Arthur Jones: Angry Agnotological Angel of Strength

Andrew Charniga

www.sportivnypress.com

“The problem with the world is that all the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence”. Charles Bukowski

Angry Science

A case can be made that expressions of deliberate falsehood can manifest in two basic forms: with anger or with a smile (especially a silly smile). At any rate, the expression, the emote, is an effort, whether conscious or unconscious, to mask the true intent of speaker to mislead the listener. Agnotology, a term applicable to the fancier of the angry emote, or silly smile; was coined by Robert N. Proctor in 1995. It refers to the  practice of sowing doubt in the guise of science for commercial gain:  

“Within the sociology of knowledge, agnotology (formerly agnatology) is the study of deliberate, culturally-induced ignorance or doubt, typically to sell a product or win favor, particularly through the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. More generally, the term also highlights the condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before.” Wikipedia.

Whether the emote takes the form of an expression of anger or is expressed with a silly smile; the intent is the same: to mask the truth, to create doubt; for the purpose of selling a product with false claims.

A typical mode of exploiting ignorance for profit, by means of creating doubt; is to foster a  narrative of an exclusivity of exclusiveness.  The exclusivity of exclusiveness narrative; at the heart of which is pseudo – science, i.e., is the stock & trade of hucksters. An exclusivity of exclusiveness is essentially an argument that there is only one best way to accomplish one’s goals: my way; that is the exclusivity. Furthermore, there is only one means to accomplish this best way: only with my stuff; that is the exclusiveness.  A typical example of an exclusivity/exclusiveness message of doubt:

“There are nine basic requirements for a full range exercise: a barbell provides two of these requirements in all barbell exercises; in a few – 2 and in very few exercises it provides four. But it does not in any barbell exercise provide all nine (aggressively emoted). A Nautilus machine is designed to provide all nine requirements; without which you do not have full range exercise. A barbell does not provide full range exercise under any circumstances; A nautilus machine does.”  Arthur Jones

No better example of an exclusivity of exclusiveness narrative; a business hiding behind an angry facade of the science of developing strength; were the claims made of the nautilus exercise machines and especially the ‘science’ of the training method (see quote above). The machines developed and promoted by Arthur Jones featured a unique design with an unbeknownst the unsuspecting; a re- cycled method of training for sale.  

Figure 1. Practical experiences of the effectiveness of barbell training for the development of power and strength refute the ill conceived, false claims by the Nautilus and devotees of high intensity training (HIT). Charniga photo.   

The un – science scientific training methods devised by Jones to sell the machines have been  re – cycled over and over, even to this day. The re -cycling continues even though the claims of fantastic results for the machines; with the suggested methods; have been relegated to the dust bin of exercise machine history.

Amidst today’s expansive market of exercise devices and machines; nautilus is just another brand of exercise machine. The dust bin residence of the nautilus line; without question, is a consequence the wildly exaggerated claims of the machines effectiveness; ultimately, they debunked by practical experience.  

Straight from the horse’s mouth

 “If you want to be a competitive weightlifter then you are going to have to practice to develop the skills required for competitive weight lifting.  But I will tell you something plain and simple, doing so will do absolutely nothing for your strength.” {With rising inflection of disdain; assertiveness/anger} Not a damn thing.” {Pause for effect} Arthur Jones.

Figure 2: A world’s strongest man overcoming the resting inertia of 267 kg; the biggest weight overcome in weightlifting history in the clean and jerk: with ‘no strength’ developed from barbell exercises. Charniga photo

A series of essays “There is no system” chronicle the origins of the power rack, the isometrics craze; a definitive connection between application of limited range of motion exercises and isometrics to the decline of American weightlifting in the period 1950 – 1960. The marketing of the power rack was coupled with the promise of good results from isometric exercises and other limited range of motion exercises performed with these metal weight stands.

A testimonial to the effectiveness of the wide ranging influence of marketing the power power rack is the fact, it is one of, if not the most ubiquitous pieces of equipment to be found in strength and conditioning gyms of universities, colleges and professional sport teams. The false assumption these racks belong in every weight room; like hardened cement in the minds of coaches athletes, university administers and so forth; attests to the effectiveness of how it was marketed with specific methods for use; of which isometric exercises played a predominant role.

The circumstances are eerily similar; if not, in some respects identical to the marketing of the machine with the Nautilus method; as advocated by Jones.

Training methods, unique to the devices were provided to customers of power racks and Nautilus alike. However, in point of fact, both touted the effectiveness of isometrics.

