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Responsive Kinetics: Not Just For Elite Athletes

By Matt McFall, Founder of FasTwitch Kinetics

I’m excited to introduce responsive kinetics training modality and its efficacy to all of you. We are all on a quest in life and for each the depth of that quest will change, morph as we discover ways to enhance our lives and have a positive effect on our wellbeing and longevity. Sometimes the impact is such that we find we cannot just keep it to ourselves! That’s what Responsive Kinetics is for me and others, but it’s still not well known by the general public. My “why” for bringing this to this forum is simply this, “Increasing the quality of life through increasing mobility”. This is a fundamental component of quality of life. People must be able to move to have access to everything from regular daily activity to high level athletic pursuits. At any level in that spectrum we engage in a variety of physical activities. Exercise or training are activities that give us access to many other activities. Often, this may be seen as applying primarily to athletics, but it is applicable to every level of life. Responsive kinetics training is a performance enhancer that works wonders at every level of the activity/exercise/training range. It is particularly suited for some populations who are missing out or underserved by traditional modes, including but not limited to:

  • The aging population who experience diminishing muscle and bone mass
  • Those with chronic injuries aka wear and tear
  • Those who are on the rehabilitation track from catastrophic injury
  • Those with progressive nerve and muscle disease

There is of course those of every age who are interested in reaching a higher level of fitness and increasing abilities in their recreational pursuits. We are naturally designed to move. It is important and necessary to address movement outside of what is required for our functioning. There is no shortage of evidence as to the effect of forfeiting our options to move. It is difficult and sometimes impossible to return and restore once that capacity is lost.

Introducing you to responsive kinetics will have in mind all of this spectrum of activity and its pursuits and the populations alluded to above. I will endeavor to stay away from technical jargon and the science that defines the topic, but it is impossible to leave it out completely. With that said a bit of groundwork must be laid to paint the picture as clearly as possible.

All training, whether physical or mental, revolves around one universal principle known as the SAID principle.

Spelled out as the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand, it points the way to mapping out a training regime to achieve a certain goal. Everyone who has worked with a trainer knows the starting point is to evaluate your:

  • perspective
  • readiness to engage
  • what level (of mobility) currently defines you
  • what your expectations are

It is well documented how any given method of training, be it flexibility, aerobic, anaerobic, resistance and the myriad of “blended” versions will affect the physical body over time.  Changing up the parameters of your training can help you continue to make “gains”.  There are of course limits when it comes to the mode of training and pushing your body, but with consistency you will reach and set new goals over time. This is when it’s important to narrow your focus on modes of resistance training, but it must be pointed out that there is resistance involved in all physical training. This is a systemic resistance that relates to the elasticity of the mechanism as well as to the sensory information that affects system management.

Resistance training has certain limitations that are due to the parameters of training environment. 

An important aspect of this is seen in free weights and, to a lesser extent, in weight machines.  That is that the weight must be controlled back to its resting position.  In the case of free weights, the performer is carrying the full burden of that safe return as well as their safe completion of the movement. If something is amiss, that is, there is some functional miscue via an injury or some weakness that causes form to be compromised, or a distraction that causes a lapse in focus there is opportunity for injury. If we are talking about someone between the ages of 50 – 70 years old, and/or who are experiencing declines in muscle mass and activation, then the occurrence and significance of this type of training set back is a much larger issue. Conditions that promote possible injury are not age-specific though, and some people do not engage in important resistance training as a result. Of course machines help mitigate this problem somewhat but do not completely remove the possibility of injuries taking place.  Likewise, this can hold true for injured athletes, and for individuals with varying degrees of neuromuscular challenges.

Contrasted with these forms of training we consider the training environment of responsive kinetics. In this category there are very few options so far which is something we certainly look to change. There is equipment that is referred to as isokinetic, there are kinetic accelerometers as well. The type of machine discussed here is known properly as a multi-joint iso kinetic dynamometer. These are machines which read performer input force and respond with an output force that remains constant with the preset controls throughout the full range of motion. To paint the picture further, imagine performing a squat where the resistance remains the same through the full movement in both directions. This means the performer is doing work through full range of motion whereas other forms of resistance training the highest percentage of work is only being done through the sticking point. This difference cannot be overstated.

The next parameter of this training environment is that the system is balanced. For the performer this means they are never responsible for management of the “load”. If they stop anywhere in the movement the system neutralizes. The risk of injury is negated. The only weight is their own body weight.

