New Personal Training Knowledge from a 30yr Old Fitness Book

Today I’m sharing with you some valuable insights on Core Training, Strength Training for Women, Flexibility & Stretching, Aerobic Training, and the difference between Performance Training and Fitness Training; taken from the book Total Body Training, which was written in 1982 by Bob Gajda (1966 Mr. America) and Dr. Richard Dominquez.

This is the book’s original cover.
This is the book’s original cover.

Most personal trainers and strength don’t know this, but Total Body Training is the first book to coin the term “Core” and discuss its function as an integrated unit that should be trained as such to maximize potential performance gains. Not to mention, it’s also one of my all-time favorite training books, which has had a big influence on me as a fitness professional – I bought my first copy at 16yrs old. I personally feel it’s a “must have” for any personal trainer or strength coach.

This is the book's cover from 1985 on.
This is the book’s cover from 1985 on.

As the authors of the book (Gajda & Dominquez) say in the first chapter, “The ideas and principles outlined in this book are old, but, unfortunately, have almost been forgotten. How unfortunate that the principles and methods outlined here are so old that they seem new.”

So when you’re reading these insights (below), which I’ve taken directly from the book, and thinking it sounds just like what many fitness leaders are teaching today as if it’s “new.” Remember the authors said this was “old” stuff, and that was back in 1982!

TBT on the Core: What it is and What it does…

The first essential concept in total body training is that of the “core.” Which is our term for the muscles of the center of the body. These muscles stabilize the body while we are in an correct, antigravity position or are using our arms and legs to throw or kick. They maintain our structure while we do vigorous exercises, such as running, jumping, shoveling snow, and lifting weights overhead. These are the muscles that control the head, neck, ribs, spine, and pelvis.

When guarding an opponent or trying to tackle another player, you don’t watch his head, arms, or feet – you watch his hips. This is because as his bellybutton goes, so goes his body. The good defenseman also watches his opponent’s body to see which way it is turning. The golf instructor always says, “Move your hips and body through the shot.”

The pitching coach will observe approvingly that a pitcher “throws with his whole body,” or, derogatorily, that he tried to “arm it.” When a tennis pro teaches you the proper backhand or forehand, he teaches you had a hit with your body, moving it through the shot. In all athletic endeavors, the good coaches and the good trainers stress the need for using your “body,” not just your limbs, and the key maneuvers.

We call this important main part of the body the core.

Here's an image from the book's chapter on the Core.
Here’s an image from the book’s chapter on the Core.

The core of the human body is those muscles that keep the trunk and neck in a tube-like form. In a sense, we are basically a semi-rigid tube with a flexible spine up the back. This semi-rigid, firm cylinder is mechanically a very strong design. However, when it loses its rigidity, it is very, very weak.

 When your core is firm and rigid, you can do the activities is intended to do. If the rigidity is enhanced, then you can maximize your athletic performance. If, however, your cylinder is not rigid, it will never obtain maximal performance and there will be abnormal strain on your lower back.

The core muscles are those that stabilize (or anchor) and move the center pillar of the body, including the head-neck, spine-ribs, and spine-pelvis. Most of the activity of the core muscles is tonic (stabilizing) rather than phasic (moving), which means that the muscles are acting continually throughout the day when you are moving, standing or sitting.

TBT on Core Training…

Remember that these core muscles are made of slow twitch red fibers. They are capable of generating a slow, sustained contraction. Thus they are perfectly suited to continually supporting the body against movement shocks, gravity, and heavyweights. To train these muscles, we need a slow, steady, sustained effort rather than 20 quick reps. Save the fast work for training arms and legs. If you correctly train your core, your extremity action will also improve because you will have an even better base.

TBT on Strength Training for Women

All of the techniques described in this book are applicable to both sexes. The training of women should not be different from the training of men. Some women are afraid to do strength training because they fear they will develop bulging muscles. This fear should not be a deterrent for two reasons. First, women can have a 50% increase in strength without any increase in the size of the muscle, because the female sex hormone permits this kind of strength improvement without increasing muscle bulk. Second, North Americans attitudes towards beauty and attractiveness are changing. Women with athletic bodies and builds are creating a new standard of feminine beauty. Women are at the vanguard of the fitness revolution. Even so, the training slogan all too often still holds: “women fear they will look like Arnold Schwarzenegger; men fear that they won’t.”

