The Take Charge Event: Fitness at the Edge of Science

This past weekend I had the honor of being invited as a panelist for a conference to Honor Clarence Bass’s 75th birthday and the release of his new book Take Charge: Fitness at the Edge of Science. The format of the conference was to discuss in an academic fashion some of the scientific literature that underpins the content of Clarence’s book and his lifetime approach to physical fitness.  There were 3 separate panel discussions that began with a presentation of the pertinent scientific literature by a leading academic researcher from the field of exercise physiology.  After the presentation of the literature, panelists from the strength and conditioning community would provide commentary and personal insight.

The day began with a meet and greet along with a Continental breakfast.  I was excited, and despite my attempts to blow time on the walk from the hotel to the Stark Center (located in the North End Zone building at the University of Texas football stadium), I arrived early and well before anyone else.  When the elevator doors opened on the 5th floor, I was immediately greeted by a to-scale replica of the Farnesse Hercules.


As I walked into the foyer, I saw an incredible variety of photos and items from the history of physical culture.  I slowly walked around the room taking in all the sights.  I was amazed at the collection.  Just as I got to the front of the foyer, I looked down what I thought was a hallway and found it was actually an opening to a museum that probably stretched 75 yards back.  On the walls were some amazing photos from the history of strength and conditioning.  As I stood gazing at these amazing photos the next attendee to show up walked up behind me.  It was Dr. Kevin Fontaine who was part of the research team at Johns Hopkins University that was studying the effects of strength exercise on patients with rheumatoid arthritis using RenEx equipment.  Kevin is now faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Department of Public Health.  His research there is focused on the use of strength exercise in treating obesity.  They will also be incorporating RenEx equipment in their research, and they will be undergoing training on proper implementation of the equipment from the RenEx team in Cleveland.

Kevin and I toured the amazing photos and talked about how cool the “golden age” of muscle beach looked.  Kevin shared some great photos of his 16 year-old son Joshua who is in very muscular condition.  Kevin also showed an i-Phone video of his son deadlifting 500 pounds at a bodyweight of 142!  Doug Holland would be proud.  My own i-Phone was already running low on batteries, so I took some pictures of the best photos and items which I will share here.

Muscle beach bodybuilders 1947.
Muscle Beach. Santa Monica 1947
Training in a 1947 gym.  Barbells, dumbells and no benches, but great results.
1947 Gym. Barbells, dumbells, little to no benches.
Sigmund Klein's shot-filled barbell.
Sigmund Klein's shot-filled barbell
Pudgy Stockton on stage circa 1940's.
Pudgy Stockton on stage in the 1940's.
Muscle Beach.  Pudgy doing a back-bridge with two bodybuilders on top.
Muscle Beach. Pudgy Stockton back-bridge supporting two male bodybuilders.
Arnold and Sergio at the Duncan Y.
Arnold and Sergio chillin at the Duncan Y.

The first panel discussion was led by Dr. Ed Coyle professor of exercise physiology at the Univerity of Texas.  The topic of this discussion was the aerobic/strength alliance.  The emphasis of Dr. Coyle’s lecture was the most recent scientific literature that shows that the aerobic metabolic system can be very effectively conditioned through appropriate strength training and that the previous notion that only steady state activity could produce aerobic conditioning had finally been disproven.  He presented several papers referenced in Clarences book in support of the aerobic/strength alliance.  I, along with Kevin Fontaine provided commentary after Dr. Coyle’s presentation.  Since this notion was a major portion of what John and I laid out in BBS, this was very easy for me to comment on.  Most of my time was spent illustrating how mitochondria evolved from infecting proto-bacteria that fed of the waste products of single-celled anaerobic organisms.  These proto-bacteria actually became symbiotic with anaerobic cells and became incorporated as part of the cells metabolism.  This shows why the aerobic system is entirely dependent on the engagement of the anaerobic system whose end-product serves as substrate for the aerobic system.  Finally, I emphasized how these systems are not separate and distinct, but actually run concurrently.  This then shows how the cardiovascular system must serve all of metabolism, not just the aerobic portion.  Kevin Fontaine then followed up with his own insights from research conducted at Hopkins and UAB demonstrating benefits from strength training in both autoimmune patients and obese patients that were previously ascribed only to aerobics.

