Can Computers Build Muscles?

Article. Can Computers Build Muscles?

Scientific approach to physical training

Muscle and Fitness

Published on Monday, August 9, 1993 by Paul Word

High-tech machines may provide the ultimate workout

individualized workout

By Paul Ward, PED

During the past 20 years, bodybuilding has made enormous progress in developing and refining a scientific approach to physical training. This has been due in no small measure to the giant strides made in resistance exercise equipment and its application to training. One of the most significant of these innovations has been the computerization of equipment, including stationary bikes, treadmills, stair steppers, rowers and resistance machines.

The computer brings to resistive exercise a broad new realm of possibilities for applications in bodybuilding, athletics, general fitness training and rehabilitation.

The computer brings to resistive exercise a broad new realm of possibilities for applications in bodybuilding, athletics, general fitness training and rehabilitation. The leaders in the field have been Life Fitness’ Life Circuit equipment, Universal Gym’s Fit Net system, and the most recent and sophisticated Ariel Computerized Exercise System (CES).


While high technology will always fuel a never-ending evolution in exercise equipment, free weights will never be replaced. They are the core tools of the bodybuilder. Nevertheless, it’s foolish for the bodybuilder to overlook all the possible tools of training that are available to him or her.

Imagine walking into a hardcore gym of the future that has a unique computerized high-tech equipment area for specialized evaluation and training. These advanced machines and computers are interfaced to diagnose muscular strengths and weaknesses and are designed to program and control exercise routines for optimal gains.

Muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance are evaluated by this computerized equipment in more applicable, meaningful and specific ways. Training reports are supplied and evaluated without hassle in simple and easily understood outputs that determine exercise parameters for daily, weekly and monthly training cycles.

These sophisticated computerized exercise machines can automatically store large volumes of training information. The subsequent analysis of this information will lead to a more efficient training program. Thus, trial and error training in the gym will be minimized.

August 1993 MUSCLE & FITNESS 125

The amazing thing is, this is not a futuristic vision. It’s today’s reality. Such sophisticated and advanced computerized exercise equipment as described above is being produced as you read this by Ariel LifeSystems, Inc. of La Jolla, California. I have chosen two of this company’s machines to describe the enormous potential applications for futuristic, cutting-edge bodybuilding and sports training. They arc the CES 5000 Multi-Function machine and the CES 5000 Arm-Leg machine.

The CES 5000 Multi-Function machine allows for multijoint, total-body training, including many variations of squats, presses (front and behind-theneck), incline presses, bench presses, decline presses, front and side deltoid movements, shoulder shrugs, high pulls, variations of abdominal and lowback exercises, dips, pull-downs, curls and French presses.

The CES 5000 Arm-Leg machine can be used to execute a wide variety of single-joint actions using the ankle, knee, elbow and wrist joints. An assortment of multijoint exercises involving the chest, shoulders, arms, low back and abdominal muscles can be performed as well.

In addition, individual exercise parameters and options can be designated and recorded by the computer. For example, unilateral and bilateral exercise can be performed with ease and with the same computer control and documentation. The possibilities are endless and the results promise to be spectacular.


Confusion about what is needed to achieve a specific bodybuilding objective should be drastically reduced. All solutions and exercise prescriptions,

Gideon Ariel (seated) and Paul Ward monitor Niagara Falls Invitational winner Ray McNell as he squats and bench presses.

including sets, repetitions and intensity, will be defined and stored in the computer so that the bodybuilder will have valid answers to his or her questions. Precise, custom exercise programs already stored in the computer can be accessed just by pushing a few keys on a keyboard.

The beauty of this approach is that all of the training information is supported by data collected from hundreds and thousands of hours of exercise sessions that have been recorded, analyzed and correlated to the individual (see Figure 1).

These machines employ a sturdy


Gideon Ariel, PhD, chairman of the board of Ariel LifeSystems, is a worldrenowned authority in biomechanics (the science linking physics to body movement) with special expertise in computer science. He is a former Olympic athlete for Israel. He completed his graduate and postdoctoral work at the University of Massachusetts, where he received a PhD in exercise and computer science. He has published numerous scientific papers and has appeared on national television programs.

