deteriorate their eyes, they’re there, they have neuropathy, so they don’t feel their feet as much, right. So when someone says, you know, I lose my balance, well, they could have inner ear problems, he could have visual problems, they could have, you know, neuropathy problems, and those things are contributing to them. Not understanding not being informed as to whether or not they’re upright or not, but if you put that person on a BOSU ball, which is basically proprioceptive training, it’s not helping their sensors, they need to see a specialist and ear, nose and throat specialist, an eye doctor, you know, someone that’s going to address that neuropathy, in order to really fix their equilibrium issue. But what bothers me about the fitness industry is that it has sold proprioception as balance, because balance seems to have more value as a buzzword than proprioception. And so people don’t want to argue with fixing their balance, they might argue with improving their proprioception, which is basically a skill, right is coordination at a particular skill. They might say, well, that’s fine, but you know, if it’s going to compromise, and it always does, by the way, if it’s going to compromise, the resistance exercise portion of that, when I’m combining it, then I’d rather not trade it off.
So so doing unstable exercises, you know, doing let’s say a set of squats on on a on a BOSU ball or wobble board or something like that. You don’t feel that that improves balance, for some
Doug Brignole 3:46
No, what it what it improves, it improves your ability to coordinate yourself on that Bosu ball. Right? You will eventually get very good at that once you get off of that Bosu ball. You’re no longer in that environment to which you have adapted. Right. So it’s essentially worthless. Right now, I had a client who said You know, I had a trainer who had me standing on BOSU balls, and I didn’t find myself any any more easy to stand on one leg when I’m washing one foot in the shower. Well, that’s because when you’re standing in the shower, that’s not the same thing as standing on a BOSU ball. You got good at the bosu ball coordination trick. What happens is as we get older, we narrow our movements down to straightforward when we’re young and we’re playful, and we’re playing in the in the beach on the sand. We’re playing volleyball, we’re doing lateral movement, we’re doing backward movement. We’re jumping up and down. And as we get older, we pretty much move straightforward, right? So we lose our ability to move laterally, we lose our ability to coordinate our brain with these automatic leg movements, right. So let’s just say that you are at a party and somebody has put their purse down right next to your right foot. And all of a sudden you realize that as you started to move to your right, something blocked your foot. By this point, you’ve already leaned your bodyweight, so far over to the right, that you are going to fall. Having stood on one leg will not help you. What will help you is having practiced lateral movement, repositioning that foot. So if I were training you, I would say, Okay, here’s what we’re going to do, I’m going to throw this basketball to you, you’re going to shuffle to three stops to the right, you’re going to catch it, throw it back, you’re going to shuffle it to the right, and maybe I won’t tell you where it’s gonna go, it won’t be right left, you’ll have to think with and then all of a sudden, your feet will start to become automatic. Again, preventing falling is more about coordination. It’s more about having your legs work in autopilot. Literally, when you’re standing on one leg, you will not prevent a fall. But a fall happens when you’ve leaned your body way too far over and the one that will save you is lifting that leg and moving it somewhere else. And that has to have happened time and time again, in some kind of exercise program. The muscles that you’re talking about, that are activated on one leg, do work with two legs, right? When you’re squatting, when you’re doing calf raises when you’re doing like extension, hip extensions, hip flexion, those muscles will be strong. If and when you have to lift that leg and reposition it.
Yeah, I’ve always said I agree with you 100% on that
Doug Brignole 6:23
Yeah. But here’s what happens is, if someone says, you know, I like the way I feel when I’m standing on one leg on a BOSU ball, I like what that does, whether it’s right or wrong, I see. Okay, great. But try not to do it at the same time that you’re doing your dumbbell curls, because you’ll compromise the dumbbell curls.
Doug Brignole 6:40
If you’re if you’re okay with that, then I would say Okay, so the actual question would be is how much am I losing in terms of the compromise to the dumbbell curls? And how much am I gaining in terms of the one leg, whatever you want to call it stability, and I would venture to say that you’re gonna gain maybe two 5% benefit on the on the leg part and lose 10 or 12% on the dumbbell part, you’re gonna lose more than you’re gonna gain. But if you want to do them, I would suggest doing them separately,
I would, I would want to add one thing, and this is a kind of, it’s not too common, but But it’s something to consider anyway, when you’re doing this one legged exercises to improve proprioception balance, cool. While you will, you have to also take into account the person you’re doing with because I have a couple of clients, for example of knee pain that have knee issues and their little boy leg. And when you’re standing on one leg, you actually extreme the knee and you can actually, you can actually hurt the knee by standing on one leg. So here you’re working on balance, but you’re actually going to screw up the knee or the lower back for that matter. So yeah, right, careful with that person.