Both men and women need appropriate strength training. The bodybuilding you achieve from such a program will depend more on your genes than on how much you weight lift. As Arthur H Steinhaus, a world renowned physiologist, once said, “you can’t make a Chihuahua into a St. Bernard.” If your parents have large well-defined muscles and broad shoulders, chances are that you will develop that kind of build as well. Even so, don’t avoid exercise and training out of fear that you will grow “too big.” It’s better to be firm, with well-defined muscles, then to be flabby. You’ll look better and feel better about yourself. The key here, as in life, is to make the best out of yourself and what you been given.

TBT on Stretching and Flexibility for Performance…

Unfortunately, the ability to be contortionists and assume abnormal yoga positions is becoming the standard by which many athletes judge their ability to perform. If maximum flexibility was a test for athletic prowess, then victims of polio would be our best athletes. Legs that are partially or completely paralyzed by polio have almost complete flexibility. But these partially or completely paralyze legs are extremely unstable, and incapable of supporting weight of any sort. What we really need for athletic performance is stability throughout a full range of motion of the joint.

TBT on Joint Stability

Click to enlarge this picture taken on a great poem featured in the book discussing stability and "joint-by-joint" approach.
Click on the image to enlarge it and read this great poem featured in the book, which discusses stability and a “joint-by-joint” approach.

TBT on Aerobic Training for Athletes…

We agree that aerobics are important to good health and good condition, but, unfortunately, aerobic conditioning is basically endurance training, and most of the popular sports in the United States are not aerobic-type activities; they are anaerobic. Being successful in baseball, football, or the hundred yard dash does not require great aerobic capacity or fitness, and aerobic training alone will not necessarily lead to marked improvement in performance of these anaerobic types of activities. While aerobic conditioning can contribute to a decrease in injury rates by eliminating fatigue as an injury factor, it isn’t the answer to improving performance in anaerobic sports, nor will it necessarily help in the rehabilitation of injuries.

TBT on Fitness Training vs. Performance Training…

Physical fitness is cardiorespiratory biased. If you think of this in terms of work, increased fitness means the ability to do more work. It is a concept best applied to events such as cross-country skiing, marathon running and long-distance swimming; it doesn’t apply very much to sports like racquetball, football, tennis, and baseball.

Performance, on the other hand, emphasizes efficiency, and success in it is based upon skill development and structural integrity. Performance is looking to conserve energy. Performance tends to concentrate more on quality, less on quantity. Because efficiency of action requires all systems to be in the best possible operating condition, it follows that training for performance must maintain the optimal operating condition, and that any activity or repetition pattern that destroys or lessons operating conditions should be changed.

Traditional training philosophy was based on physical fitness, and demanded catharsis, caloric expenditure, every breathing, and perspiration. Its goals were based on quantity.

Training for performance, we believe must weigh the costs against the benefits. No exercise should exceed the limitations of bone and ligaments. You don’t want premature muscle strain, or wear and tear on joints. You want to minimize the risk of injury while maximizing performance.

That is why we believe that in all training the recommended exercises must be non-injurious, specific to the activities of the sport, and at a level appropriate for both the performer and the sport.

For example, many racquetball players jog for cardiovascular value in the hope of improving their play. Unfortunately, as rated by performance ratio, jogging is a low inefficiency. It cost a person more than it returns in benefits. According to Runner’s world magazine, six out of 10 joggers suffer from joint injury. Not only is the technique of heal strike and flat-footed running inappropriate to the Sprint requirement of racquetball, but the pressure jogging exerts on the foot, knee, and spine is tremendous.

Unfortunately, many players falsely believe the jogging is the only way to attain cardiovascular fitness. Not only is this belief false, it is counterproductive as well. There are many other alternatives, and jogging in a straight line is nonspecific and not at all like the running done in racquetball.

Simply stated, as a sport racquetball entails more than enough running. Any additional running is just a waste of time.

This illustrates why we believe that exercise should be more than just exercise. It should be systematic and purposeful. If you want to develop your performance, do not concentrate on the ends- how much, how often, how far. Rather, concentrate on the means: quality, style, form, and technique.

Finally, here’s my personal favorite quote from the book…

“While this system provides a great opportunity, it is not magic. You must put time and effort into the training. As the products of a technological age, we often look for ”magic” medicines or machines. Let us realize that our bodies are the magic machines, and our minds provide the magic medicines.”

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