by Arthur Jones
From IronMan, January 1971, Volume 30 Number 2, visit www.ironmanmagazine.com
"How much can you press?" is a totally meaningless question, unless you also ask, "How far do
you press, and how fast do you press?"
Strength is the ability to produce power; and while we cannot measure strength directly, we can
measure the amount of power being produced, but to do so, three factors must be considered.
These are: the amount of resistance involved, the distance it is moved vertically, and the time
factor. Thus the ability to press more weight than another man can handle does not necessarily
indicate that you are stronger than he is; not, at least, unless both of you press the same distance,
and in exactly the same time.
If one man presses 275 pounds a distance of two feet in one second, then he is producing one
horsepower; although the second man used exactly twice as much weight, he required twice as
much time to press it an equal distance and thus the strength of the two men is equal.
Why have I chosen this example from basic physics? Because, during a recent telephone
conversation with Mr. Peary Rader, the publisher of Iron Man Magazine, the point was raised
that quite a number of people apparently do not understand the basic physical principles upon
which the new Nautilus training equipment is based; and since it is perfectly normal for people to
have doubts about something which they fail to clearly understand, this article is hopefully
intended to establish just such clarity of understanding even in the minds of people with no
background in physics at all. For that reason this is being written in non-technical terms.
Taken point by point, in a simple, straightforward manner, the basic laws of physics of
importance in the field of exercise should be understandable to most anyone; and without such an
understanding, training progress becomes a matter of "hit or miss" in all cases, and in most cases
far less than optimum results are produced.
"But will such an understanding really help my training progress?" is a question I am frequently
The answer is "NO." No amount of theory will help your training progress -- not, at least,
UNLESS IT IS USED TO GOOD PURPOSE.
But, on the other hand, without a clear understanding of the theory involved, GOOD TRAINING
PROGRESS IS IMPOSSIBLE.
Thus, in very simple terms, such knowledge is a prerequisite for good training progress -- but
does not guarantee such good results.
So much for the IMPORTANCE of the subject -- now we will get down to the nitty-gritty; but I
do want to point out in advance that anybody who fails to understand this article should quit
weight-training immediately; because I am going to write it in such a way as to be understood
Furthermore, we will simply be using the basic principles of the laws of physics which some
people do not understand. I find it necessary to write an article such as this; simply because it
seems that almost nobody has ever made any serious attempt to apply the basic laws of physics to
the field of exercise; instead, many people have blindly (if in many cases honestly) stumbled
around in the dark in search of a source of illumination while holding the light switch in their
hands all the time, and a few other people have produced a small candle in a large cave of
ignorance and falsely proclaimed that it was the sun.
And kindly don't start telling me how big some particular bodybuilder's arms are, while pointing
to such arm size as proof of his great knowledge on the subject of exercise. The production of
any given result (no matter how spectacular it may be) proves nothing beyond the simple fact that
a particular method is capable of producing a given result, eventually.
And it certainly does not follow that some other method could not have produced the same result
more quickly - or without requiring so much effort. I have never claimed that the Nautilus
methods and systems of training are the FINAL answer - and I never will make such claims, but
do claim - and I can prove, and have proven to a lot of people - that the methods we are now
using are at least ten times as productive of results as any previously existing method of training.
So, at the very least, we must do something "better" - if perhaps not perfectly; in fact, I have
repeatedly tried to make point clear in a number of previously published articles, the new
machines have produced such an enormous increase in the production of results that I actually
consider them a bit dangerous in some ways. What happens, for example, when a man gets so
strong that his muscular strength exceeds the ability of his framework to support such strength,
when he can squat with so much weight that it crushes his spine or breaks his leg bones?
Less than two weeks ago, a former Florida State Powerlifting champion visited our gym for the
purpose of training on the new equipment -- but then left without doing so. Why? Well, I can't
honestly answer that question with any real assurance of accuracy, but I do have an opinion; I
think he was totally unprepared for what he saw -- mentally unable to accept it. I think it "blew
Because, while he was preparing to perform his first set of squats, one of our trainees took
15 pounds more than this recent champions best lifetime squat weight, and then performed (12)
twelve full repetitions with it very rapidly. FULL SQUATS -- not half squats or parallel squats
all the way down, buttocks to heels.
