Bob Clayson's Optimal Exercise
for optimal health, aesthetic form, and function

What is Optimal Exercise?

Optimal Exercise

I believe that to understand the concepts and intentions of what I refer to as “Optimal Exercise”, we may begin by giving the definitions of those words:

Optimal: best and most advantageous; surpassing all others

Exercise: An activity requiring physical effort esp. to sustain or improve health and fitness

It only makes sense that when one is engaging in an activity with a well defined goal to achieve, that you attempt to make your efforts and outcome optimal, meaning; best and most advantageous, surpassing all others. Anything other than the best, is simply a waste of time, and if there is one thing we can’t get back it’s our time. Time moves forward whether we use it or not.
Under that light, Optimal Exercise can be described by the following three points:

1. To achieve the full spectrum of benefits of exercise, which are summarily: total fitness, aesthetic development of the body, and maintenance of health.

2. To reduce or eliminate the negative side-effects and risk of injury of many forms of exercise on the tissues and joints of the body, while maintaining and maximizing benefits.

3. To achieve points 1 and 2 efficiently and effectively with the minimal time investment necessary.

Those points and goals can be achieved by close adherence to a set of principles that are the result of exhaustive study and experimentation by scientists, exercise physiologists and medical professionals of the last half century. They are commonly known under the High Intensity theory of exercise.

The Stimulus is Intensity

High Intensity Training (or HIT) is a term coined by the late Arthur Jones in the 1970’s which refers to exercise that optimizes your results by focusing on the primary scientifically proven stimulus for the above mentioned positive effects. This stimulus is intensity. Intensity can be defined as the difficulty of the work as well as the effort placed into it. The body must be pushed beyond what it is normally accustomed to, or it will have no reason to adapt and change. Intensity, as Arthur explained, has an inverse relationship to time. The harder or the more intense the work, the shorter an individual can sustain it. High intensity, also means greater and more complete muscle fiber recruitment, allowing both type I and II muscle fibers to be aggressively recruited and ultimately improved. Greater strength and anaerobic adaptations are generally associated with these shorter work-outs. However, the aerobic system is also amply stimulated.

The aerobic system is being pushed to its maximum capability during the workout and during recovery. During anaerobic work, a great deal of lactic acid is built up in the system. It is then shuttled by the bloodstream into the liver, where it is converted into pyruvate; the primary source of energy of the aerobic system. It is then shuttled back to the cells where the mitochondria continue to aerobically metabolize it, well after the work-out has terminated. It is actually during this recovery phase that the aerobic system gets it’s greatest stimulation. As you can see, this intense, but brief workout allows the trainee to get a wide variety of benefits in a fraction of the time that is commonly recommended.

While the concepts and theories of HIT have been hotly debated and even ridiculed by both the bodybuilding and traditional aerobic exercise establishments; the scientific literature of the past 50-60 years is overwhelming in favor of this style of exercise for strength, hypertrophy, body composition improvements, aerobic and metabolic conditioning, and health. Not only does HIT at least match the health and conditioning benefits of traditional strength training and long steady-state aerobics, but has many benefits that are entirely unique to it. One of the foremost benefits to HIT, is drastically reduced time investment with equal or superior results.

Sufficient Recovery

Often the reason that one is not achieving the desired results, aside from insufficient intensity of effort, is because they are performing exercise too often, or too long, not allowing adequate time to recover. This is a result of not understanding what the exact stimulus is for gaining the desired adaptations, as well as not understanding the required time frame for recovery and overcompensation.

Gross overtraining is common among fitness enthusiasts and those simply trying to get in better shape. Exercise routines recommended in books, magazines and online often include the number of sets, reps, and frequency of exercise in a neat “one size fits all” package. The main problem with this is that it ignores the genetic differences that are responsible for how well we tolerate, and respond to exercise. Worse still, these canned programs are often developed and recommended by athletes and fitness professionals with drastically superior genetics to the average individual.

These individuals, due to their impressive physiques and athleticism, mistakenly believe themselves to be authorities in the matter. Often these “authorities” are also supplementing their recovery with performance enhancing drugs, allowing them to tolerate much greater amounts of exercise as well as recover quicker than their natural counter-parts. The current state of the fitness industry is that the genetically gifted and chemically enhanced are now coaching and selling their exercise programs to the genetically average and totally natural trainee.

The results are that most of the population are failing in their attempts to change their bodies, despite an ever growing expenditure of time and money per capita. Not only are we receiving counsel from those with genetic and chemical advantages making it useless to the average individual, but we are also being sold recommendations based on bad science and gimmicks; quickly put together with clever marketing and promotion, but with little of value in terms of content.

Genetics and Individuality

High Intensity Training and Optimal Exercise are firmly based on the principle of individuality, which is, that all people are given differing genetic make-ups which means that the volume, intensity and frequency of a workout must be altered to give optimal results for each genotype.

Demonstrable strength, potential muscle size, shape and endurance, are all genetically predetermined. While we may maximize the expression of our genes, we cannot exceed their limits. Any program stating that it will, “give you a hip-hop body” or “give you a stocky power-lifters physique” is selling you lies. It is usually the activity that has selected a certain body type that will excel at it, rather than that activity actually changing your body. It is common to hear things like, “I want a swimmers body, so I’m going to pick up swimming.” Although it may not be as obvious, it is the same thing as saying, “I want to be taller, so I’ll play basketball!” The physical characteristics that make one a good swimmer, basketball player, power-lifter, bodybuilder or dancer are genetically predetermined and those with the right collection of genetic traits will likely excel, while all others will eventually wash out.

Ultimately the progress and end result of your exercise will be determined by:

  1. The stimulus must be sufficient to cause the body to adapt. It is metabolically expensive for the body to become stronger and more fit and it is reluctant to do so unless it is convinced that it may not survive unless it does so.
  2. Sufficient recovery from the workout. Every workout is a negative to the body. Meaning that it drains the body of energy and resources. Following a workout, the body must recovery those resources, and if the stimulus was sufficient to cause an adaption, it will then add energy, resources, and capabilities, improving your fitness. The adaptions are not limited to muscle. They also occur in joints, bones, organs and nervous system tissue, and these adaptions can take longer than you think. There is virtually no part of the body that is not effected by proper exercise.
  3. Your genetic potential for endurance, muscle mass, and strength, or any other factor of fitness. Everyone has their genetic limit, and eventually we have to face that.

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