May 12, 2021
In part 2 of this interview, Brian Cygan and Dr. James Fisher
discuss the science of strength and why the accepted wisdom of
exercise may actually be causing more harm than good. Learn how
many exercises you really need during a session, why “cardio”
exercises aren’t necessary if you use the right level of effort,
and how to keep yourself from getting injured by reducing the range
of motion while still getting the fitness results you desire.
- Beyond the minimum exercise dose, you can add as many exercises
as you see fit. There is a balance though. If you add too many
exercises it can start to impact the frequency of which you can
- As you increase the number of exercises in one workout, you
lengthen the time it takes to recover, so there’s a tradeoff.
Recent studies have shown that volume is more important than
frequency as well.
- There is an inverse relationship between someone’s ability to
work hard and the length of a workout. Eight exercises seems like
the optimal number for clients to be able to give their whole
effort for as many exercises as they can.
- The accepted wisdom regarding the strength and endurance
continuum is that to build strength you need a heavy load and fewer
reps, and for endurance you use a lighter load and more
repetitions. Studies have shown that it doesn’t particularly
matter. If your strength increases your endurance also increases.
As long as you use a high degree of effort you will get the optimal
- 45 seconds of time under tension is usually enough time to
achieve the majority of muscle fiber recruitment if you’re using a
high level of effort. Some of this depends on the person and their
preference because of the perceptual and comfort differences.
- Longer times under load are associated with higher degrees of
discomfort and negative perceptual responses. Across a broad
population, this is going to have a negative impact on motivation
- In order to really optimize strength training, we need to start
looking at the individual perceptual response and how that impacts
the motivation to stick with a program and give a whole effort
- A common mistake many trainers make is recommending older
people use lighter weights and increasing the number of reps they
do. This often results in the person feeling sore for days and with
little motivation to return to the gym. Working with a moderate
load to enhance strength and muscular endurance is better.
- Bone mineral density is a key variable, especially in females
and older adults, and we know that it only improves with impact or
heavier loads. With a light weight, we run the risk of not
improving bone mineral density which can result in a higher risk of
- A number of studies show that supervision enhances results and
the better the supervision, the better the results.
- One of the key factors with proper supervision is that they
promote and enforce good technique. This serves to keep the correct
muscles under tension and prevent other muscles from getting
- If someone is getting injured in the gym, something about the
technique went wrong. Supervision can help you avoid those sorts of
- Research seems to indicate that we can actually limit the range
of motions for many exercises and still see strength increases
throughout the range. Injuries typically occur at the extremes of
the range of motion of an exercise, so by eliminating those ranges,
you reduce the risk of injury and you can still improve
- With most exercises, it’s not an acute injury that causes
problems, it’s the wear and tear over time that creates injuries.
For an adult client, the extreme ranges of motion are not helpful,
and they can get the fitness results they want with a safer
- If you’re not currently doing any exercise, the best thing you
can do is strength training. By doing that you will see
cardiovascular improvements at the same time.
- High intensity training has been shown to improve the
cardio-respiratory system within a matter of weeks of starting
- If someone is already a cardio athlete, adding strength
training may not improve their performance drastically, but there
still will be other health benefits.
- The idea that you need to do cardio to see cardiovascular
benefits and strength training to improve strength is a bit
outdated. Strength training with high levels of effort has been
shown to stimulate both adaptations.
- Even cycling, when taken to the highest level of effort, can
stimulate similar levels of adaptations to lifting weights. This is
why modality doesn’t matter as much as the level of effort
- Optimal results mean safe as possible, sustainable, with
maximum results and minimum time required. This is why so many
trainers have landed on strength training as the most effective
- As you get older, strength training becomes a weight loss
method, a way to avoid getting injured or sick, and a lifestyle of
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