This particular trainee is now working toward a goal of doing sets of fifty (50) repetitions in the
full squat with 450 pounds -- and I have made a bet that he will reach that goal. And if he does
so, you can be very sure that he will be the first man in history that ever did.
But why such high reps? Simply because this particular trainee is just too strong to even attempt
to handle the weights that he could perform with if he did sets of a lower number of reps; he is
trying to build strength and muscular size - not kill himself. But in order to build either strength
or muscular size, you must force your muscles to work against ever-increasing loads and
eventually you may reach a point where your strength is too great for your supporting structure of
So -- when you do get that strong, which you will if you train right - you have two choices if you
wish to continue to progress; you can either endanger your bones and tendon attachments, or you
can use less weight and perform a much higher number of repetitions.
Most people do neither; instead they fall into a rut of using the same amount of weight for sets of
a given number, never really forcing themselves. And invariably their progress comes to an
immediate screeching halt, or slows to a snail's pace. Whereupon they look around in
desperation for some "secret" to unlock the door to additional progress; having overlooked
the plain fact that their "style of training" is really to blame.
The human muscular structure is capable of growing at an almost alarming rate, as has been
clearly demonstrated in thousands of cases with beginning trainees and THERE IS NO
SLIGHTEST PHYSICAL REASON WHY SUCH A FAST RATE OF GROWTH CANNOT BE
CONTINUED STEADILY RIGHT UP TO THE POINT OF INDIVIDUAL POTENTIAL.
But if that is true (and it is true), then why do most trainees experience such slow rates of growth
after the usual initial spurt of fast growth that occurs in the case of most beginners?
Because, at the start of training, "any training" was a new experience for their muscular structure,
and growth was stimulated; but later they fall into a rut of doing the same things over and over
again; no new demands for additional strength or size are being imposed, and progress will
become much slower or stop altogether.
And what does this have to do with basic physics?
Just EVRYTHING, that's all. While there is nothing even beginning to approach scientific
agreement on the subject of just "why muscles react in this fashion" it is nevertheless self-evident
truth that muscles do in fact react to exercise, or lack of it, by growing or by losing size and
When a muscle is not exposed to frequent workloads that require it to use a high percentage of
the existing level of strength, then the muscle very quickly loses both size and strength -
apparently because the muscle "decides" that such size and/or strength is no longer required, and
thus sees no reason for maintaining something which is of no benefit to the body as a whole.
Likewise, if a muscle is exposed bones and tendon attachments, or to a workload that is beyond
its momentarily existing level of strength -- or a workload that forces it to work inside a certain
(but unknown) percentile of reserve strength -- then it will respond by growing larger and/or
All of the above should be perfectly clear to any trainee - and yet many thousands of trainees
train in such a fashion that it is obvious that they really don't understand it at all. For
maximum possible progress, every set of every exercise must be carried to the point of utter
failure -- to a point where a full 100% effort produces nothing in the way of movement of the
resistance or the body part being worked.
There are SOME -- but really very few -- exceptions to the above stated requirement for
maximum possible effort; such maximum effort is not required if you are simply trying to reduce
by burning off excess fatty tissue; in that case, maximum expenditure of energy is of greatest
importance, and this can be done by performing large numbers of very light movements that
never require anything even approaching a maximum effort. Also, some people require a bit of
"warming up" prior to heavier exercise, and many people like to perform a few such light
movements even though they don't really require them; but it should be clearly understood that
such LESS THAN MAXIMUM efforts do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the way of building
either strength or muscular size.
But, properly performed, even your light warmup sets can, and should, add to your progress. A paradox?
No, simply a common misunderstanding; light sets can be of value, if they are carried to the point of failure
following a maximum effort. Thus they become "light" only in the sense that the weight being used is
So if you require or desire light warmup sets prior to your heavier sets, then use them; but carry
them to the point of utter failure; curl until you can't even start to bend your arms and the weight drops out
of your exhausted fingers, or press until you can't even jerk the weight away from your chest.
"But," you might say, "if I do that, then I can't handle as much weight in the later, heavier sets;
thus my poundages will drop, and my results will be less rather than better."
