Which is Best -- High-Tech(Nautilus/MedX) or Free Weights

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Which is Best -- High-Tech(Nautilus/MedX) or Free Weights

Post  Fitness Scientist on Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:37 pm

High-Tech Vs Free Weights

©️Joseph Mullen
Fitness Scientist



For the purpose of this article, we are comparing two basic types of exercise and therapy equipment:

(1) Non High-tech, such as: free weights, wall pulleys, ankle and wrist weights, medicine balls, elastic bands, any kind of passive exercise and any other primitive form of exercise and physical therapy tool.

(2) High-Tech, equipment that provides the requirements of very productive exercise. The difference between all will become apparent.

In l970, Arthur Jones introduced a commercially successful high-tech tool: Nautilus exercise equipment.

Initial critics of Nautilus and Arthur Jones, denounced him and his invention, stating he based his exercise philosophies and invention on information he created. They are incorrect. It is true that he was perhaps the first man to integrate certain requirements for productive exercise. It is also true, he did not create, many of these requirements. Instead, various scientists established these ideas after years of research, into anatomy, physiology, exercise science, and physics.

Mr. Jones was able to pull all facts together and present them clearly. Nautilus equipment was the logical extension of his search for an improved exercise tool. A tool designed to meet the then known requirements, of full-range, productive exercise.

Until the high-tech breakthrough, and the invention of Nautilus equipment, the barbell was the universal tool used by health and fitness enthusiasts. Barbells and dumbbells are certainly easier to handle than the rocks, stones, and logs, used by our ancestors. Free weights, allowed specific design of exercises and the resistance adjusted, to the existing strength levels of an individual. The resistance adjusts as the person increased in strength and fitness.

Because the resistance adjusted to the individual and it is relatively low cost, allowed the barbell to enjoy increasing popularly for 100 years. Along with the use of the barbell, exercise routines evolved, that became standard exercise procedure. These exercise programs remain virtually unchanged.

Barbells' manufacturer’s branched out into diet supplementation. Thus, the vitamin and protein market merged into the fitness industry. Magazines began to appear, touting one Barbell Company and its champions over the competition. Special food supplements were recommended for improved gains.

Claims and counter-claims continue to the present time. Then the bomb exploded. Arthur Jones emerged and challenged traditional thinking.The exercise and physical therapy world have not been the same because of this challenge.

To understand why high-tech is more productive, one fact is clear: The quality of the application of resistance, to a working muscle determines the quality of the results.

Once upon a time, when we were young crawling was the fastest form of transportation. If one's goal was to get from point A to point B walking was faster than crawling. Those who did not have a lot of time to waste decided to ride a horse arriving at the destination faster. Other's walked and eventually reached the destination.

Presently, the fastest form of transportation is jet airplanes. If one's goal is to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast, as quickly and safely as possible, the airplane is the best choice.

Therefore, it is in the choices between non high-tech exercise and therapy equipment and high-tech equipment. Low-tech, free weights, pulleys, medicine balls, and rubber bands are today's equivalent of the horse. High-Tech is today's equivalent of jets. The use of High-tech equipment for exercise, physical therapy, and work rehabilitation is greatly superior to low tech

This is not to claim that the proper use of free weights and other low high-tech equipment cannot be beneficial; however, for maximum results in minimum time there is no comparison between the two. The human body instinctively prefers to use an exercise tool with certain properly designed biomechanical functions lacking in low high-tech equipment.

One major reason is the body stability provided by high tech equipment. We are all aware of the laws of force -- counter force and the stresses placed on the body during exercise. Support supplied for the body during high tech exercise helps stabilize the body, helps the body absorb the counter -- force and allows one to monitor and maintain the proper body position.

Therefore, effectively eliminating unwanted stress to other body segments and greatly reducing the chance of injury.

Free weights when used with various benches and seats can help modify some of the problems associated with force counter-force although not as well as machines. There are also many other preconditions for productive exercise which only biomechanical designed equipment can provide. Barbells were a quantum leap forward because they allowed the basic requirement of productive exercise, resistance, and utilized with greater efficiency by a contracting muscle than previous tools.

Just as barbells were a quantum leap forward compared to free hand exercises, so is high-tech equipment compared too low tech and for the same reason. Application of resistance, scientifically directed, to a contracting muscle, is the basic essential of progressive exercise, physical therapy, and work rehabilitation thereby regaining the functional ability.

However, not all high-tech equipment incorporates all the requirements for maximum progress. A properly designed exercise tool essentially provides at least two phases of resistance. Proper resistance requires resistance as one lifts and the resistance supplied as one lowers the resistance.

Sometimes, called concentric or positive resistance. This take's place when one contracts and shortens the length of a muscle. Lowering resistance is an eccentric or negative movement and takes place as muscle uncontracts or the muscle lengthens.