These unique parameters of training environment allow the performer to go significantly farther and achieve entirely different outcomes in a considerably shorter time frame. The unique training conditions allow the performer to move through the multi-joint movements at full effort through the entire range of motion in both directions. Read this again. This is why it is completely different and produces completely different outcomes or performance level. As a researcher at the College at Brockport under the direction of Dr. Christopher Williams, we utilized one of these machines to train and collect data on Rate of Force Development. Over the course of three years that part of the study of responsive kinetics involved several hundred participants. The only common denominator was no one had ever trained on this equipment. Data collection evaluated were from numerous pre and post tests done around a conservative training program of 8 sessions over 4 weeks. These tests included vertical jump, long jump T-test agility test and several balance tests performed on force plates, and Biodex balance platform. Electromyography was also part of pre and post test collection and done on the responsive kinetic machine.

So, what does happen when you train on this equipment? It is no exaggeration to say that you are igniting untapped resources of explosive power! Explosive power means the high use of the muscle fiber type referred to as fast twitch muscles. You may think that fast twitch muscles or “explosive power” are reserved primarily for athletes, but everyone is using them every day. Any movement you make that is deemed automatic is using this musculature. Movement that requires reflex or balance is accessing this musculature and nervous system pathways. It is easy to understand when speaking of athletes, but how many times have you put a foot wrong and had a “recovery” to remain stable? Often, we don’t recognize the availability of resources until they diminish. Training on responsive kinetic equipment places a demand on the neuromuscular chain (central nervous system, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system, skeletal muscles) it has not “seen” before. The response in the central nervous system is to map a solution to keep up with this new demand. That response is to fire fast twitch muscle first and to recruit transitive muscle fiber to respond more like fast witch muscle.  Other adaptations in the chain include changes in myelination, changes to proprioceptive apparatus (sensors in joints and muscle fiber that tell the body where it is) and changes to synaptic gaps and pathways.

What you notice depends on what you do for activities. If you are tracking any measurements of your activities, you will know somethings up quickly. Recall from the earlier peek into the study I had the privilege to work on we normally got feedback by the fourth session about something they sensed in their activities. An example of gains seen in the  study, vertical jump increases of 2 to 6 inches were recorded frequently.

There have been many sports stars who have used this equipment which has resulted in great achievements. Michael Jordan, Shaq, Lenny Kryzelburg, Holly McPeak, Jeff Henderson, Tori Bowie, and many others. Tim Grover uses one of these machines as a secret weapon in producing explosive power in short time frames because it is so effective. This is important at the elite level of sports since time equals significant amounts of money. Everyone wants results though and they would like to see results reasonably quickly. Since data is captured for every rep of every set on these machines, (se Fig 2) the practitioner can tailor the progression of work very effectively. Our experience in training athletes and in research has shown that results, that is physiological adaptations begin to be felt by the performer in 3 or 4 sessions. When we set up training blocks, we generally use a 10-session format with two sessions per week. Since there is very little eccentric loading there is very little muscle soreness. Generally, after 2 sessions there is none. In some cases, we have trained athletes in a more compact time span training every other day for a few weeks.  As stated earlier the populations where this is extremely valuable tool is much more far reaching than simply athletic pursuits. I believe that the aging population and those with neuro muscular challenges are the most needing of this technology. Hence our desire to scale our efforts. Significant changes occur in lives where real results in a reasonable time frame make a very big difference in quality of life through increased mobility. This affects the mindset as well and they work together to perpetuate a strengthening of the whole person.

For more information visit fastwitchkinetics.com or write us with your inquiry at ftkinetic@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you!

– Matt Mcfall, Founder of FasTwitch Kinetics

References

Pette, D., & Staron, R. S. (1997). Mammalian Skeletal Muscle Fiber Type Transitions. International Review of Cytology, 170, 143-223. doi:10.1016/s0074-7696(08)61622-8

Enoka, R. (2015). Neuromechanics of human movement. 5th ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, pp.P255 – 267 Neural Control of movement; P205 – 251 Muscle and Motor Units.

Murray, D., Brown, L., Zinder, S., Noffal, G., Bera, S. and Garrett, N. (2007) Effects of Velocity-Specific Training on Rate of Velocity Development, Peak Torque, and Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), pp.870-874

 Kawamori, N. and Haff, G. (2004). The Optimal Training Load for the Development of Muscular Power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(3), pp.675-684.