WRONG, Wrong, wrong just how wrong can you get? Your muscles don't know how much
weight you are using; if the weight being used is enough to require a maximum
output on the part of your muscles, (hence that is all that is required -- whether this is two ounces or two
tons is of no slightest importance. At least insofar as building muscular size and/or strength is concerned;
building the strength of tendon attachments is another matter entirely, since the tendons are merely "cables"
attaching the working muscle to the supporting bone they are not apparently subject to much, if anything, in
the way of growth, but the attachments can be injured if a too heavy load is imposed upon them. And the
attachments can be strengthened if they are exposed to gradually increasing loads, in much the same manner
that muscular strength is induced by exercise.
So what I am saying is this; make your warmup sets part of your productive workout; and this can only be
done if such sets are carried to a point of maximum-possible effort leading to a failure.
A clear understanding of, and a willingness to practice, this requirement for "maximum-possible effort" is
basic for the production of good results in any sort of physical training designed to increase strength or size.
If you are unable to understand that -- or unwilling to practice such hard training then don't bother to read
the rest of this article, because in that case you will be wasting your time,
But for those who wish to continue...
Individual muscle fibers are shaped a bit like a canoe, when they are relaxed, and when they are flexed
(working), they reduce their overall length while increasing their width, becoming shorter and thicker.
For the purposes of this explanation, let us imagine a long line of canoes extending down a straight stretch
of river; the nose of each canoe being fastened to the tailor the one in front of it. The first canoe, the one
"upstream", is fastened to the bank by its tail, and the last canoe in the long line is attached to a large raft
which is floating freely in the stream, a raft that is prevented from floating away on the current only by the
fact that it is hooked to the final canoe in the long line of canoes.
In effect, we have a "rope" made up of a line of 100 canoes. Each canoe is 10 feet long, so the rope of
canoes is 1,000 feet long.
If you can picture that situation then you have a fair idea of just how one individual "strand" of muscular
fibers would appear under a powerful microscope while in a totally relaxed state.
Then, suddenly, one of the canoes "shrinks" -- reduces its length by half, becomes only 5 feet long instead
of 10 feet long. If the canoe that shrinks is one of those located at the exact midpoint of the rope, then the
rope will not be affected above that midpoint -- but the entire number of canoes below that midpoint will be
affected; the overall length of the lower half of the rope will be reduced from an initial length of 500 feet to
one of 495 feet, and the raft will be pulled up. stream a distance of 5 feet.
Only one canoe can perform any actual "work;" the one that shrank. But the canoes below it will be
moved, and may be exposed to a slight bit of accelerative forces during that movement.
Now, it should be obvious that the raft could be pulled upstream a distance of 500 feet if all of
the canoes were to shrink a half of their initial length; and it should also be obvious that such a "total
movement" of the raft is impossible WITHOUT SUCH WORK ON THE PART OF EVERY SINGLE
A muscle works in much the same way; each individual fiber (canoe) works by reducing its
length; and for total movement of the body part being moved by that muscle. ALL of the fibers must be
working at the same time. BUT ONLY ALL OF THE FIBERS IN ONE STRAND OF MUSCLE.
If the load being moved (the raft in the above example) is quite light then maybe only a few such
strands of muscular fibers are required to move it, and not one single fiber that is not required will be called
into play. Individual muscle fibers work on the well-known "all or nothing" principle -- they are totally
incapable of "degrees of work;" they are either working as hard as possible, or not at all.
Thus, in order to involve ALL of the fibers in the entire muscle in the work, it is necessary to use a weight
that is heavy enough to require such "all out" effort.
But it does not follow that even using such a heavy weight will actually cause all of the fibers to become
involved. In fact, it is utterly impossible to use more than a fairly low percentage of the total number of
individual fibers in a muscle, no matter how heavy the weight is, even if you used ten tons for a curl; or, at
least, this is true if you are training with conventional types of equipment. I will now clearly explain
"WHY" this is not only true, but obviously, self-evidently
true -- indisputably true.
Let us return to the example of the canoes ...
