Sunday, October 28, 2012

The purpose

In keeping with the last post on simplicity, I thought I'd post this.  Remember that Einstein adage that we need to keep things as simple as possible but no simpler.

I went back to John Little's article - Done in One   and I wanted to pull out some of the key principles that he stated there that might keep us on track:

What is the purpose of exercise?
  • the purpose of exercise is to recruit and stimulate as many muscle fibers (in all categories – slow twitch, intermediate twitch and fast twitch) as possible
  • for this to occur, a muscle or group of muscles must be given a load sufficient (but not excessive) enough to initiate a sequential recruitment of fibres, and
  • given a time frame that permits such fibres to be recruited.
All that is illustrated in the parable that I wrote on the Size Principle.

Why are we doing this?  To get certain benefits
  • to stimulate your body to grow stronger;  getting stronger makes everything easier;
  • to employ fibres that otherwise might be left to decondition and atrophy and, thus, give your body a strong impetus to retain (or, in the case of sarcopenia, reclaim) these fibres and the multiple metabolic pathways contained therein. This is why we want to sequentially recruit all possible fibres.
  • to empty the glycogen stores within muscle fibres, which can serve to stave off potentially health-threatening conditions such as Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, arterial plaque and heart disease.
However there can be negatives from exercise

  • injury - acute injury from a movement.  A strain, rupture, tear, fracture.....
  • wear and tear - chronic problems that accrue from ongoing movement

So we want the benefits while minimising the risks.

How do we do this?  What you do and how you do it

  • What you do? - pick safe movements that take account of proper biomechanics, joint function etc.  Read Bill DeSimone's work, or watch this:

  • How do you do it? indeed.  How you perform each movement is important.  Quoting John Little again:
Fibers can be recruited with motionless exercise (in which time and load are the only factors)  [think TSC which is the latest fad], and they can be recruited with repetitions (in which case load, distance and varying leverage factors combine to accelerate the fatigue and recruitment process (i.e., in positions of poor leverage and higher levels of moment arm, the fatigue rate is accelerated, while in positions of good leverage and lower levels of moment arm, the fatigue rate is slowed). 


pieter d said...

Chris, this is probably a matter of semantics, but what John Little defines as the purpose of exercise, is very narrow. Ask Frank Forencich or Erwan Le Corre and they will have totally different purposes.

Instead of calling it the purpose, John Little would better use that phrase as his definition of exercise.

I know, I've read body by science, and they use a very strict definition of exercise. Like I said, semantics.

And by the way, I really agree with your simplicity post. Especially if you train for health and life, exercise is simple.


primalliving said...

I'd agree it's definitely a semantics issue.

For example I wouldn't class MovNat as "exercise" but and "activity".

Personally I'd agree totally with Chris's "purpose of exercise" here, but perhaps expand on the benefits section to include the fact that it helps prepare/enable you to perform "activities" such as MovNat/Sports/Day to Day tasks (which I think is already implied by the "getting stronger makes everything easier").

Chris said...

To clarify, this is as you point out a fairly semantic thing to. Exercise has a particular definition here and a narrow one at that.

I will quote what I wrote in Hillfit:

The true purpose of exercise is to apply a stimulus to recruit all of the muscle fibres to set off a cascade of health benefits, not least of which is the strengthening of the muscle as it adapts to the stimulus. The best results come from controlling the stimulus to get the benefits, without the risk of injury through inappropriate motions or too much wear-and-tear. Thus exercise is focused on delivering these benefits, safely and efficiently. Getting an adaptive response is the domain of exercise.

Ken Hutchins of Renaissance Exercise points out that exercise is not about fun but delivering those benefits:
“…We exercise not to enjoy the exercise, but so that we can apply our improved bodies gained form the exercise to enjoy all the other activities (or inactivity) in our lives.”

Activity is something different and encompasses all sports and recreation, e.g. hillwalking, climbing, football. These have specific skill-sets to which you can apply your strength. Each of these activities can have exercise benefits, but they may not be the safest or most efficient ways of obtaining those benefits. Thus, the first thing to do is to develop strength through exercise routines, then learn and practice the skill-set specific to the preferred sport or activity, applying that strength to become safer, more capable and tougher.

My hillwalking is not “exercise”. Exercise is what I do to make my hillwalking more enjoyable.

Jeff said...

Hey Chris,

I agree with you and your post on BBS blog post. To me much of the discussion is too esoteric. I have been a geek about this for a few years and it is too much for me. I find the responses to your comment lacking and a bit irritating, to be honest. I stopped posting, reading, etc as a result.

Keep up the good work.


Chris said...

Thanks Jeff. Hope you are doing OK. The BBS board got a little weird for a while there! As I said it was all so esoteric. I couldn't understand what the RenEx guys and JoeA were talking about. It lost the simplicity that is so important.