Here it should be noted; exercises of prolonged muscle tension and/or with very slow movement are essentially indistinguishable from isometrics. So, whether one performs a no movement isometric, a Hoffman isometric by holding a weight against pins in a power rack, or a slow, grinding to fatigue machine exercise; physiologically speaking they are all isometric. (Zaporozhanov ,1988):    

“The force recorded in slow movements is essentially indistinguishable from that recorded under isometric conditions.” V.A. Zaporozhanov Zdorovia, Kiev 1988

Furthermore, is it a coincidence both touted great results in developing strength and muscle mass with significantly less time in the gym? Hence, better results with less time than traditional methods. What’s not to like? Both of these disparate in time exercise methods and devices, cited scientific proof; validating of their claims.

Bob Hoffman extolled the significant gains realized in strength and muscle mass by York weightlifters; even from his own training. Jones followed the same path with claims of a famous bodybuilder’s fantastic results obtained from applying the Jones’ method with the Nautilus machines; a professional football player; and, even his own gains of muscle mass. For some reason Jone’s felt a picture of himself flexing his arms, i.e., a bald old man posing; would inspire?

Both of these strength exercise methods and devices, in one form or another are still around today. However, Hoffman’s isometrics: holding a weight against power rack pins; is most likely long forgotten. Despite years of hype and many millions from sales, Nautilus is just another line of exercise machines.  

That being said, training methods for strength proposed by Jones with the Nautilus machines are still around: the so –  called high intensity training (HIT), super slow training and others.

So, why look back at an exercise craze after so many years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent by colleges, universities, health clubs, professional and collegiate sport teams and training facilities? The answer to that why, is the ‘why’ any reasonable person would deem to listen to, let alone accept as fact, Jones’ outrageous non sequitors; or worse yet, invest many tens thousands of dollars in his exercise machines?

For example, many collegiate coaches of today are enamored with variations of over exertion training, i.e., training to fatigue;  traceable to Jones’ propaganda: 

“Exercise, proper exercise will never hurt you. It will hurt your muscles. It will make ‘em hurt. If it doesn’t you are not doing it right. But it won’t injury you. If you are training in such a fashion that your muscles don’t hurt doing the exercise, don’t bother. Quit.” (with a rising emote of anger, assertiveness). Arthur Jones.

Nonsensical pronouncements that exercise “will never hurt you’ but if your muscles don’t hurt. Quit.”; apparently inspired  a long queue of buyers who made Jones millions.

Furthermore, a good example of a pot calling the kettle black is the following; straight from the horse’s mouth; a trashing of another isometric training method: Hoffman isometrics, introduced to the NFL by one Alvin Roy. As has already been noted, the Hoffman isometrics are for all intent and purpose, fall into the same category of most any form of isometric training; just sans the ‘strain your guts out’ approach advocated with Nautilus machine exercises:

“But I am much against the criminal malpractice, the insanity that is being preached about this country particularly for the training of athletes. The guy who started that thing fortunately is now dead. His name is Alvin Roy.

“He {Alvin Roy, one of the NFL’s first strength and conditioning coaches. Roy introduced the Hoffman method of isometrics with the power rack to the NFL, Ed.}  was a con man. A liar. A phony. I knew he was wrong. I knew he was dumb. I knew he was stupid.”  (with a rising tone of disdain and disgust). Arthur Jones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBDHa-3Zk_8

Despite, or because of such crass protestations Jones’ angrily spewed about professional coaches practicing un – Nautilus training; would be customers present for a Jones recital would not mind if they too were included in Jones’ insults:

Any of you here who practice explosive lifts ought to have your marbles unscrambled. Because your goddam going to end up with  your joints scrambled. I guarantee you. Show me a man who has regularly performed competitive type lifts and I will show you permanent damage to his skeleton with an Xray. One hundred percent.” (spoken slowly, with anger, conviction) Arthur Jones

Factual misrepresentations

A rather bizarre example of marketing ploy; a narrative of doubt for sale; conceived by Jones, was the so called Colorado experiment. 

Over a period of 28 days a two time Mr. America (under 20 and senior divisions) was purported to have gained 63 pounds of muscle (subtracting loss of body fat) without resorting to anabolic drugs; exercising only with nautilus machines every other day. This preposterous claim is still talked about. The long list, which does exist, of people who replicated the results; is not to be found. Here are few relevant observations:

/ the subject who purportedly achieved such fantastic results won the 1970 under 20 Mr. America in York, PA at age 18. No one present, at least none of the weightlifters (of which I was one) who witnessed that competition believed it was possible for 18 year old to have developed so much muscle mass by natural means. He so dwarfed the other bodybuilders in the field; his unreal development looked to be the result some sort of digitized caricature; even though no such technology existed in 1970.