If we had only one such "rope of canoes" and if a weight was added to the raft which made it impossible for
the canoes to "shorten" against such a load, then it would be impossible to move the raft; in that case, to
move the raft we would have to add another, a second, line of canoes to the first one, parallel with it,
helping it. Assuming that two lines of canoes could then move the raft in spite of its now increased weight,
then it is obvious that the raft would start moving upstream, and that it would complete its journey of 500
feet only when all of the canoes were contracted, in which case all of the canoes in both strings would be
But if, before it had moved the full 500 feet, the. raft was approached from behind by a power boat and was
pushed the final 200 feet of its trip upstream, then the load would be removed from the canoes before it was
even possible for all of them to be involved in the work; and that is exactly what happens in all forms of
Individual muscle fibers CANNOT flex unless the involved body part is in the proper position -- and they
WILL NOT flex unless they are needed to meet the demands imposed by an existing load. And all of this is
If all of the individual muscle fibers were flexed at the same time, then the involved body part would have
to be in a fully contracted position; in no other position is it even possible for the fibers to flex. If the load
is removed or decreased, prior to the time that the moving body part has reached a position of full
contraction, then no requirement for the involvement of the total number of available muscle
fibers is being imposed.
Yet, with one or two minor exceptions, no conventional form of exercise provides any resistance at this
point in the exercise; at the very time when greatest resistance is required, and when any resistance is of
greatest possible value, there is literally NO resistance.
Take the squat, for example. As should be obvious, all of the muscle fibers of the thigh simply cannot
become involved in the exercise unless the leg is moved into a fully flexed position (straight, in this case);
yet, in that position there is literally NO resistance. Having moved into that position you can stand there
with little or no effort, and literally none insofar as the thigh muscles are concerned, apart from the tiny
amount of effort required for balance.
So there you stand, having moved with great difficulty into a position where it is finally possible to involve
all of the muscle fibers of the frontal thigh muscles -- and with nothing in the way of resistance available to
work these muscles.
Another example? The curl; at the top, when it has finally become possible to use all of the fibers, the
resistance is removed -- just when you need it, you don't have it.
Other examples: The press, the bench press, the leg press, even most forms of chinning; you name it, it
Exceptions? Very few. None of any great significance; the thigh situps on a decline board, certain forms of
wrist curling, the so-called "triceps kickout," and a few others.
Rowing motions, pulldowns on a conventional lat machine, and most other pulley exercises are not
exceptions, although at first glance they might appear to be; because, in these cases, even though the
resistance is not removed in the fully flexed position, the exercises involve working the interconnected and
far weaker muscles of the arms -- and you fail at a point where the arms are exhausted, long before the
larger, stronger muscles of the torso reach a point of worthwhile stimulation.
By putting yourself into some rather weird and usually very uncomfortable positions, you can work SOME
of the muscles fairly well in their fully flexed positions while using conventional types of training
equipment, but again, the laws of physics prevent you from reaching anything even approaching a really
worthwhile type of movement.
Why? Because you are trying to work a rotary movement by providing it with reciprocal resistance; and
thus, in all cases with conventional equipment, you are limited to a MAXIMUM of something less than 90
degrees of worthwhile movement -- while some muscle structures require a range of movement against
resistance of over 240 degrees, and some muscles require a compound range of movement of nearly a full
If you have understood the above, then it should be obvious that what is required is a type of resistance that
provides the following characteristics?(1) full range movement against constant resistance, (2) rotary
resistance, (3) omni-directional resistance, (4) variable resistance, a weight that grows heavier as the
movement progresses from a position of full extension to one of full contraction, (5) balanced resistance, a
weight that is exactly right in every possible position; not so heavy that it makes movement impossible, but
heavy enough to require the working of all of the individual muscle fibers in the muscle being exercised.
Conventional forms of exercise provide NONE of those characteristics in most cases, and all of them in no
Nautilus equipment provides all of them in most cases, and most of them in all cases. How? -- Again we
return to basic physics, and to the point of "distance, resistance, and speed." Since we can't actually cause
the weight to grow heavier as the movement is in progress, not at least without having somebody standing
there adding plates as you go up and removing them as you go down, and since we can't force you to work
faster, then we are left with only one remaining possible choice; you must be forced to move the weight a
greater distance -- thus we use the new Nautilus spiral pulleys.
At the start of a curl, for example, the radius of the pulley might be 6 inches -- but as you start to bend (curl)
your arms, and thus cause the pulley to rotate, the radius of the pulley changes, grows larger, and the weight
is thus being moved a greater distance, and more power is required to move it this greater
At the end of the curl, the radius might then be 12 inches; twice as great as it was at the start, and thus the
torque (the effective resistance) is twice as great as it was at the start. It's just that simple; that is to say,
about as simple as a jet aircraft, which is quite simple in theory if not in fact.