Along with supplying positive and negative resistance potentials, the ability to stretch and slightly pre-stretch a muscle is mandatory. Pre-stretching takes place when a muscle moves into a position of increased tension, just prior to the start of a positive contraction. Prestretch has two effects that result in greater benefits:

(1) The muscle is elastic just like a rubber band, and stretching it slightly, just before movement, actually produces elastic energy that can be used in the contraction;

(2) A prestretch ignites a nervous system stretch reflex calling upon additional muscle fibers for use in the movement. We have established four requirements for full range, maximally productive exercise.

They are:

1. Positive work: Lifting the resistance.
2. Negative work: Lowering resistance.
3. Pre-stretching: At an extreme range just before a typical stretch.
4. Stretching: A slight lengthening of muscle groups. As muscles contract and move through a range of motion, they do so with varying joint angles, degrees of movement, as well as varying strength potentials at the all angles.

The degree of movement during a two-arm curl is greater than during a parallel squat and the muscle groups involved are of different strength potentials. The amount of resistance used in the overhead press is usually less than when performing a parallel squat. This requires resistance be balanced with the range of motion and strength potential of each muscle group.

High-Tech equipment features automatically variable resistance and balanced resistance. With high-tech, as you move through a range of motion the resistance should vary automatically according to the angles and strength potential of the muscle groups executing the movement. As muscle's contract, the leverage advantage, and strength factors automatically change. Therefore, the resistance should change in balance with these factors. This satisfies sufficient resistance at all times.

We have now established two more requirements for a productive exercise tool:

5. Balanced resistance: Resistance that is neither too light nor too heavy at movement angles.

6. Automatically variable resistance: Varies in accord with the strength curve of particular muscle groups.

Although it should be possible to perform exercise movements at various speeds for high intensity contractions, throwing the resistance is not beneficial. However, unrestricted speed of movement is a requirement.

For best results move slowly. As an example: the positive portion of the movement should take about 4 seconds, the negative portion about 2 seconds (as a safe example we recommend). By slowly controlling the movement, the muscle is constantly working throughout the full range of movement. To increase the speed of movement to the point of exploding the movement is dangerous.

It multiplies the force and as the resistance reaches its destination (full-range). If muscles are not prepared for the sudden impact, injuries may occur. Resistance is also provided in the position of full muscular contraction it is impossible to exercise a muscle through its full range of motion. Many, but not all, high tech machines provide resistance in this position. Other forms of exercise tools such as barbells do not.

To use a simple example: In the common two-arm curl with a barbell there is no significant resistance supplied to the biceps muscle in the fully contracted position. Thanks to properly designed high tech equipment, there is resistance. We have already established the fact that resistance correctly supplied is a key to generating maximum results in exercise. It would logically follow that resistance applies directly to the muscles under contraction to provide best results.

A two-arm chinning movement will provide resistance to the latissimus dorsi and biceps of the upper body (among others). During the movement, the biceps will fatigue before the larger, stronger back muscles. Therefore, you do not exercise the latissimus dorsi muscles effectively.

High tech pullover machines (Nautilus as an example) supply resistance of a higher quality to the latissimus dorsi muscle groups. By applying the resistance to the upper arms near the elbow's, one works the back muscles thoroughly, without requiring biceps involvement.

When one fails to continue movement due to muscular fatigue, the primary muscles fail instead of weaker links in the chain. Therefore, direct resistance is also a primary requirement.

We have established nine of the 10 basic requirements:

1. Positive work.

2. Negative work.

3. Pre stretching

4. Stretching.

5. Balanced resistance.

6. Automatically variable resistance.

7. Unrestricted speed of movement.

8. Resistance in the position of full muscular contraction.

9. Direct resistance.

The 10th requirement is difficult to visualize. This requirement is Rotary Form Movement. Defined as Resistance, that rotates on a common axis, with a body part moving by muscle contraction.

One excellent invention that is an integral part of a biomechanical correct design is a device named the cam. Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment and MedX testing and rehabilitative equipment invented the first commercially successful equipment armed with a cam.

A cam allows the experience of maximally productive exercise. In simple terms, the function of a cam is as follows:

A cam redirects resistance. The resistance travels in a rotational motion within the same strength curve as the body segment moved by the muscle contractions. At the same time, the resistance refers directly OPPOSITE to the intended movement. This is The Law of Force -- Counter Force in action in a specific way.

This means resistance is constantly pulling directly opposite the direction of muscle contraction and body segment movement. This allows application of the resistance throughout a greater range of motion.

Barbells and other forms of exercise equipment do not supply resistance in this manner. They supply resistance in a straight-line manner because the resistance always pulls directly down toward the ground. You encounter proper resistance when you are moving the barbell vertically directly opposite the pull of gravity.

For instance, during the two arm curls you will meet with resistance when you move the bar into about a little below the halfway up position, then, gravity pulls directly downward.

As you are trying to move straight up the bar is at a favorable angle of attack to feel the resistance in your upper arms.

At the beginning of the curl, you are pushing\pulling the bar parallel with the ground. Much like pushing a car on level ground instead of lifting it off the ground. One feels the resistance but not the accurate weight of the car or barbell. You do not work much of the biceps during roughly the first third of the motion except in a minimal way.