/ the same athlete won the senior Mr. America the following year; with likewise extraordinary muscle mass for a 19 year old.

/ extraordinary reactions to anabolic steroid administration by youths have been documented by East German sports scientists dating back to the 1960s. The younger the athlete (in teen years) the more profound the effect of the drugs. 

/ some years after the experiment; the subject of Jones’ Colorado experiment confided in former managing editor of Strength and Health, Bill Starr,  a well known and reputable source. He confided in Starr he was using anabolics and  he regularly left the campus to work out with barbells during the experiment.

/  according to another source: “Arthur was offering money per pound of bodyweight gained equivalent to a purchase of a Corvette”.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kwMBpc6e8o&t=421s)

End of story.

The point, maybe missing here; is not whether the subject actually gained an improbable amount of muscle with machine exercise; without drugs and other off – campus training with barbells and dumbbells; is why this misinformation still exists.

Were it not for the method Jones sold with the machines that stipulated one should exercise such that: “It will hurt your muscles. It will make ‘em hurt. If it doesn’t you are not doing it right.”  Would the likes of H.I.T. and other forms of isometric training be widely used at major universities, professional teams and the like? Would people still talk about an inconsequential event of fifty years past?

H.I.T. is still sold today with various other exercise to fatigue permutations. Yet, were there a shred of truth so – called experiment; it should have been replicated hundreds of times in the past fifty years; with a long list of Nautilus machine devotees gaining 3 lbs a day from use of the machines and methods. And,  barbells, would long since be relegated the trash.

Some Biomechanical/physiological refutations of training to ‘hurt your muscles’

A number of essays of accuracy, chronicle and epidemic of injuries in American sports; especially at the professional and collegiate levels. (see Charniga, https://www.sportivnypress.com/2019/why-safe-is-unsafe/https://www.sportivnypress.com/2017/achilles-tendon-ruptures-and-the-nfl/https://www.sportivnypress.com/2021/hamstring-injury-in-sport/).

The idea that athletes “need to teach their muscles to work harder’ see quote from Jones below; was coupled with the supposed danger of sudden movements (see quote below); are errant ideas that permeate university and professional weight rooms, athletic training, physical therapy, gyms and so forth to this day. A more than good case can be made slow strength movements, machine exercises, exercises to fatigue, nonsensical claims that machine exercises will teach the “muscles to work harder than necessary” are diametric opposite the actual outcomes from the slow – isometric – overexertion – “exercise – to – pain” training.

For example, another of Jones’ lies to buy machines: 

“Competitive lifting is a dangerous sport – and this is true of both Olympic-style lifting and power lifting, but for different reasons; in practicing the fast lifts, in Olympic lifting, the suddenness of movement is probably the most dangerous factor – such sudden movements, under heavy loads, impose tremendous G forces on both the muscles and tendons.” Arthur Jones

Weightlifters’ are subject to huge forces from exceeding the acceleration of a free falling body dropping into a deep squat with a barbell of up to 300% of bodyweight in grasp. These athletes, especially the females, have decidedly low injury rates compared to athletes in American sports who are the products of HIT, machine exercises, slow controlled exercises and various permutations of the Jones’ Nautilus methods and machines.

Weightlifters prepare for dynamic conditions in sports with fast dynamic movements; are subject fewer injuries especially when one considers  weightlifting is a sport of maximum strain. Contrast this circumstance to the injury prone football, basketball, soccer players in the USA who train slow and controlled to prepare for fast sudden change of direction, unexpected falls, tackling and so forth (see Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com).

Figure 3. How it is possible for weightlifters to withstand the stress/strain forces of receiving a barbell in excess of 300% of bodyweight while dropping into the deep squat; with an acceleration in excess of a free – falling body without injury; is beyond the comprehension of advocates slow exercise movements. Charniga photo.

The following statement is the blueprint; from a founding father of the American injury epidemic:

“The human body is designed to react with mechanically efficient movement patterns. Nautilus is designed to teach the muscles to work harder than necessary“. Arthur Jones

A significant root cause of the excessive rate of non – contact lower extremity injury in dynamic sports are techniques and methods of strength and conditioning popular in American sport (Charniga, 2015 – 2022). The quote from Jones in a rather astonishingly few words outlines his role. The statement ”  The human body is designed to react with mechanically efficient movement patterns.” is correct.