After the first panel discussion, the speakers and panelists were treated to Lunch at the University of Texas Club at the UT Stadium.  It was an incredibly luxurious venue with an amazing buffet.  I sat at a table with Kevin Fontaine, Dr. Waneen Spirduso of the University of Texas Kinesiology department, physique photographer Lazlo Bencze and his wife.  After a delicious lunch and wonderful conversation we headed back to the Stark Center for the remaining panel discussions.

The next panel disucssed “the rise of intervals” and was led by Dr. Joe Signorile of the University of Miami.  He is the chair of the department of exericse physiology and author of Bending the Aging Curve. He presented the literature from Clarence’s book that shows that aerobic conditioning can be obtained using a program of high intensity intervals and that the conditioning obtained meets or exceeds that obtained by steady state activity.  He again reiterated that the aerobic and anaerobic systems operated concurrently rather than separately and dichotomously.  The main point that he gave as a takeaway from his presentation was “There is no such thing as a time-dependent energy pathway”.   Commentators included Dean Brignac and Dan Keating.  Dean is a gym owner (Centurion Fitness) from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who is a lifetime fitness advocate who had always been a “fat but fit” guy until he stopped doing hours of weekly aerobics and began incorporating brief intervals and decreased his volume of weight training.  Now at age 50 he maintains single digit body fat and a 29 inch waste, where he previously weighed in the mid 200’s with a 37 inch waste.  Dan Keating is an attorney and long-time follower of Clarence’s who has also achieved amazing condition in his 50’s.  Dan, Along with Terry and Jan Todd, was instrumental in organizing the event.

The final panel topic was “Forget Heavy, Think Effort”.  The main presentation was made by Dr. Richard Winett of the University of Virginia.  He presented the scientific evidence that shows that it is not the weight or percentage of one rep max that is important in stimulating muscle gains but rather that a high degree of effort and meaningful fatigue were key.  He also discussed at length the importance of an internalized approach of seeking muscular fatigue, instead of the externalized approach of attacking the weights in an effort to lift more weight.  Commentators again included Kevin Fontaine who discussed the success of an internalized approach and timed static contraction as he applies it to himself, his wife and his study subjects at the University of Alabama.  The other commentator was Dave Goodin (AKA The Texas Shredder) who at age 54 is still a champion natural bodybuilder.  Dave was only a few weeks out from competition and was in amazing condition.  He discussed how his approach of internalization and use of more moderate weights with focus on form and fatigue has given him longevity as a still competitive bodybuilder.

The evening was capped off with a wonderful dinner set up in the lobby of the Stark Center with Jan and Terry Todd hosting and honoring Clarence.  Clarence gave a short and humble speech.  He was clearly moved by the event, and I believe he was close to tears at a few points.  Clarence is very reserved and self-depricating and his stoicism at such a moving time was impressive.   A keynote address was given by Dr. Waneen Spirduso who gave a stirring lecture on her area of interest:  how exercise extends human life and the quality of those years.  She thanked Clarence for being a shining example and providing a lifelong documentary of how exercise can extend extreme physical fitness well beyond what we previously thought.

This event was truly legendary.  I got to meet someone that I read and followed since I was a teenager.  I got to meet folks that I have corresponded with often, but had not yet met and I got to meet some legends of the iron game.  I got to meet some of the most renowned researchers in exercise science.  Thanks to Clarence and his wife Carole for allowing me to be part of their celebration.  Thanks to Jan and Terry Todd, along with Dan Keating for putting together an incredible conference.

As a final note (and to provide an insight into the type of person Clarence Bass is) let me tell you about an encounter I had with Clarence.  I was telling Clarence about how I was inspired by him as a teenager and would drive my mom nuts eating his “old reliable” recipe for breakfast and how I ate a peanut butter sandwich, apple and yogurt at lunch copying verbatim what I had read in the magazine articles and the original Ripped. Rather than being flattered that I had copied his diet verbatim, he asked me “why didn’t you personalize it or do something to make it your own?”.  THIS is the kind of guy Clarence Bass is.  He does not think he has all the answers.  He is happy to inspire you and provide you guidelines or a framework, but above all, he wants you to find a way that works for you.  That is the mark of a true mentor and a true champion.  I will close with some photos of the great folks I met at the Take Charge event.