Doug Brignole 7:38
And by the way, even even if they don’t have that, that’s exactly what happens in all cases. So for those who are listening, here’s what happens, you’re standing on two legs, you basically have a foot under a knee under a hip. Now, if you were to just lift one leg up off the ground, you’re gonna fall to the side, you lifted unless you reposition the standing leg so that it’s straight in the center of your body. Right. So that means instead of having two parallel legs, your one remaining standing leg is actually now turned sideways, that change is what’s called the cue angle at the hip. And in order to compensate for that cue angle of the hip, the lower leg goes the other direction, which is called valgus, which is what you’re talking about is which is that knee having to compensate. So you get this person who’s standing with a pair of 20, or 30 pound dumbbells. So now he’s added a load to the cue angle in the valgus. And you’ve got more hip strain and more knee strain, damage the knee and hip, you can end at the same time he’s compromised his ability to coordinate the curling movement in exchange for what he thinks is going to be better equilibrium, maybe better proprioception in that one specific thing, but how often will that be necessary? So what we’re talking about one legged things?
Doug Brignole 8:51
let’s, let’s talk about one legged squats. And again, this this delves into this sociological issue, which is, a guy’s in the gym, he sees a guy doing it. And right away, he feels challenged. Hey, I bet I can do that. Well, you know, that isn’t the reason why we should do things. It’s not like, you know, we’re not kids anymore. I mean, when you’re 12 and 14 years old, you want to keep up with the kids. But you know, when you’re 40 years old, 50 years old, you know, you want to make sure that you’re getting nothing but reward and very little risk. So the guy goes over there and he starts maybe he has a conversation with the guy that’s doing the one legged squat. While you’re doing that, he goes, Oh, I’m proving my core, I’m improving my balance. I’m doubling up the load on one leg, instead of using, you know, my body weight on two legs, I’m using my body weight on one leg. So I would say okay, let’s, let’s parse all of this out. If it’s just a matter of load, you can actually hold weight dumbbells in your hand and compensate for that load factor. Use two legs, maintain your balance, maintain your neutral spine. Right and get that aspect of it. What about the balance? Well, again, we’re not talking balance, we’re talking proprioception. But more importantly than that in the cue angle in the end valgus and all this is what I’m going to say right now, if you see a person doing a regular two legged squat with good form, you’ll notice that their back is slightly arched, right? They’re holding a neutral spine, you will never see a neutral spine on a one legged squat.
Doug Brignole 10:15
it’s rounded. And there’s a very, very good reason why it’s rounded. Not that it’s beneficial. It’s a it’s a very clear reason. But here’s what happens is, and we haven’t talked about this, but I know you know about reciprocal innervation. For people that don’t know what reciprocal innervation is, is basically the body has a system that involves the central nervous system, so that you won’t compete with yourself. If you’re doing a bicep curl, the central nervous, the triceps shuts off, okay? Well, the same thing happens by the way, when we stretch, right, that’s why I lying leg curl is harder, because when you stretch the quadricep, the hamstring loses power. All right, so what happens is when you when you go down into a one legged squat, you obviously have to have one leg in front of you. Well, the fact that that leg is on front of you means that you are actually stretching your hamstring. And the lower you go, the more you have to lift that leg up. And the more you lift that leg up, the more of a quarter of a hamstring stretch, you get, well that hamstring stretch is trying to shut off a hip flexor in the quadricep, which is holding the leg up. So what would end up happening is if you had a neutral spine, the hamstring stretch would increase completely shutting off the hip flexor and the quadricep. So in order to have that not happen, the spine gets rounded to diminish the hamstring stretch to allow the hip flexor and the quadricep to hold the leg up. So you end up with basically a risk of herniating a disc, because you’re descending into the squat with a rounded spine. And all you had to do was a two legged squat, maybe holding a pair of dumbbells to compensate for the resistance difference, and eliminate the valgus eliminate the cue angle, eliminate the rounding of the back, you know a lot of what we’ve we’ve used as the deciding factors is whether or not it’s hard, like a guy will hang upside down by the ankles and do his abdominal exercise hanging upside down. It’s not because it’s good stuff because it’s productive. It’s because it’s hard. It’s because he’s gonna get a lot of admiration by his peers in the gym. It’s because other people don’t want to dare it or maybe can’t do it. But that isn’t a good healthy way to strengthen the abdominal muscles. Obviously, you’re going to have a major hip flexor component in there, which creates that lower back strain because you have your abdominal muscles pulling forward on the tailbone, and the cell was pointing forward in the lumbar spine. So, you know, we have to be smart. I mean, we should be smart in how we select exercise. And we shouldn’t do that just on the basis that it’s hard to do,
or is impressive,
Doug Brignole 12:54
or is impressive. Yeah, we should be it’s hard to sever that. But a lot of people are completely ruled by showing off in the gym.
