May 5, 2021
Brian Cygan and Dr. James Fisher break down the science of
strength and discuss what the proper level of resistance during
training is, the threshold for the effort that you need to achieve
to see results, and why some exercises are best avoided if you want
to see optimal fitness benefits.
- Fisher is an exercise scientist in the UK and was a personal
trainer for a number of years before becoming a researcher. His
area of research was mainly lower back pain and lower back strength
and has recently been looking into the perceptual responses to
- He advocates a framework of evidence-based resistance training.
One of the first papers published was focused on guiding trainers
and trainees on what the research supports and how to exercise the
- In total, Dr. Fisher, in collaboration with researchers from
around the world, has published over 100 papers. The part he enjoys
the most is the fact that once one paper is published, the research
always raises new questions to explore.
- There is a mountain of evidence that supports the health
benefits of resistance training. Ultimately, all the benefits
combine and stronger people have a reduced risk of all-cause
mortality. In layman’s terms, the stronger you are, the harder you
are to kill.
- The goal of most people with resistance exercise is to have a
biological age that is lower than your chronological age. We want
to live longer and be able to function as if we were much
- Resistance training resets the biological clock, sometimes by
decades. Studies on older males using resistance training showed
they had similar cellular characteristics as men in their
- The first thing you need to understand is that the key is the
tension of the muscle doing the work, not just moving an external
load. The evidence supports the finding that effort is key, which
is where most people go wrong as they fear the hard work. Whole
effort is one of the guiding principles of the Exercise Coach.
- The intensity of effort really matters to trigger the results
we are looking for from exercise. There is also a threshold of a
near maximal effort to trigger a response from the body.
- If people are working at a lower intensity, the volume becomes
a key factor. If we train to a higher level of effort, the volume
- For the average person, optimal results can be achieved with
two 30 minute-or-less workouts per week. For bodybuilders, there
are some questions around doing more training in order to maximize
muscle growth, but for most people, they want the functionality of
strength and not an increase in size.
- To get a whole body benefit, the minimum dose of training
performed is only three exercises: an upper body pressing exercise
(bench press), an upper body pulling exercise (seated row), and a
lower body pressing exercise (leg press). Those can be complemented
with additional multi-joint movements for other areas of the body
that need work.
- Even under lockdown, people can see positive benefits from
doing simple exercises like pushups and lunges.
- Squats are a unique exercise because it has a high degree of
coordination and skill. You can become “stronger” at the squat
without really seeing results in other areas because you are just
becoming better at moving the weight up and down. This is why the
leg press is a more beneficial lower body pressing exercise.
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