I finally got to meet Clarence after following him since 1981.
I finally got to meet Clarence after following him since 1980
Doug McGuff and Dean Brignac, owner of Centurion Fitness in Baton Rouge.
Meeting Dean Brignac, owner of Centurion Fitness in Baton Rouge
Dean Brignac and the Texas Shredder, Dave Goodin.
Dean Brignac and the Texas Shredder Dave Goodin
Dave Goodin and Doug McGuff.  Jan Todd is in the background.
Meeting the Texas Shredder. Jan Todd is in the background.

Thanks to everyone for a great weekend.  Post your WOW’s and your thoughts.

137 thoughts on “The Take Charge Event: Fitness at the Edge of Science”

  1. @David
    Belt drive. I’ve played around with the speed element with no aches or pain. So a definate plus for those who like to lift with some speed.

  2. Bill

    The Kieser Europe machines are basically copies of the MedX line using Kevlar belts, some of the machines are poorly designed such as triceps ext and pullover machines that has independent movement arms.


  3. Collins: Let me try to educate you. Keiser was originally referred as CAM Machines – figure it out. Kieser is Werner Kieser’s Facilities (as you know). I am very Familiar – Have Full Strength and the Many Kieser Brochures and Newsletters sent to me from from Australia. I also used to correspond with them when they had a Facility in England and have echanged emails with Werner some time ago.

  4. Hi

    Drew Baye’s 3 x 3

    Metabolic conditioning using all three energy systems and muscle fibre types.

    Leg Ext 20-15-10
    Lat Pulldown 12-10-8
    Shoulder Press 12-10-8
    Total time 16 minutes

    In this 3 X 3 I completed the guide figure number of reps on the last rep employed TSC for as long as possible at hard as I dare. I foucsed on inroading the muscle until a level of fatigue caused MMF. The 3 x 3 workout that I do requires a high level of effort over a high level of weight. The 3 x 3 workout forces all the energy systems to work concurrently as muscle fibres work and than drop out.

  5. Patrick

    How are you finding bodyweight movements with BBS principles? Are you adding weight to them? Have you chosen them over weights, or have circumstances dictated otherwise?

    To Henry/all
    To the good people who have cut frequency right back and are having great success with it, are you still only using one movement per targeted body part or are you pre/post exhausting, hitting muscles from different angles (just curious)?


  6. I still have a gym membership, but I am getting better results with bodyweight exercise. I do not add weight, but do harder versions of the basics at times, ie negative only one arm chins etc.

    I train twice per week on average.

    Google Marlon Birch, this guy competes in drug free bodybuilding and does not lift weights. He does Charles Atlas type dynamic self resistance stuff and looks fantastic.

  7. Its funny you should say you get better results with bodyweight. For a while I did nothing but bodyweight movements which my joints thanked me for. That’s the reason BBS appealed to me was b/c the lack of joint stress.
    What cadence see you using and at what TUL do you have to hit before changing to a harder movement progression?

    I couldn’t do dips at home but could do bench dips.

    Ill check out his site, thanks.


  8. I vary cadence..8-12 seconds up/8-12 lowering when doing the Big 5.

    3×3 done unrestricted but not explosive. Sometimes do static holds like wall squats, midrange pushup holds, sternum pullup bar hold etc.

    Do mix in some NTF on occasion. I learn/practice the harder for me exercises.

    Unilateral stuff will be done naturally slower, as are handstand pushups for safety’s sake.

    I do not measure TUL. But I see nothing wrong with going that route and/or choosing to do weighted BW exercise.

  9. Very interesting. I have been enjoying the weights with lighter weight and slow cadence (16 second reps – 8 seconds up and 8 down), but as I said I prefer bodyweight movements and as someone who struggles with their chest development I fond that I have a better contraction with movements like pressups than I do with weighted pressing movements.

    Definitely something to think about. How many sessions a week are you performing (I know recovery is a personal think, but out of curiosity)? What have the results been like?

    Im sorry I didn’t understand the 3×3 reference.