At the midrange, you will encounter favorable resistance as already explained. When the bar moves out of the midrange, closer to your shoulders, you again lose resistance in most of the upper arm musculature.

Here the only way you would feel resistance is if the barbell resistance was pulling directly straight away from your shoulders, as you attempt to pull straight into the shoulders. Instead, gravity pulls the barbell straight down. There is little resistance for your upper arms to lift. It becomes nothing more than a balancing act.

If barbells sometime supply resistance during only some of the movement, it logically follows that less weight is evident in other parts of the movement. Time and effort are wasted and uneven strength development takes place. This can manifest itself in the form of injuries such as pulled muscles.

Suppose someone could develop a tool that could supply all the known requirements would it be a more effective, productive tool, much as a jet is a better choice than crawling when you want to get somewhere in a reasonable time? Would the exercise tool meeting the most requirements for maximal exercise be the best tool to use? Yes!

If low-tech equipment is productive even though it meets a limited amount of the productive requirements, can high-tech be more productive, time saving and in the sense of treating more people in less time: a better income-producing tool. The answer to all is Yes!

The QUALITY of the resistance provided by High-Tech equipment is the deciding factor one should consider when determining which exercise tools best fits the goals of providing measurable results for client’s and enabling a higher income potential for wellness practitioners.

Calisthenics and aerobic dance supply minimal resistance (arms, legs, torso, and lower body).

Gymnastics type exercise is more productive because more body mass is moved therefore more resistance is handled by muscle groups.

Barbells, pulleys and the like are more productive than either of the two mentioned because resistance is adjusted according with one's fitness level. High-Tech is superior. The logic of the requirements of maximal exercise illustrates that fact.

Contradictions and Exceptions

The following are my statements and not related to any manufacturer of high-tech equipment.

We have stated the basic assumptions involved in high-tech design. We should state some of the problems overlooked and seldom talked about in the design of high-tech equipment.

Single Cam, Single Joint Movements
Vs Single Cam, Multi-joint Movements

Single joint, single cam machines are valid. The supply all the factors we have just outlined. An example of a single joint cam would be a two-arm curling machine.

Multi-joint movements -- movements involving muscle contractions around more than one joint do not match the design requirements as well as single joint movements on high-tech machines.

An example is a bench press motion. It involves movement around the elbow joint and the shoulder joint. Given all the muscle groups producing the movement, many cams must incorporate into the machine design.

Otherwise, it is almost impossible to regulate the resistance by aligning all axes of rotations in the body with the axes of rotation of the machine.

At least two cams must be built-in, one in line with the elbows and one in line with the shoulders.

One cam cannot properly change resistance for several joints due to the varying strength range potentials, ranges-of-motion of each joint, and the range-of-motion of the joint as it move from flexion to extension.
Are you aware of any machines designed with those needs in mind? We are not aware of any. It would not be an impossible task to design a machine in this manner. The only problem is no one could afford it. Apparently, manufacturers have not realized the design fallacy of single joint Vs multi-joint cams or they hope consumers do not catch on.

We contend, one could effectively vary resistance of free weights for multi-joint movements by performing the exercise in two (or three) movements. As an example, the bench press could be performed with X amount of resistance from chest level to about the halfway position (the sticking point) and a certain amount of repetitions within this range. Then the weight would be adapted for X amount from the halfway point to full extension.

If you have not tried this with multi-joint movements, try it. You will be surprised at the improvements made in a very short time.

Some will argue that any amount of variable resistance on a multi-joint movement machine is better than no resistance. Maybe so! The price difference between a standard high-tech pull down machine and an overhead pulley machine is thousands of dollars. Is it worth it? Remember we are talking professional too professional in a theoretical sense.

After all, even Arthur Jones the Godfather of High-Tech has publicly stated: “Nautilus machines are nothing more than an improved barbell.”

Joe Mullen
Fitness Scientist
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Last edited by Fitness Scientist on Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:08 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : reworked the article.)

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Re: Which is Best -- High-Tech(Nautilus/MedX) or Free Weights

Post  Terry Carter on Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:00 am

Thanks Joe! It is difficult for us who experienced being around Arthur and the excitement of those days to stomach the not to failure, high volume, pseudo scientists who are ruining HIT and strength training in general. It is good to be reminded of how rational Arthur was and what he accomplished.

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Re: Which is Best -- High-Tech(Nautilus/MedX) or Free Weights

Post  sgsims1 on Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:59 am

Terry Carter wrote:Thanks Joe! It is difficult for us who experienced being around Arthur and the excitement of those days to stomach the not to failure, high volume, pseudo scientists who are ruining HIT and strength training in general. It is good to be reminded of how rational Arthur was and what he accomplished.

I agree, these articles are definitely an asset to the forum!
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Re: Which is Best -- High-Tech(Nautilus/MedX) or Free Weights

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