However, the second, that a machine is necessary to make the muscles work harder than necessary”; is profoundly false. Machine exercises, especially ones that supposedly can make more work for muscles than necessary is antithetical the design of the human musculo-skeletal system. The human body is designed to take advantage of the variance of the muscles’ mechanical advantage to cultivate strain energy from tendons and ligaments.

Muscle contraction alone cannot produce forces needed for power sports in the absence of strain energy from tendons, ligaments and fascia. Super – charged  release of energy critical for dynamic sport, is neither cultivated with machines, nor training muscles until they “hurt”. Jones’ claim, training with barbell exercises are deficient; obscures the fact the human body is designed to generate power beyond intrinsic properties of muscles.

The fundamental nature of training for explosiveness it to develop the skill to generate power with such speed and skill beyond anything possible from mere muscle contraction; no matter how big, how strong, or what machine was used to develop strength:  

”the various functions of biological springs allow the locomotor system to operate beyond the bounds of intrinsic muscle properties, including metabolic and mechanical characteristics, as well as motor control processes.” Roberts, T. 2011

The statement above that Biological springs allow athletes to go beyond the forces muscles alone can’t produce is direct contradiction to Jones’ phony science of doubt; which doubles down with ignorance compounding ignorance:  

“Explosive training is simply criminal. Its stupid as hell. {even louder inflection of disdain; assertiveness/anger} (Long pause for effect) Ignorance we can deal with; stupidity well; {Pause} That’s genetic, you can’t deal with it.” Arthur Jones

The how, and more importantly the why, any rational person; especially a potential customer of Nautilus; would accept the angry assertion “stupidity is genetic you can’t deal with it”. Jones’ anger emote was designed to instill doubt; to convince potential customers they were victims of ‘genetic stupidity’ if his pronouncements were not accepted verbatim. Obviously, to the many customers of Nautilus; this was compelling?

However, one of Jones’ biggest, if not the biggest lies is his claim machine training will increase all those factors (of power and speed); without a shred of evidence training until muscles hurt, with slow grinding movements controlled by machines will improve speed and power for the real world of dynamic sport; a target market for Nautilus: 

“You have experts saying you have to use free weights for power; sand bags; train this way for power, train some other way for speed BS, crap, nonsense; {Long Pause}. {Very angry} If you are training in such a fashion that you will produce results, you will increase all of those factors; and damn near on a one to one ratio.” Arthur Jones

The statement “if you are training in such a fashion that you will produce results all those factors will increase” is a lie plain and simple. Nevertheless, Jones’ angry assertion slow training, isometric training, Nautilus training will increase speed an power is still repeated today by the HIT advocates and other slow training devotees.  

Who is so gullible, so naive to believe someone invented “a logical barbell, a sane barbell’; let alone that one of these thinking machines are all that is needed to strengthen one for sport?:

“A nautilus machine is nothing more than an improved barbell; a logical barbell {Very angry} a rational barbell; a sane barbell. You have experts saying you have to use free weights for power; sand bags; train this way for power, train some other way for speed BS, crap, nonsense; {Long Pause}. {Very angry}. Arthur Jones

The omnipresent false narrative at the heart of the business of selling the means and methods with which to develop strength and muscle mass i..e., bodybuilding strength, with machines, is that machine exercises will address and somehow overcome the deficiencies of human evolution.

Jones repeats over and over barbell exercise affects only one angle (90°) in a typical range of motion. That is false. Were it true one would see only odd development of muscles; for instance, the biceps would only develop through the mid – range of a curl exercise in the 90° range. Of course this doesn’t happen.

Weightlifters and other athletes get stronger from barbell and other forms of explosive training than is possible from using machines and especially from training to fatigue; because muscles are trained to utilize the super charged properties of elastic recoil from tendons and ligaments.

Figure 4. World champion weightlifter lifting in excess of 300% of body weight; a ‘skill of strength’ not to be found in the dreams of the dreams of the super slow people. Charniga photo.

An anecdote may help to illustrate how it was possible to convince supposedly intelligent  people to do dumb things:

Two major mid-western universities, by happenstance; or just coincidence; managed to share in common; two disparate; but, nonetheless, extraordinary blunders of academic ignorance/negligence. They managed an intellectual leap from different frying pans into the same fire.

For many years the strength and conditioning staffs of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University respectively, espoused the philosophy of HIT (high intensity training). So enamored were the universities’ respective staff’s of the no skill, no coordination, strain to failure exercise techniques and methods; both institutions were persuaded to restrict the use barbells and other free weight equipment on all campus weight rooms for the their respective student populations. Only ‘safe’ machine exercises were permitted.