  10. David Landau

    Excellent machines they are, having been shown how to optimize them by the RenEx guys adds even greater value to the safe & direct effect performance to my workouts.


  11. 3×3..push/pull/legs circuit done three times. Matt Bryzcki is known for this metabolic conditioning method.

    Frequency is circa Tuesday-Saturday-Thursday.

  12. Is the metabolic conditioning and BBS bodyweight work kept separate?

    Great thanks, interesting. Results favourable?

  13. Pete Collins: Tell me how that is even possible, as their Bible says 10 – 10. So for the umteenth time, you are simply performing 10 – 10 “better.” Are “they” eschewing their Bible? Performance at something makes you better at something (Sports Games Events). Please Folks: What I am saying here should be Crystal Clear – Right Sal?

  14. Yes, separate workout.

    If it did not produce results, I would ditch it. BW exercise performance and body composition go hand in hand. Get fat and performance decreases. Same cannot be said for the power lifts.

  15. That’s almost controversial haha. Though there is truth to it.

    I am trying to keep workouts short as possible to allow for time with family. So a potential split of
    Day one:
    Calf raise

    Day two:

    Might be more beneficial to me. I don’t necessarily want to give up weighted movements such as the bench/bb row etc, but an opportunity to bring on the same results/physiological changes whilst decreasing the stress on joints even more (BBS being alot easier on joints than normal heavy weight protocols and bodyweight BBS reducing that stress even further), all at the same time as being able to progress through new and challenging bodyweight movement variations (always nice to learn new skills and reach milestones) and add weight to them as well.

    Food for thought before Thursdays session.


  16. Craig et al.

    Second workout utilizing drop-set recommendation. As before: more intensity, greater TULs with larger loads, more controlled movement by hitting heavier sets first, more pump, more fatigue, etc.

    Workout C (shoulders, tris)
    – DB Military Press
    – DB Side Lateral Raises
    – Low-Pulley Delt Raise
    – Reverse DB Flye
    – Triceps Pushdown
    – Lying BB Triceps Extension
    – Seated DB Triceps Overhead Press

    All movements 2 sets (now with both taken to absolute failure), heavier sets first.

    Unexpected/interesting outcome of drop-sets: I no longer treat the first as a “warm-up.” Since first sets utilize loads toward the upper limits of my ability, there’s no sandbagging by holding-back for a second set as I’ll now “easily” handle it.

    While its enjoyable squeezing out a few more reps with greater loads, it’s even more entertaining going to absolute muscular failure with the lighter weights as I psychologically know “I’ve got this” – thereby removing any execution angst or form degradation.

    It will likely be months before “hard data” such as training logs or significant physiological changes are readily apparent. Qualitatively, however, I’d already rate this a success for reasons above.

  17. @ Richard: I appreciate the efficiency and symmetry of your workout. However, your comment (along with some reason comments by Ondrej and others) suggests something to me that I’d like hear more about. Specifically, you identify bodyweight-only movements as being more “joint friendly” than movements with an external load (e.g., a barbell bench press). I, too, am drawn to bodyweight movements, especially chins and dips. But, both are fairly stressful on my joints – chins on my elbows and dips on my shoulders. I think there are many reasons to incorporate traditional bodyweight movements into one’s long-term training plans. However, I don’t think they’re the elixir that will produce pain-free training. They’re especially good for their psychological effect (i.e., it’s just fun and rewarding to knock off a good set of chins). But, if external loading is kept at sensible levels, with concentration on smooth turn-arounds, I suspect free weights are no more threatening to the joints. Moreover, as one gets stronger and starts externally loading ‘bodyweight’ movements, is this still a bodyweight exercise?

  18. David Landau
    Rep speed is only one element of many parts in optimizing the use of these machines, adjustments can be made in settings, alignment & positioning to suit the joint levers and strength curve of the individual subject to obtain a more effective workout on that given machine. I can tell you right now that even Kieser physiotherapists on site agreed with the recommendations I was given and acknowledged even they learned settings that optimized there own experience.

    I sense some emotion in your tone so perhaps we should accept that we differ on these topics, which in itself is cool, I am OK with that.

