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XtrafleX Exercise Machines ReviewThis article is courtesy of www.flash.net/~neilw/
Most lifters are well aware that the harder they work the muscles, the stronger are the muscles that did the work. NO PAIN, NO GAIN states the situation very well (though the NO GAIN part is a bit of an exaggeration). All will agree that to gain the most strength and muscle size for a specific muscle, you want to work that specific muscle to the point that it can lift no more, let it rest several days (preferably a week or more, depending on how hard it was worked), then come back and do even more work with that same muscle.
The problem is that with today's equipment, this is an impossible dream with most muscles. If you want to develop your gluteus maximus (glutes), you have to work them along with a lot of other muscles by doing squats or leg presses. Squats in particular exemplify the situation where isolation would be far preferable to working many muscles at the same time: Earlier we mentioned that we want to work each and every muscle to the point that it can do no more. Yet when we're working a large number of muscles in an exercise, as in squats, we quit the exercise as soon as we've decided that any one of the muscles involved can do no more. When this point is reached, it's obvious that other muscles involved could have done more if not held back by the one that caused the lifter to quit. Yet with the inadequacies of today's equipment, there's no way to go ahead and work all these other muscles to their maximum.
Let's examine the NO PAIN, NO GAIN concept as related to squats: When the pain is spread around to so many different muscles, there can be no disputing the fact that the lifter will quit long before each and every muscle involved has done all it can do. It's not even proper to apply the WEAKEST LINK IN THE CHAIN idea to this situation, as this would indicate that at least one muscle involved in the squats had done all it could possibly do. This isn't true. Without all the other muscles sending those STOP THAT signals by way of the nerves to the brain, even the muscle that sent the dominant quit message would have been capable of additional reps. Needless to say, all the other muscles involved receive even less attention in the squats.
Some of the pain involved in the squats isn't even related to muscle overload. Many are greatly distracted by the bar exerting pressure on the upper part of the spine, and by the unnatural position of the elbows and shoulder joints. Additionally, the squatter must concentrate hard on protecting his back, by not bending forward at the low point of the squat.
If the point of the squat is to develop the glutes, this is a big order when you consider all these distractions and complications. Sadly, the situation has been so impossible that many have felt that they have no recourse other than illegal steroids if they want to see development in some of these muscles.
Doing the squats is certainly much better than sitting in front of the TV gobbling junk food, but nowhere nearly as beneficial as working each and every muscle involved to its maximum.
Any way you look at it, when you're working a number of muscles in an exercise, you're robbing benefits from whatever target muscle you intend to develop. When you can isolate the pain involved to one small area, you can certainly stand more pain in this one muscle than if you were being distracted and your energy sapped by a lot of other muscles approaching muscle failure in the same exercise.
Similarly to the squat, the bench press, deadlift, clean-and-jerk, and upright press all involve large numbers of muscles in each exercise. Yet for those who want to excel in these exercises, they would do much better by using exercises which isolate the main muscles involved (if there WERE means to do it). For instance, if a lifter wanted to excel in the squats, he would do an exercise which involves the left quadriceps and no other muscles. He would then isolate the right quadriceps in an exercise. Another exercise would have the left glute doing all the work, and yet another would concentrate on the right glute. Periodically, he would do his squats to bring along all the subsidiary muscles, and polish his routine. There's little doubt that these methods would offer much greater progress than doing squats and not isolating the quads and glutes.
Those who dispute the isolation concept are losing sight of the basics of strength training. Our bodies build up the strength and muscle size according to the needs indicated by past experiences of the body. If a certain area of the body has been overworked to the point that some soreness develops, the body's miraculous healing process kicks in. (This applies not only to muscle, but also to bone, ligaments, tendons, and in many cases skin, as with the palms of the hands of heavy manual laborers.) With each one of these body parts, some type of microscopic ripping and tearing is involved. Soreness follows (to one degree or another). The more the body part was overworked, the greater is the soreness that follows. The greater the soreness, the more the body works to repair itself. The real kicker is the FACT that the body doesn't just strive to bring itself to the point that it was before the injury, but to a point where, should it be similarly abused, it can stand the same treatment without again being made sore.
Once a knowledgeable lifter heals up for a few days, he doesn't just come back and do the same amount of work that he did which caused his soreness: Since he knows he's now stronger, he again overloads his muscle (doing more reps or the same reps with more weight), starting the healing process all over again. By employing these methods repeatedly, he can grow stronger and stronger.
The point we wanted to make in the two previous paragraphs is this: When you recognize that true strength training involves the actual microscopic tearing of muscle fibers, you can see that this is going to result in pain for the lifter. (Though it might be disputed whether or not this should be called pain, since most who lift weights learn to actually enjoy the feeling of bringing their muscles to the point of maximum overload. Still we can think of no other suitable word.) Since there is this pain factor to contend with, and since a particular lifter can only stand the pain involved in tearing (for instance) 100 microscopic muscle fibers, we certainly want all 100 of these fibers to be in one muscle rather than being spread out around a large number of muscles. Ideally, he could then isolate whatever other muscle he wants, and tear his 100 fibers in that one. While we don't want to beat this point to death, it's important enough that a bit more print should be devoted to it: Considering that our lifter can stand only the tearing of 100 muscle fibers in a squat exercise, then it might logically be assumed that he quit once 25 fibers were torn in his left glute, 25 in his right glute, 25 in his left quads, and 25 in his right quads. (Though other muscles are also used, there's little chance that they're used enough to figure in our equation here.) Whereas, if there were means available to do it, he could do an exercise using only his left glute, where he would tear 100 fibers. Later he would do the same for his right glute, left quads, and right quads---each time tearing 100 microscopic muscle fibers. The final compilation would be 100 torn fibers in the squat exercise for the day, and 400 torn fibers in the four separate lower-body exercises.