Somehow or other, in the midst an overlapping of these delusions in the name of knowledge and safety of strength training; both schools managed to ‘overlook’ numerous, egregious sexual abuse allegations of student athletes; on the part of their respective medical staff members; over a period of not weeks or months; but years. Ultimately, the  collective cost to both institutions as a result of the sexual abuse accusations of dozens of students; was in the many hundreds of millions.   

The athletic programs of these two self same institutions of higher learning are notoriously tight lipped about reporting injuries of their student athletes especially in football. The most common reason for reporting absence (injury?) from the field is designated: ‘undisclosed’. A phony, low, or ambiguous injury rate; of course implies their HIT training, and machine workouts, athletic trainers taping athletes’ ankles with miles upon miles of athletic tape; injury rehab procedures and the like are state of the art.

A similar ambiguity of knowledge and competence prevailed at both institutions until numerous students came forward with accusations of sexual abuse of doctors on staff at both schools. The costs to both schools to settle the suits was in the hundreds of millions. The suits were brought, in some cases, years after the respective schools ignored complaints; one abuser was even promoted several times at MSU; such that an atmosphere was created within the school someone of his stature was unassailable.

So, the same institutions who bought into the nonsensical Nautilus/Jones safe training for the optimum strength training of all their student athletes and students at large; enabled sexual predators. In effect, doubling down on athlete safety.

How did these institutions know so much about strength and conditioning and so little about demented doctors with devious digits? Easy, they are dumb and dumber. They were dumb enough to buy a bag of goods sold by the coaches who adopted the training philosophy of Arthur Jones. Therefore, how would administrators of the same schools be expected to recognize a pervasiveness of professional perverts on their respective staffs? 

Conclusions

“There are some ideas so wrong, only a very intelligent person could believe them.” George Orwell

 / it is not a difficult ‘stretch’ to trace the roots of the current injury epidemic in American sport to the training methods Arthur Jones touted along with his machines;

/ training to fatigue, to make muscles hurt, within the confines of ‘sane’ machines, with super slow movement exercises, ‘safe’ low coordination exercises and the like have proven to have had a negative impact on performance in dynamic sport; 

/ sale of misinformation whether it be machines or methods; by means of an Arthur Jones’ exclusivity of exclusiveness model, is not new; nonetheless, obviously relatively easy to replicate as critical thinking and intelligence do not necessarily walk hand in hand;

/ Arthur Jones’ ‘angry rhetoric’ emote in the marketing of pseudo science has been and still is a proven and effective tool for the sowing of doubt;

/ the question as to why so many listened to and believed the many falsehoods Jones’ was peddling probably has more to do with economics than psychology; which can be encapsulated in the oxymoronic adage: ‘new and improved’.

References

Charniga, A., “Distinctions Between Static (Powerlifting/bodybuilding) and Dynamic (Weightlifting/Ballistic) Expressions of Strength in Resistance Exercises, www.sportivnypress.com

Charniga, A., “How is it possible weightlifters are stronger?”, www.sportivnypress.com

Charniga, A., “Why safe is unsafe”, www.sportivnypress.com

Charniga, A., “There is no system: parts I – V,”  www.sportivnypress.com

Vorobeyev, A.N., Tiizhelaya Atletika, (Weightlifting), FIS, Moscow, 1971, 1977, 1988. Translated by Andrew Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com

/ M.L. Latash, M.L., Zatsiorsky, V. M., Biomechanics of Motor Control, 2016

/ Lederman, E., “The Myth of Core stability”, CPDO Online Journal (2007), June, p1-17. www.cpdo.net 

/ Charniga, A., “Hamstring injury in sport”, www.sportivnypress.com

/ Charniga, A., “Why Safe is Unsafe”, www.sportivnypress.com

/ Charniga, A., “Nine straps”, www.sportivnypress.com

/ Astrand, P-O., Rodahkl, K., Dahl, H., Stromme, ZS., Textbook of Work Physiology Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL 2003

/ Gudz, P. Z., “Morphological Alterations of Muscular Connective Tissue as a Result of Static and Dynamic Training”, Kiev, Papers from the First All – Soviet Conference on Sport Morphology Moscow, The All- Soviet Scientific Research Institute of Physical Culture, 31-33:1975 Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.

/ Bobbert, M., Huijing, P., Van Ingen Schenau, G., “A model of the human triceps surae muscle- tendon complex applied to jumping; ” J. Biomechnaics vol. 19: 11: 887-898:1986