  19. Patrick,

    Matt Bryzcki says he only does the 3×3 once a week as part of his training. Not every workout.

    If doing this with slow reps you have to pick a weight that would allow you to do more reps or time than you would be normal from what one would use for a non 3×3. No rest at all.


    Once in a while I see something that baffles me. Now im not the sharpest tool in the box.

    But the words “Kieser physiotherapists” makes me think that “The Present State of The Art” is out of control.

    Maybe Landau can correct me or help me with this. Yep a Kieser and Jones reference in the same sentence.

    It seams to me that Kieser stole everything they have done from Nautilus and MedEx. From Machines to research.I was on their website and they have some of the latest studies about volume and frequency and one set to failure. They cite some guys from the U.K.

    The thing is that they mirror the Latest MedEx research that Jones was involved in years before.

    I wonder what Jones would thing of the term
    Kieser physiotherapists?

  20. Dave S

    I completely agree with you. I am only stating facts and events as they are. Kieser are so far removed from the principles of Arthur Jones despite the book Full Strength adorning his principles such as the Cam.

    This is why I consulted the guys at RenEx for guidance, I have access to the Kieser machines that are of excellent quality however I am literally the only trainee that does not exercise as per the guidelines their instructors now have to follow. It is now a big business and they have sacrificed sound principles to generate turnover, that is their business model and who am I to tell them how to run their business. As for physiotherapists, they are used by the business as a sales generate to leverage the principle of authority so potential clients believe they are getting a superior service, compared to the average gym they are, but bear in mind most guys on here or involved in RenEx are exposed to methods that transcend even kieser and therefore have the knowledge to see through the hols.

    You raised a valid point.


  21. Hey Will

    Thanks for the comment. I didn’t mean that as a blanket statement, my apologies. I should have clarified it was made from personal experience.

    After years of rugby, my back is not st its best (though I am fixing it) and my shoulder has suffered previous AC and rotator cuff injuries. When reps were performed at a normal tempo (1-3 second eccentric and concentric) I found that no matter the weight used, bodyweight movements were easier on my joints and didn’t give me any pain the days following the workout.
    When the tempo is kept slow ala BBS (Iv been using 8 second eccentric and 8 second concentric) then I found that loaded movements have brought about no discomfort and I was wondering after discussing with Patrick if bodyweight BBS (with a view to load it as some stage) would be easier still on the joints.

    My main area to work on is diet. It has always been pretty spot on but I have been on BBS for about 7 weeks and making strength/TUL improvements every session, but have not had any noticeable improvements.


  22. I’ve not been on forum for a time. Weight lifting going well BUT I have a question which I hope Doug will see and answer since he’s a doctor. My bicuspid aortic valve has reached severe stenosis and cardiologist is referring me for surgery – is it allright to continue weight lifting ? The cardiologist said it was allright for me to “continue my low level weight lifting” – he hasn’t a clue, probably thinks that as a woman I lift light weights although I tried to explain. I am currently, for example, doing 125 kgs (275 pounds) on Hammer Strength leg press and 200 kgs (440 pounds) on leg press machine with weight stack.

  23. Well looking back at my log book it seems time has flown. I thought I was on week 6, turns out I am on week 8 haha.

    A quick review for now. I thought I would have a hard time with the change in frequency. I was coming off a 2-3 times a week bodyweight based routine with some great results.

    I have a handle on the 1x a week session though I did try 2x a week for the second and third week.

    Results to this point are interesting. I am excited for the workouts and enjoy the punishment. I have upped my weights OR increased the TUL OR both in every workout for every movement. After a discussion on here with DR Mcguff and others I kept calories the same as what they had been during my previous program though allowed them to drop slightly with the thinking that excess calories were not needed as much (avoiding over eating). I kept to a 16 second rep speed (8/8) and a two minute goal before I upped weights.

    It gets interesting when physiological changes are looked at. On the surface there have been no discernible muscular improvements. I ‘may’ and I cant emphasise that enough have improved my chest slightly although that is not conclusive as I made the mistake of failing to take measurements before hand. I came in with tris that were popping through the skin (the short head was crazy) and they seem to have shrunk in size.
    Everything else seems unchanged.

