Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jones Justified

Arthur Jones, the late inventor of the Nautilus and Med-ex exercise machines, had a very acrimonious relationship with most exercise scientists. He frequently publicly labeled them as  morons or idiots, particularly when one of them published a study that lambasted Jones’ beloved Nautilus machines. These machines were designed to provide a variable resistance pattern of exercise movement that Jones’ often called ” a better barbell.” According to Jones, these machines worked muscles through a entire range of movement in a manner that improved exercise efficiency to a considerable extent. In so doing, the Nautilus machines variable resistance design  allowed you to train more muscle fibers with a higher intensity level because the machines eliminated the blind spots that occur during typical muscle contractions when using just free weights. This increased exercise efficiency also made it mandatory to engage in shorter, less frequent training sessions in order to foster maximal recovery.

Over the years, several studies have  been published opposing both the efficiency of the Nautilus machines, as well as Jones’ emphasis on brief but intense training. But Jones’ would probably have been gratified with the results of the latest study that compared conventional training with using variable exercise machines, such as Nautilus machines. The study featured 13 young men who did four workouts using either conventional weight or variable resistance loading patterns.The results showed that force and muscle involvement was significantly higher when using the variable resistance style of training. Levels of total testosterone, growth hormone, and cortisol increased during the variable resistance exercise, while conventional constant loading raised only growth hormone levels.

It would appear based on the results of this small study that the ideas suggested by Jones have been vindicated, and that his variable resistance style of training is indeed superior in terms of stressing a muscle during heavy training compared to constant load resistance. I’m sure that if Arthur were alive  today, he might even soften his frequent acerbic attacks on exercise scientists. He would no longer call them “idiots,” but would likely retain the term “moron” in reference to these esteemed scientists.

Walker S, et al. Neuromuscular and hormonal responses to constant and variable resistance loadings.Med
Sci Sports Exerc 2010;in press.

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