Three months of ARX training

I just completed 3 months of dedicated, weekly workouts on the ARX Alpha with Tony Briese in his studio in Canton, OH. Here are the results.

My usual workout is as follows:

  • 6 reps at 10/10 second cadence of leg press, chest press, and row
  • 1:00 to 1:30 of isometric hold (“statics”) of leg press, chest press, and row
  • each set has a 1 minute rest

And that’s all. Total work time is usually like 11 minutes. Of course at any point in time during that 11 minutes I’m working at maximum effort, so I’m pretty tired afterwards. I usually lay on the ground for another 5-10 minutes afterwards, resisting the urge to throw up or pass out.

Performance has been great though. Overall, total intensity and max generated force have all been improving since I started, which is nice.

Total output was pinned for 5 weeks while I did the “time trial” protocol, in which you have some quota of foot-lbs to generate for that set and your goal is to produce that much force in less time than the last workout. So total output remains the same, but total workout time should be decreasing. Output/time = intensity, so if output is the same and time is decreasing then we should expect intensity to increase. If you look at the above graph you’ll see the blue intensity graph steadily increasing, meaning I was making progress during that time.

Anyway, after I switched from time trials back to the rep protocol, my leg press took off, which means I was probably training well below my max for those time trial workouts.

Below are the last four weeks of rep protocol sets. I was proud of getting 10,000 foot-lbs of total output this week in the leg press. In between reps there is a small break, just to catch your breath and re-orient. My goal over the next few months is to reduce this break time to zero.

Also my row performance is not improving as much as my leg press or chest press, so I should probably focus on rows for a few weeks. I tend to rotate the order of exercises so that every third week I get to work a different muscle group while fresh, but going forward I will keep rows in front for a few weeks.

Statics are done after reps. My goal is always to beat the previous max, total output, and time, in that order. It’s really hard to perform well at this point in the workout since statics are done after reps, after I’m gassed and barely conscious. But they are the most fun because I can just focus on breathing and pressing, I don’t have to worry about adjusting my form as I move along the repetition.

My favorite part about the ARX is undoubtably the instant feedback. As I’m progressing through the set, whether it’s reps or statics, I’m competing against myself from last week. I really don’t care about the absolute numbers; I just want my relative performance to increase week over week. Making that progress feels great. This is not something you can achieve with any other training tool, as far as I know.

I’ve done HIT training on my own, with Nautilus machines and with free weights, and with trainers such as The Perfect Workout. The problem I have with traditional machines is that you are limited by your concentric strength. For example, take the latest chest press from above. My max-concentric was 312 lbs, but my max-eccentric was 468 lbs – that’s over 150 lbs different. If I was doing a barbell bench press or even a Nautilus chest press, I would never be able to press 468 lbs off of my chest, so the absolute max that I would load onto the bar or weight stack would be ~300 lbs. But in doing so I’m missing out on doing maximal work on the eccentric motion. It’s just not possible.

Starting this week I’m doing only statics. The idea is to reduce volume but increase intensity to see how that effects my progress and other activities.

By Ben Sima

It's me.

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