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Coaches and physical education instructors who are having difficulty maintaining a structured strength-training program because of time, space, and cost do not have to look vary far for an alternative.

It is called manual resistance [MR] and it will allow everyone from competitive athlete to fitness or gym-class student to develop and maintain muscular fitness.

MR can be used in conjunction with or as a substitute for the more conventional forms of strength training such as machines, barbells, and dumbbells.

Two factors must be present to strengthen a muscle -- resistance and overload. In the conventional forms of strength training, the resistance is provided by the free weights or machines, and the overload by the increase in poundage--forcing the muscle to work progressively harder from one workout to the next.

We also know that the mechanism providing the resistance is not the key to strength gains. The key lies in how the resistance is applied. In short, it is not the tool you use, but the way that you use it.

MR substitutes for the resistance commonly applied by cast iron, steel, cables, and chains. MR requires the muscles to work against a force being applied by a training partner.

The muscular system does not know the difference between different forms of resistance. Properly applied MR can provide the same overload on any other form of strength-training device.

Major advantages of manual-resistance exercise:

* No specific equipment is needed to perform the exercises.

* Can be performed at any time and place.

* Can train a large number of participants at the same time.

* Can control the speed and quality of the exercise.

* Can work the muscles to their maximum on each rep.

Whereas it is often difficult to find equipment and exercises to effectively train all of the different muscles, MR exercise eliminates the limitations imposed by an overcrowded and under-equipped facility--people waiting to use certain pieces of equipment.

Since MR can be performed any tune and any place, it is ideal for athletes and coaches with limited resources and restricted time. Indoors or outdoors, it gives every participant access to a quality workout.

Two people or two hundred people can perform MR exercises simultaneously. As one person exercises, the other supplies the workload. In a crowded facility, most athletes will have time to perform only a few exercises in a one-hour session. With MR, two people can easily spot and perform 15 to 20 exercises.

The quality of the exercise is enhanced by the spotter's ability to control the amount of resistance and the speed of the exercise. (Every rep must be performed at the same speed.) That enables the spotter to adjust the amount of resistance needed to fully exhaust the muscle on each rep--to obtain maximum resistance during the raising and lowering phase of every rep. The spotter can continuously adjust the amount of resistance needed to accommodate the decrease in strength with each succeeding rep.

With all of the advantages MR has to offer, it does have some disadvantages. Recognizing and understanding the limitations of MR can help provide a safer and more effective form of exercise.

Major challenges posed by manual resistance:

* Two people are needed to perform MR exercise.

* The lifter must learn how to perform each exercise.

* The spotter must learn how to safely and effectively apply the resistance.

* The lifter may be significantly stronger than the spotter.

* It is difficult to accurately measure strength gains.

Manual resistance cannot be performed by individuals alone because a training partner is needed to apply the resistance for each exercise. Finding a reliable training partner with a compatible schedule is often difficult, and having an odd number of participants can leave one person without a partner.

To obtain maximum results from manual resistance exercise, the lifter must become proficient at each exercise. The spotter's ability will largely dictate the quality of the exercise. A good spotter can greatly reduce the risk of injury while increasing the effectiveness of the workout. Nevertheless, spotting manual resistance is more time consuming and difficult than spotting traditional strength training devices.

It is not common for one partner to be significantly stronger than the other. There are several ways to ad just for the difference in strength while applying a resistance.

Add additional resistance with a dumbbell or barbell plate.

Have the lifter take more time during the raising phase of the exercise.

Allow less time in the lowering phase of the exercise until fatigue becomes a factor.

Exercise one side of the body at a time.

There is no way to accurately measure and record an individual's elevated strength gains. A good spotter will ensure the application of maximum resistance on every rep. And if the lifter is willing to exert an all-out effort on every rep, strength gains are sure to follow.

Tips for the lifter:

* Communicate with the spotter at all times. Feedback from the lifter to the spotter is critical for smooth and even resistance. Letting the spotter know whether too little or too much tension is being applied is key to safe and effective exercise.

* Keep tension on the muscles during the entire movement. Lifters are used to allowing the muscles to rest momentarily in the starting position and during a change in direction. Keeping constant tension on the muscle will make the movement far more productive.

* Pause momentarily in the contracted position. This brief pause will ensure muscle development at that point in the range of motion. The pause is also necessary in order to adjust for the change of direction from the raising phase to the lowering phase.

* Exert an all-out effort. If the goal is to achieve maximum strength gains, an all-out effort must be exerted on every rep of every exercise.