What do I know about the physics of flight? More than most, less than some -- after 31 years of active
flying, I still hold a valid airline captain's license and have logged 17,300 hours in flight, most of it in
international transport category aircraft.
Any other background in physics? Well, for fourteen years I have been a motion picture producer, with
more than 300 films to my credit; my most recently released film being a CBS Network, one-hour, color
special first telecast on Friday, August 28, 1970, a film called, "Free To Live: Operation Elephant."
And what does producing movies have to do with physics -- or with a knowledge of physical training? In
most cases, perhaps very little, or nothing; but in my case quite a lot. To begin with, such activities as
producing films and operating an international airline provided me with the funds that made it possible for
me to spend a rather sizable slice of my time over a period of thirty years, in a detailed study of the subject
of exercise. Second, my filming activities have been of such a nature that I have been forced, by necessity,
to design and build quite a lot of required equipment, such things as utterly new types of lenses for motion
picture cameras, perfectly stable filming platforms that make it possible to film under ANY conditions
without a trace of vibration in the resulting films, equipment for chasing, capturing and moving whole herds
of elephants, and a number of other things.
Twelve or thirteen years ago, a large national magazine ran a feature article on me in which they made some
rather strong statements (all favorable, if perhaps not quite true); the title of that article was, "His job is
DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE." An overstatement, of course, but remember, they said it, I didn't.
But, back to the subject of importance MY personal background has nothing at all to do with the validity of
my theories and/or the value of the machines -- either the machines work, or they don't, and who made them
is of no concern.
But I will add that eight members of my family are medical doctors, father, mother, brother, sister, paternal
grandfather, uncle, cousin and brother-in-law, and that my youngest daughter has just been accepted by a
major Florida university for the start of her pre-med work in preparation for her M.D. degree, and that my
eldest son is working towards a doctorate in math in the same university; which university, not so
incidentally, has a large computer, without which computer, any reasonably smart genius could probably
work out the exactly required shape of the spiral pulleys that we use in the Nautilus machines in only eight
or ten thousand years -- if he worked around the clock without wasting time on such foolishment as eating
A twenty-eight year old high school teacher in Chicago who is working on his master's degree, called me
yesterday and we talked by long distance for well over an hour; during that conversation he told me that he
understood the workings of my machines perfectly and that, frankly, when he first read my article in Iron
Man it literally "made him sick," because, he said, he had known for years that "something" was wrong with
conventional forms of exercise, but that he had been unable to put his finger on the exact problem -- until he
read my articles; whereupon, he realized just how simple the problem (if perhaps not its solution) really is.
He now plans, he told me, to write the thesis for his master's degree on the working of my machines, and on
the principles upon which they are based. If this comes to pass (as it should) Mr. Rader might later publish
it in Iron Man.
In the meantime, for those who still want more information, we have prepared and are offering Bulletin No.
a much longer, straight to the point outline of the new principles, and a number of what I consider very
valuable tips for incorporating the use of these new principles to weight training without the requirement of
any new pieces of equipment.
You cannot, of course, win a horse race on a camel; and you cannot produce the same results that we are
producing with the Nautilus equipment without using that equipment, but you can markedly improve the
results you are getting from conventional training by using the same principles, where, and as, possible.
Nor will you produce spectacular results even with the new equipment if you fail to use it properly; these
are not, after all, miracle machines; they are simply tools (if perhaps enormously improved tools), and as
such they are subject to misuse like any other tool.
So, if you expect miracles, or if you are looking for an "easy" method of training, then look elsewhere,
because you won't find such things here. Very productive the new machines certainly are, and fast, but they
just as certainly are not "easy."
For the information of the many people who have written wanting to know about the availability of the new
equipment, I am happy to be able to report that we now have three points of production (all of which are
still in Florida), and that we are now able to make shipment of most of the machines within two to three
weeks of the receipt of an order.
Prototypes of a number of new machines are now in various stages of testing in research programs in
Florida public schools and in several universities, and when we are satisfied with the design of these new
machines they will also he offered for sale. In the meantime, the evidence continues to grow that the
Pullover-type Torso Machine is still by far the single most productive exercise device in the history of
physical training -- for anybody, for bodybuilders, for football players, swimmers, track men, power lifters,
A special version of that machine is being designed for use in outer space, in a weightless environment; so it
is at least possible that it may be the first exercise machine to literally become "out of this world."