ONE EXERCISE WHERE YOU CAN ISOLATE THE MUSCLE
We've examined at length the squat exercise, and pointed out how there are such a large number of muscles used in the one exercise. At the other end of the scale is a very popular exercise today---the preacher curl. We'll assume that the lifter uses a spotter to help him get into his starting position. The spotter would hand the curl bar to the seated lifter, whose elbows would be firmly planted in the preacher curl bench and his forearms upright. A significant difference should be noted here between the preacher curl and most other exercises today:----at this starting point in the curl exercise, the biceps are near full contraction and, though the lifter is in control of a heavy curl bar, there is virtually no resistance against the biceps, the target muscles in the exercise. Once the curl bar is lowered, the resistance increases against the biceps until it's at the maximum when the forearms are horizontal. Then when the curl bar is again lifted to where the forearms are vertical, the resistance decreases to nothing. Though a machine employing all the advantages offered by the XtrafleX concept (as listed elsewhere in this presentation) would vastly improve upon the preacher curl, still it offers one very beneficial feature found in so very few of today's exercises---VARIABLE RESISTANCE: where the resistance against the muscle is nonexistent when the muscle is contracted.
This variable resistance feature is rare in today's exercises, even though it would be an invaluable tool in isolating individual muscles, were it widely available. When a full range of XtrafleX machines are built, every rep in every exercise will have this variable resistance feature.
There have been attempts in the past to build machines where the lifter can isolate individual muscles in an exercise, but by not employing variable resistance as described above, they fall far short. A typical pec-deck can be used as a good example. A huge deficiency built into the pec-deck and all the other weight-stack machines is the fact that the starting point of the exercise has the pertinent muscles extended, and when the muscles are brought to the point of maximum contraction, the resistance remains against the muscles. Though various manufacturers have searched for satisfactory cam configurations to soften this defect, their attempts are futile.
The only satisfactory arrangement would have the starting point of every rep in every exercise with the pertinent muscle at its most-contracted point (as chosen by the lifter) and NO STRESS AT ALL against the muscle. As the pertinent muscle is extended to the maximum point of the rep, the resistance against the muscle would be at the maximum. Then as the muscle is again brought to its most-contracted part in the rep, the resistance again decreases to nothing.
Though it might appear to some that we're getting off the isolation track by dwelling on this variable-resistance feature, this is not the case. Variable-resistance is an irreplaceable part of the ability to isolate single muscles in an exercise. Yet it's not the only one.
With virtually all of today's strength-training machines, adjusting the range of motion within an exercise is unheard of. Since the lifter can't put the maximum resistance at the point he chooses anyhow, there would be no need for him to have full control over the range of motion. So the accepted way is to have every exercise include the largest-possible range of motion, then have the lifter use whatever amount of that full range that he chooses. He can't properly keep track of whether he's using the same range of motion as he did at other times when he did the same exercise, which means that any 'count' he might attempt of the reps in the exercise would be useless. If he can't count the reps, how can he challenge his body to do one more rep than the last time he did the same exercise?
Now that we can offer a concept in strength-training machines which, in every rep of every exercise, will have the resistance against the muscle go from nothing---to whatever maximum resistance the lifter has chosen---and back to nothing, all within a single rep, then to make the utmost use of this (variable-resistance) feature, it follows that we'd want to be able to choose where to put the maximum stress. In every exercise, there is a point in the range of motion where the muscle is stronger than at other points. This strongest point is SELDOM at the point where the muscle is most extended, NEVER at the point where it's most contracted, but usually somewhere between the midpoint and the most-extended point. More important yet, one lifter THINKS this strongest point is in a different place than another lifter, so he'd like to be able to set up his exercise range-of-motion according to his particular beliefs. (The funny part is, he's always right. His believing it makes it happen.)
Every XtrafleX machine will have a pop-pin which dictates the range of motion in the exercise. A simple and quick movement of the pop-pin from one numbered position to another can change the range of motion from (for instance) 180 degrees to 20 degrees. But yet in even the tiny 20 degree range of motion, the lifter would still have the variable-resistance feature and the two-preset-weight feature.
As if these features weren't revolutionary beyond belief, there's still another aspect that hasn't been mentioned: Every machine will have at least one other pop-pin (some two more---one for each arm/leg/whatever) which dictates where, within the possible full range of motion, the shorter range of motion is placed. It could be where the pertinent muscle is fairly-well contracted, where it's quite extended, or at any point between.
All these features, when taken together, open broad fields of new potential for the world of strength-training, body-building, and therapy. Up to now, there have been many muscles which couldn't be properly worked, except secondarily to working other muscles (if at all). As XtrafleX machines are built, the lifters will be able to develop these muscles as never before.
The deltoids are muscles that many would like to develop, but about all they could do in the past was upright presses or dumbbell presses where the triceps are the primary muscle worked. The laterals are another which many would like to isolate, but in the past this has been impossible: In the cable pull-downs where many try to develop the laterals, the biceps and forearm muscles sap much of the energy that should be used for the laterals. The trapezius muscles that pull the shoulders upwards, as with all the other 'shrug' muscles that encircle the shoulders, all the neck muscles, the adductor and abductor muscles of the upper thigh, the hip flexors-----all these muscles and many more will be susceptible to development as never before, once a full line of XtrafleX machines are built. The muscles that ARE regularly worked today will of course also be developed far better and faster using the XtrafleX concept.
While the two-weight feature (mentioned elsewhere in this presentation) would be a separate but extremely beneficial part of the XtrafleX concept, all the other revolutionary features work together to offer the lifter the opportunity to isolate individual muscles as never before. VARIABLE RESISTANCE + TOTALLY CONTROLLED RANGE of MOTION = ISOLATION.
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