* Do not allow more than four seconds during the lowering phase. We are capable of lowering more resistance that we can raise. Because of this, it's possible that the spotter will not be capable of applying enough resistance during the lowering phase of the first few reps. By taking four seconds during the lowering phase, he can ensure a smooth, safe, and effective, exercise.

Tips for the spotter:

* Communicate with the lifter when necessary.

* Do not apply a maximum resistance during the first few reps of the set.

* Vary the amount of resistance according to points in the range of motion where the lifter is stronger and weaker.

* Ensure a smooth transition from the raising phase to the lowering phase.

* Add more resistance during the lowering phase.

* Apply enough resistance to stimulate strength gains.

* Do not apply maximum resistance until the lifter has become proficient at each exercise.

* Apply less resistance when the lifter is approaching the stretched position.

* Apply less resistance with each succeeding rep as fatigue sets in.

One of the most appealing aspects of manual resistance exercise is the wide variety of movements to choose from. We recommend choosing manual resistance exercises much like you would when deciding which exercises to perform with conventional strength-training equipment.

Divide the body into five segments- neck (traps, flexors, extensors), torso (shoulders, chest, upper back), mid-section (abdominal, low back), hips and legs (quads, hamstrings, calf), and arms (biceps, triceps, forearms)- and choose movements that strengthen the major muscles of each section.

Incorporate as much variety as possible by varying the selection and order of exercises from one workout to the next.

The photos show how to perform one exercise from each of the five segments of the body.

With a minimal amount of practice, coaches can soon become proficient at incorporating manual resistance exercise into their training regime.

From the competitive athlete to the fitness enthusiast, we no longer have an excuse for not having a way to obtain a quality, high intensity workout any time, any place.

May the Power Be With You!


Muscle worked, Flexors. Exercise, Manual Neck Flexion.

This exercise is best performed by lying on a bench. (If a bench is not available this movement can be performed seated or kneeling.) In the start position, the head should be just off the edge of the bench. Head and neck should be relaxed. To begin, the spotter should place one hand on the forehead and the other on the chin. He should gently apply a mild stretch to the neck flexors in this position (Photo 1, start position).

As the head is raised, an even amount of resistance is added to the forehead. When the chin touches the chest (Photo 2, finish position), the lifter should pause momentarily before returning to the start position.


Muscle worked, Shoulder. Exercise, Manual Lateral Raise.

This is an excellent movement for the shoulder with emphasis on the medial head. The lifter should stand erect with the arms straight at the sides and the palms facing inward. In this position (Photo 3, start position), do not allow the arm to touch the sides of the body to insure tension on the muscle at all times.

The spotter should apply resistance on the back side of the wrists throughout the entire movement. Pause momentarily when the arms reach slightly above parallel (Photo 4, finish position) and return.


Muscle worked, Abdominals Exercise, Manual Sit-ups.

This movement targets the rectus abdominis muscles of the abdominal wall. (Photo 5, start position). The lifter begins by lying on his back with legs bent at the knees, feet placed flat on the floor at a comfortable distance from the buttocks.

The hands are placed over the front of the shoulders and the chin is tucked in the chest. Note that the shoulder blades are slightly elevated from the floor, placing tension on the abdominal muscles.

The spotter anchors the lifter into place by sitting on his feet and applies the resistance to the front side of the shoulders. He raises the torso approximately 35 to 45 degrees off the floor and pauses in the contracted position (Photo 6, finish position) before returning.


Muscle worked, Hamstrings. Exercise, Manual Leg Curl.

This hamstring exercise is most effective if one leg is trained at a time. The lifter begins by lying face down with toes pointed. The torso can be supported by bending the arms at the elbow (Photo 7, starting position).

The spotter applies resistance to the back side of the lower leg. Because of the strength of the hamstring, it may he necessary to use two hands to spot this movement.

As the heel is curled toward the buttocks, the lifter keeps the upper leg on the ground as the foot remains flexed towards the knee. To isolate the hamstring, the lower leg is raised as high as possible and pauses in the contracted position (Photo 8, finish position) before returning.


Muscle worked, Triceps. Exercise, Manual Triceps Extension.

The triceps muscle makes up two-thirds of the upper arm. The lifter assumes the starting position by lying on his back with the upper arm supported in a perpendicular position to the floor by the spotter's leg.

The lower arm is bent at a 90-degree angle to the upper arm, and the hand forms a fist (Photo 9, start position). The resistance is applied to the side of the lifter's hand as the arm is fully extended in the contracted position.

Do not allow the lifter to hyperextend the elbow in the finish position. The lifter should pause momentarily and return.
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Author:Arapoff, Jason
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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