Very simply, exercise is applying muscular force against resistance. Without resistance there can be no exercise. Furthermore, the quality of the resistance determines the value (results) of the exercise. Running, swimming, biking, flipping tires, they all provide an exercise stimulus. Any sort of muscular force, or muscle movement, when met by some type of resistance – air, water, gravity, etc. – qualifies as exercise. None of these activities, however, provide the highest quality of resistance. Why? Because they are lacking in one or more of the following elements:
- Progressive overload. As our bodies become stronger we need to continually increase resistance to keep progressing.
- Back pressure. An ideal exercise should provide resistance on the both the concentric (lifting) and the eccentric (lowering) portions of the movement. What this means is, if you lift a weight it should provide resistance on the way up (concentric) and back pressure on the way done (eccentric). Research is now clearly showing that the eccentric, or lowering portion of a movement, is the most important element in promoting body adaptations.
- Strength curve. Every individual has a strength curve for each muscle in his/her body. These strength curves are created by a number of genetic factors such as muscle length, point of attachment, etc. This becomes an issue when attempting to exercise with a resistance that doesn’t match your individual strength curve (all traditional forms of exercise). Most forms of exercise are static in nature. If you are exercising with a barbell or weight machine and the resistance is set at 100 lbs. it’s going to weigh the same 100 lbs. all the way up and all the weigh down. But, due to your strength curve you might be able to lift 120 lbs. at the beginning of the movement, 100 lbs. in the middle, and 150 lbs. at the end. Additionally, you would be capable of lowering approximately 40% more during each portion of the lowering movement. Because you can’t lift more than you can handle at the weakest point, you are stuck lifting 100 lbs. and completely under-loading the majority of the exercise movement. Lastly, if you are doing a set of 10 repetitions you can only lift as much as you can handle during the weakest part of the movement, in the 10th rep. when you are most fatigued. This means the first nine reps were completely underloaded. In that entire set of repetitions you only performed at your maximum for a very small part of the concentric portion of the last repetition. Not very efficient.
- The last issue to consider is keeping score. If you can’t measure your effort how can you ever hope to know how well you are progressing. What get’s measured improves.
Given all of the above, what should a trainee do to make maximum gains? The answer is, train with equipment that provides for progressive overload, provides maximum resistance during each and every repetition, at every angle of both the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement, and is totally quantifiable during every centimeter of the exercise. The answer is train with ARX. ARX is the only exercise system in the world that meets all of the above criteria of a perfect exercise.