We’re running out of time, Doug. And I do want to I mean, I can talk to you all day, actually. But I don’t know how our listeners are going to feel about that. But But I do have one more thing I’d love to talk to you about. And that is the topic of intensity. Right? We talked about, you know, which is different than just working out hard, right? I mean, and you know, this this comes up recently in the New York Times article because they were talking about they had an article about Rhabdo or tech, technically speaking rhabdomyolysis weight loss. Yeah, yeah. My Is that how you say my meiosis anyway? Rhabdo for short, that’s a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down very rapidly. And it can really lead to kidney damage as it’s a very bad condition is beginning a lot of press lately because you know, high intensity workouts have definitely come into vogue, you know, the brand CrossFit comes to mind all these boot camps and, and the high intensity spin classes, which which is what this article kind of talks about this woman who is doing a spin class, she ended up with a case of Rhabdo, which is a very serious medical condition that sometimes is not reversible. And you can actually have long lasting effects from that
Doug Brignole 14:12
Right, because because the muscle releases toxins that affect the liver,
you know, extremes XIV is that that’s an extreme case. And they are relatively rare and and I think some people have a genetic predisposition to to reaching that. But aside from those extremes, many people do believe though that going too deep muscle failure will lead to maximum muscle gains. The harder you work out, the deeper you inroad a muscle, the better your gains. So in regards to intensity recovery, do you agree with me is there is there a right amount of intensity? How do you measure intensity? Do you think the harder the more intensive exercise, the better?
Doug Brignole 14:52
Absolutely not. 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’s too high? And what happens if it’s just right? And clearly just right has nothing but benefit. But if it’s too low, you won’t get the benefit. If it chooses 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 workout super intensely, and I just work a body part once a week, in other words, take a longer amount of time between workouts, I can compensate for the high intensity, no, 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. Know, 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 with a call supercompensation that’s when the muscle is getting stronger. Right. So the goal is to not work then muscle again, assuming you’ve worked and relatively hard to not work and until you’ve passed recovery, and have gotten into supercompensation. So your goal, ideally, is to get that muscle work again, when it’s at the top of supercompensation. Before it comes down to the baseline again. So if you wait, let’s say 7 8 9 days before you work that body part again, regardless of how hard you worked it, you’re basically always going back to your baseline. That’s why ideally, you want to work them out so no more frequently than every other day. And no less frequently than once every four or five days.
One rationale for working out to full intensity until until muscle failure is that you know where you’re at, you can be consistent without time after time, once you reach muscle failure, you’re done. But how do you how do you stop short of muscle failure consistently? And how do you find that sweet spot of intensity? I assume? You know, obviously it differs for each individual. And there’s a lot of other factors involved. But how do you go about as as as a technician, training people or training yourself? How do you know where to find that sweet spot for intensity?
Doug Brignole 17:02
Well, there are people who have thought that a muscle will not grow unless you take it to failure. And that has been completely disproven in research. They’ve shown that not only is it not necessary, it’s actually less productive than if you go to a 90 95% effort. So how do you find it? Yeah, the only way you can find it is experimentation. And experimentation only happens with really, really, really good consistency. So when a person comes into the gym, and they’re sporadic in their workouts, you’ll never find it. You have to be intimately familiar, intimately familiar with about how many repetitions you can probably get with this weight on your fourth set. You have to know that right? And the only way you’re going to know that is if you haven’t missed a workout for the last three months. Right then and only then will you know, what 90% is what 95% is what I know exactly where my 95% Mark is, I know that I can that I can get the next rep or that I can’t get the next rep or the next rep will be, you know beyond the amount of effort that I want that I want to use. And so that’s why I always tell people, before we even start talking about how much intensity is right we need to get, we need to get you absolutely 100% consistent, you need to be really, really, really on track so that you are very familiar with what you can predict will be your level of failure with this weight with this rep with the set, then you can start to say, Okay, I’m going to get better results doing let’s say, eight sets of 95% effort, then I will with four sets of 100% effort. Now that takes more time, right. But for muscle growth, that has been proven to be the point, you will get better growth with a little bit more volume and a little less intensity. And by a little less intensity. And basically just mean less than max. I don’t mean like 30%.
Don’t wimp out. Yeah, that’s an excuse to wimp out. Oh, Doug said you don’t have to work out.
Doug Brignole 19:00
That’s why I made it clear. You know, I’m not saying less intensity in that sense. But I am saying you don’t have to go to 100%. When you talk about intensity, you have to take into consideration their age, their hormone levels in nutrition, how much sleep they’re getting there other activities that are requiring calories, you know, all of that factors into how much intensity is appropriate for that person today.
Yeah, but you also said something that’s very key and that is you know, the starting the starting point for all this is consistency. And I can’t tell you how much I implore that to all my clients that you know, you have to be consistent with it.
Doug Brignole 19:35
The most. I always tell people intensity and frequency are far less important than consistency.
Well, that’s it folks. A great chat with Doug Brignole on the inform fitness podcast rewind. I hope you learned a lot I know I did. We will have more coming soon from the likes of Martin Gibala, Ryan Hall and Doug McGuff. All coming soon. On the inform fitness podcast rewind, thank you so much for listening.
This has been the inform fitness podcast with Adam Zickerman for over 20 years inform fitness has been providing clients of all ages with customized personal training designed to build strength fast, and now Adam and his staff would be delighted to train you virtually. Just visit informfitness.com for testimonials, blogs and videos on the three pillars exercise nutrition and recovery