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ViiV Isometrics 

Workout Avoidance Now Impossible to Rationalize

Aging bodies, busy lives: a terrible combination – until now; especially now.

That was my advertising plea for years, punctuated with a poignant entendre: Don’t waste your time exercising.

I wasn’t advising not to exercise, but attempting to highlight the time efficiency of my method, an intensity-packed 30 minutes one to three times per week.

That was revolutionary in the 1980s, when I started the first of what would turn out to be strength-training studios in three different cities. Now I’m wondering if more than 2 minutes per week is necessary? Yes, 120 seconds, seriously.

The Evolution

Follow the progression.

Nautilus burst upon the workout world in the 1970s. These were the cam-equipped strength-training machines invented by Arthur Jones, who excelled at both ingenuity and attracting attention to himself

My earliest recollection of “Nautilus training” featured a recommendation of about seven repetitions per exercise, with one set of no more than 12 total exercises. As detailed in the books of Dr. Ellington Darden, who would become my mentor, great physiques could be chiseled in three half-hours per week.

No more two hours in your basement every night, super setting lower body one night, upper body pressing the next, and back and biceps the third.

Nautilus was a “thinking man’s barbell,” supplying a level of resistance that varied as movement occurred, matched presumably to the muscle group’s strength curve plotted across a range of motion. The rotating cam functioned as a lever upon the weight stack.

Then Nautilus machines were retrofitted with Kevlar straps and needle bearings in place of chain and brash bushings, reducing apparatus friction to make them more efficient at triggering hypertrophy. Then Jones eliminated weight stack guide rods by designing a new invention, MedX, with levers that pushed a weight stack upward instead of pulling it. Concurrently, a training protocol emerged that reduced the momentum generated in repetitions by moving in slow motion.

Slow The Way To Go

The agony need not be repeated more than once per week for most adherents of what was termed super slow (or some reasonable facsimile thereof). But this protocol, trademarked by Ken Hutchins and further popularized by Dr. Doug McGuff, featured not just slow movement but eventually no movement.

“The exercise starts when movement stops,” was a Hutchins slogan. A super slow set wasn’t complete until – despite an all-out agonizing effort – there was little perceptible movement of the resistance for about 15 seconds.

That is a key point. But first, we have to acknowledge efforts made to increase the ratio of eccentric load to concentric – or how much you can lower compared to what you can lift. Along came XForce, most notably, which tilts the weight stack during the lifting phase to reduce required torque, then shifts the stack into fully upright position by motor as the lowering phase begins. How much we can lower compared to the amount we can lift is much greater in fresh muscle, and greater still in a fatigued muscle group as Jones demonstrated long ‘bout 1986.

‘I don’t care how much exercise you can stand – I want to know how little you need.’
– Arthur Jones, Nautilus inventor
ROI of marketing expenditures in Atlanta

When Jim Flanagan, a very strong man, could no longer exert two pounds of force on a leg extension with a motorized movement arm (something like today’s ARX or Exorbotics machines), he was still able to exert more than 100 pounds against in the eccentric phase. 

What’s evident is that there is a limitation of full-range strength training that ends the exercise when concentric contraction can no longer move the resistance.

Enter ViiV-Rx

I recently became involved with a company marketing a multi-station exercise apparatus accommodating about 11 different isometric contractions. The torque of each immovable burst is measured by a strain gauge that provides a force reading via iPad to inspire the exerciser to exceed a previous best.

Each contraction is 10 seconds. The ViiV-Rx Prescription Strength machine, to whatever degree it is effective, makes consistent strength training available to the time starved, those gym shy, or anyone dead-set on agony avoidance.

The question of effectiveness hinges on exactly what is required to trigger hypertrophy. We might understand this better if we think about a suntan.

Not all the rays streaming from the sun turn our skin gold – only the ultraviolet rays, which can now be incorporated into a sun lamp. Sort of like a microwave oven, a sun lamp’s concentration of UV rays provide quick tanning.

An isometric contract, with the involved muscle mass in its joint angular position of greatest force development (meaning: maximum muscle fiber recruitment) is much like a sun lamp. The biofeedback of the force reading coming from the screen excites the central nervous system into an all-out effort. This is the lifter’s goldmine of “overload” and it becomes progressive overload with subsequent workouts of greater force production.

That’s my theory, and – until or unless a study of identical twins proves something to the contrary – I’m believing it.

Five ViiV Footnotes

Incorporate the following into your assessment of this latest technology.

1 I was privileged to work directly for Arthur Jones at the time he was developing what would become MedX, which first manufactured spine rehab equipment. I participated in numerous demonstrations Jones conducted explaining the superiority of isometric contractions – over dynamic repetitions – for accuracy and reproducibility in strength testing. 

2 If you’ve established an effective strength-building workout, stick with it unless your schedule becomes cramped or you’re experiencing some joint discomfort or psychological disenchantment. You can use an isometric workout for variety but with regard to your established workout: “If it aint broke, don’t fix it,” to quote a famous former president.

3 Muscle development and strength are the top biomarkers established by the Council on Aging. There’s discussion of recognizing “strength” as a vital sign. Both the process of building muscle, and its existence, is hormonally healthy. If you’re not now succeeding in maximizing your strength potential, The ViiV-Rx is the first system you should engage. 

4 Because very few can have the body of their dreams (we all dream for things we can’t have) a natural tendency when strength training is to think if some is good, more must be better. Simply put: if I’m not as muscular as a I want to be, more reps, more sets, more weight, more, more, and moreis my likely impulse. Unfortunately, we’re all relegated to our genetic potential. As I’ve seen workouts become more time efficient, I have witnessed only less time required for maximum benefit, and not greater overall muscular manifestation. 

5 ViiV is designed for once-per-week sessions but when/if you fail to show a force increase on any 3 contractions in a row, another day of rest is suggested. It’s conceivable that some may strength train ideally once every 10 days, then maybe up to every 2 weeks, or even beyond. Could they train more frequently? Possibly, but as Arthur Jones proclaimed frequently:

“I don’t care how much exercise you can stand. I want to know how little you need.”

We’re excited about the ViiV-Rx Prescription Strength Machine not because it’s going to create bodybuilding champions, but because it will capture a slice of the 4 out of 5 Americans not now strength training and put some muscle into their battle against the cascade of chronic lifestyle disease that typically emerges with hypertension or diabetes.

Got strong! But don’t waste your time exercising.

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