    With a newborn and a desire to devote my time to family the protocol is great, very enjoyable and exactly what I want to focus on, but the results have not been what I expected, especially with my improvements in the gym every session.

    A lot to consider before deciding to continue or altering to something with a little more frequency ala Dr Dardens 5 minute workout 3x a week.


  24. I went in expecting a little mediocrity this a.m., due to a busy schedule recently.

    Standing heel raise
    Compound Row
    Cable Rope Curl
    Leg Press – seat laid back as far as possible, ‘congruently.’

    I subbed the standing heel raise in for the lumbar extension, and then emphasized thoracic flexion and extension during the compound row. It felt pretty good actually, and there was no heaving to help my ‘cheat’ with my low back.

    TUL’s on the compound row and leg press showed big improvement. My focus was pretty solid, though conditioning still feels sub par, as I am gasping for air for 20+ minutes after training.

  25. Anne,

    This is NOT medical advice. Severe aortic stenosis can be risky at high levels of exertion. It is very hard to push blood through the stenosis during high demand and the aortic valve is the passageway for getting oxygenated blood out to your body during increased demand. As, such you run a risk of not getting enough blood through the stenosis and suffering syncope (faintining). Also, your coronary arteries are fed by blood ejected out of the aorta, so less blood ejected can also mean compromised coronary artery blood flow.

    Only your cardiologist knows the actual extent of your stenosis. My suggestion is that you visit him or her and have them actually watch a video of this site of a workout demo. Only with a true understanding of what a workout looks like can the tell you if it is OK for your degree of stenosis.

    Normally, the augmented blood return on the right side of the heart helps increase cardiac output and coronary artery blood flow in folks with heart conditions, but aortic stenosis is the exception as you end up trying to push too much blood through to small of an opening.

    BTW, Arnold Schwarzenneger had the same condition and progressed to critical stenosis after his competing days were over. He had it repaired and has done fine, and is able to train without limitations.

    Best of luck. Get the problem fixed and get on with life.

    Great to have you back on the blog.

  26. Options going forward:

    * Continue with BBS as I am doing.

    * Dr Darden 5 minute session 2-3x a week.

    * Slow negative training eg 60second negative, decrease weight 40-50% and shoot for another 8-12 reps (1-2 sessions a week).

    * Darden’s Sprint/Chin/Dip workout twice a week.


  27. Thanks Doug ! Which is the best video on the site do you think for me to show the cardiologist ?

    That’s nice to know that Arnold Schwarzennege had the same thing as me – I’m in good company ! I haven’t done any workouts since last week when the cardiologist told me he was referring me.


  28. Thanks for the great post on your website recently. I really have enjoyed your book,articles and advice for Ann.(I’m a cardiac/internal med RN,BSN) I’ve learned a lot from your website & keep learning more on my fitness quest.

  29. @Pete Collins,
    As you might remember,I worked for Kieser in Germany.What you said above about the company is correct.But,even if the principles as stated by werner kieser are not as sound as they might appear at first instance,the problem is that most don’t follow these when working out.It’s the instructor’s job to correct the clients during the workout if they see ‘wrong’execution of exercises.But walking aroun like a detective can be boring for most and give the clients a feeling of to much attention.Although as beginners they appreciate it.
    This continually correcting can cost clients in the long run.You lose the ones that don’t understand the principles and just want to be in a gym without the general circus.As a manager you make sure the investors will be happy and thus do all the things necessary,including..let them do the exercises not correct.
    Every facility has a doctor that runs the therapy.Most clients have a privat insurrance that pays for kieser therapy.These clients expect superiour treament(attention) and not to be pushed to the limit(all to the correct degree ofcourse).It’s for them about attention to feel important.And so it becomes more or less just pampering adults.
    I too think that kieser training is the best facility to workout for a ‘cheap’price
    and their general training princioples are bound to intensity.The application…that is another story.

  30. October 10, 2013

    Stacy’s WOW

    Nitro Leg Press
    Nitro Compound Row
    Nitro Incline Press
    Nitro Abdominal TSC

    Jon’s WOW

    Nitro Leg Press
    Nitro Compound Row
    Nitro Overhead Press
    Nitro Abdominal TSC

    This was my 12th week.

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