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“Sunderland AFC - Primitive training methods...”

Guest post from American reader John Turner as he gives his views on ‘primitive training methods’ after being irked by scenes from the Academy of Light in ‘Sunderland Til I Die’.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Like millions of others around the world I was entranced by the documentary on Sunderland AFC and their fans. However, in spite of their world-class stadium I was very disappointed in their training facilities and methods. Here’s why.

Transportation had four evolutionary steps: walking; animal-powered transport; the automobile, and the aeroplane. Each step provided an increase in speed and comfort. Exercise also had four evolutionary steps: callisthenics; gymnastics; the adjustable barbell, and Nautilus exercise machines. Each step provided a marked increase in results with a corresponding decrease in training time.

Recently, two retired NHL players opened training facilities in Toronto. One was called a “High Performance facility”, and the other was a “Sports Specific facility”. Because the former pros were well known the media covered the grand openings. Cameras captured these young Hockey players arriving in their $200,000 luxury sports cars and then showed them in training. What were they doing? Throwing a $40 medicine ball against a wall. In one episode of the documentary a Sunderland player was shown throwing a medicine ball at the floor, a task made easier thanks to gravity.

Hertha BSC training session Photo by Jan-Philipp Burmann/City-Press via Getty Images

Most NFL fans know that the 1973 Miami Dolphins had a perfect season and their record remains unequalled. They didn’t wave ropes, flip tires, swing sledgehammers or throw medicine balls. They trained on Nautilus machines because their trainer knew the benefits of full-range exercise.

In spite of all the latest exercise fads, the function of our muscles hasn’t changed since Adam and Eve. Once you understand the requirements of full-range exercise, you can critique any tool or exercise. These requirements are;

One: a rotational form of resistance, rotating on a common axis with the involved joint of the body.

Two: a direct form of resistance; resistance that is imposed upon the body part that is being worked.

Three: an automatically variable form of resistance that varies instantly as movement occurs.

Four: balanced resistance that varies in accordance with the actual requirements of the muscles in different positions.

Five: resistance that is provided in a stretched starting position; which requires a range of movement in the machine that actually exceeds the possible range of movement of the user.

Six: negative work potential

Seven: positive work potential

Eight: pre-stretching; a factor that is required during the last one or two repetitions of a set of high-intensity movements.

Nine: resistance that is provided in the finishing position of the movement, the only position of full muscular contraction.

Ten: the tenth factor may or may not be a requirement for truly proper, full range, high-intensity exercise (this being an unrestricted speed of movement).

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks - Sunderland AFC/Getty Images

In 1975 the U.S. Army conducted ‘Project Total Conditioning’ at West Point with a view to determining the ultimate training program. They used members of the Army football team and the program ran for six weeks. After six weeks the cadets in the Whole Body Group, aka the Nautilus group, increased their strength an average of 60%, increased their flexibility by several hundred percent, doubled their work rate while lowering their heart rates and reduced their times in the two mile run by an average of eighty-eight (88) seconds! How? By training total body, three-times-weekly on Nautilus exercise machines which provide full-range exercise. No other training system has even approached these results. [NEEDS CITATION - DAMIAN]

The results of this study should have driven a sharp, pointed stake through the hearts of those who don’t believe resistance training benefits the heart/lung package. It didn’t - but Dan Riley was on staff at West Point and he left to become the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Penn State where the Nittany Lions football team won three out of four bowl games during his tenure. Riley then became the Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NFL Washington Redskins football team where he won three Super Bowl rings.

Why hasn’t this type of training become universal? Because it’s brutally hard; it makes all other forms of exercise seem like child’s play by comparison. People seem to think exercise should be fun. The word “fun” should never appear in the same sentence with the word “exercise”.

What does science say? Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries, was highly critical of exercise physiologists and their methods. They were products of their education which relied heavily, if not entirely, upon research conducted with a tool that was useless for it’s intended purpose. That tool was an Isokinetic leg-extension machine known as the Cybex Orthotron, invented by a man named Perrine. Arthur searched for Perrine but was unable to locate him, he wanted to burn him at the stake.

In that machine the subject was asked to explode into the movement and, regardless of how much force he applied against the arm - a padded lever - the machine was set to move at a specific angular velocity, such as 90 degrees per second. The subject could give a do-or-die effort, but the lever only moved at the pre-set speed. The spikes caused by impact forces recorded during the test were removed and smoothed out by a “damp”, which Arthur called ‘an electronic lying machine’.

Arthur was attacked on all fronts for his criticism. He simply shook off the attacks like rainwater and asked: “What if their tool is wrong?”.

And it was wrong, Arthur was not the ‘Lone Ranger’ in his fight; eventually others realised Isokinetics were fatally flawed - flawed by as much as five hundred percent (500%!).

Arthur wrote that he’d read more than 10,000 research papers on exercise and muscle function and found only two that were partially true. He pointed out that:

...all the research on muscular function failed to factor in the effects of gravity, stored energy, friction, impact force and true joint isolation.

He said using Isokinetics was like trying to weigh yourself while jumping up and down on your bathroom scales!

The same group are now conducting research with the electromyograph, or EMG, which is used to measure the force of muscular contraction. One of the “pioneers” of EMG was on the faculty of McMaster University, John Basmajian. When I met with Stu McGill, one of Canada’s leading experts on spinal mechanics, he told me that Canadian MMA Champion George St. Pierre has the strongest ‘core’ he had ever measured using EMG. What movement did McGill use to measure his core? A side-kick which involves the muscles of the legs and hips in addition to the muscles of the lower trunk, aka ‘the core’.

Years ago, Arthur wired up a cadaver that was out of rigor-mortis and then produced EMG results by moving the corpse’s limbs. Readings that damn sure did not result from muscular contraction because the subject was stone cold dead! What was it measuring? Internal muscular friction. Would you attempt to take the blood pressure of a corpse? Certainly not, but in essence that’s what exercise scientists are doing today!

The best thing we could do for athletes today is to stuff the top 1,000 self-proclaimed ”Trainers and Coaches” into a A830, fly it into a mountain, then climb to the crash site and stomp on the ashes.

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