We know that clients work with us for a variety of reasons: Stanley (in the image above) has a specific goal, muscle. In fact, many of our clients have this goal too, but it's not the only reason they come to see us. Our clients work with us for support, enjoyment, community, guidance, support, and results. For the purpose of this article, let’s consider the latter: achieving results.
With this context in mind, we can view our exercise choices as an opportunity to create the right stimulus to generate the desired adaptation.
Exercise is a process of stimulation and adaptation.
And the tissue we are attempting to stimulate is muscle. After all, it’s the demand on muscle that helps our clients get stronger; be more flexible, lose body fat; improve cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure; improve mental clarity and focus, stress relief and more.
Stimulation of muscles occurs through applying forces to the body, in the form of external resistance. And if we integrate the principle of progressive overload, this means exposing the muscle to a stimulus that meets or exceeds what is accustomed to.
Our traditional approach progressive overload is to choose a load that we have previously utilised, and add a little. From a big-picture perspective, this is the correct way to implement this principle. But there are flaws.
Our strength changes throughout a range of motion (ROM). Different joints, planes and whether we are performing a single-joint, or multi-joint exercise can affect how strong, or weak we are.
This change in strength can be defined as the strength profile (Resistance Training Specialist, 2001).
Meanwhile, the resistance on offer from exercises can change throughout a ROM. Cables, dumbbells, machines and their relationship to active joints can affect how heavy, or light the exercise is.
This change in resistance can be defined as the resistance profile (RTS, 2001).
In an ideal world, we would utilise the most appropriate load (progressive overload) at each point in the range. Creating a ‘full-range challenge’ (RTS, 2001) that generates the desired response. This isn’t always the case. Often, we perform exercises where the exercise is its heaviest, where we are our weakest. Creating an optimal stimulation in only a small section of the exercise.
Exploring the Strength Profile to Resistance Profile relationship
Let’s explore the barbell bench press.
We are weaker in the bottom of the movement, and stronger at the top.
Yet, the exercise is heavier at the bottom, and lighter at the top.
Side note: how does a barbell change how heavy it is? It doesn’t but when you apply a load to an axis, it’s converted into torque. The further a load is from an axis, the greater the torque, the greater the demand. The predominant stimulation in the barbell bench press is in the bottom of the movement.
We see this in other exercises, such as the DB Lateral Raise
SA DB Row
An efficient approach to stimulating muscle
If we wish to create a full-range challenge (FRC), it’s evident that we need to match the resistance profile to the strength profile. But this is not always possible with every muscle. Here are the two primary ways we can create a FRC.
1. Build the most appropriate exercise.
In the case of the bench press, we want the exercise to get heavier as we reach the top. This is where we might use resistance bands to add resistance (bands from the bottom) or remove resistance (bands from the top).
2. Create exercises that have complementary profiles
We know the bb bench press has the greatest stimulation in the bottom, with the pec major in the lengthened range. An exercise such as CB seated flyes, which can be set up to be heavier towards the shortened range pairs well with the bench press.
Which option you choose depends upon the equipment you have to hand, and also the time you have with your client.
For some of our general population clients at Integra HQ, time is a rare commodity and efficiency of stimulation is key. They don’t have 4+ hours per week to do multiple exercises.
Over all of our courses and workshops we explore exercise as a stimulus to generates the results our clients pay us for.
And part of the deal is understanding how the body works (strength profile) and how exercise changes once applied to the body (resistance profile).
The knowledge of SP and RP will allow us to:
- Create complementary strength-resistance profiles
- Complete inadequate RP’s created by linear resistance (gravity, cables)
- Accommodate for fatigue
- Assess the value and appropriateness of a traditional exercise RP
- Assess the value and appropriateness of the RP of a machine
- Learn where and when to provide manual assistance to optimise the RP for final reps
- Create full-resisted ROM challenges vs full ROM exercises