Ariel holds several patents (including one on variable resistance, which is the basis of most modern exercise equipment) and has served as a consultant to many of the country’s leading companies. He founded an independent laboratory devoted to biomechanical research relating to human performance, and was chairman of the U.S. Olympic Biomechanical Committee.

In 1968, Ariel founded Computerized Biomechanical Analysis to investigate the application of the emerging technology of computers to the science of movement. When the development of the personal computer in the early 1980s led to widespread use of his technology, Ariel began limited marketing of the Computerized Exercise System (CES) and the Ariel Performance Analysis System (APAS).

Ariel’s technology has been used by many coaches and athletic teams, including the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team, the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team and some major league baseball teams. Elite individual athletes who have been analyzed by Ariel include Jimmy Connors, Bill Rodgers, Al Oerter, Mac Wilkins and Edwin Moses.

126 MUSCLE & FITNESS August 1993


The upper curve is the pushing part of this movement and the bottom curve is the pulling part. The start of the pushing movement is at the left and the finish is on the right. The start of the pulling movement is at the right and the finish is on the left. The performance of the last training session is represented by the squares while today’s performance is demonstrated by the yellow curve.


This graph displays the strength curve, the displacement curve and the muscle recruitment pattern for various muscles used in the bench press pushing/pulling action. The top horizontal pattern shows the pushing action (the part above the horizontal line) and the pulling action (the part below the horizontal line). The second horizontal pattern exhibits the displacement of the bar during the complete push/pull action. The four bottom horizontal patterns show the muscle recruitment patterns for the anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, biceps and triceps, respectively.


This graph displays the fatigue curve of a bench press/pull movement. The top graph is for the pushing action. The lower graph is for the pulling movement. The strength decrease is displayed on the graph moving from left to right. The solid yellow displays the fatigue level and the white line shows the maximum strength at each succeeding repetition. The bodybuilder can set the level of fatigue as desired to ensure that a specific objective (strength, mass, cutting or shaping) will be attained.


This curve shows three sticking point isometric force applications coupled within a series of dynamic repetitions of the bench press/pull movement. Note the different shape of the push curve (top) compared with the shape of the pulling curve (bottom). The magnitude of the sticking point forces of the pushing action is higher than the sticking point forces of the pulling action. This is to be expected in most people.


This graph displays the curve plots of the computer programming of increasing resistance of the pushing action of the bench press movement for each succeeding repetition of an ascending pyramid in spectrum training.


This graph displays the curve plots of the computer programming of decreasing resistance of the pushing action of the bench press movement for each succeeding repetition of a descending pyramid in spectrum training.


This graph displays the curve plots of the computer programming of increasing and decreasing resistance of the pushing action of the bench press movement for each succeeding repetition of an ascending/descending pyramid in spectrum training.


This graph displays the curve plots of the computer programming of decreasing and increasing resistance of the pushing action of the bench press movement for each succeeding repetition of a descendinglascending pyramid in spectrum training.


This graph displays the strength curve of an isokinetic (constant velocity) bench press pushing/pulling movement. Note that the upper (pushing) curve is a different shape and magnitude than the lower (pulling) curve. The force expression of the pushing curve is greater as the user moves through the range of motion (left to right in the upper curve). The force expression of the pulling curve is very high at the start of the movement and falls off at the end of the movement (right to left in the lower curve).


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computerized digital hydraulic resistor pack instead of weights, springs or manually adjusted hydraulic or pneumatic resistance. This helps ensure safer, quieter and more efficient workouts. By using monitors and printers with color graphics to illustrate the individual’s exercise performance, anybody who is even slightly computer literate will be able to follow a predetermined exercise program or create a physical profile relating to personal


strengths, weaknesses, speed, power and endurance. This equipment takes resistive exercise from the Iron Age to the Computer Age.


The ultimate objective for any bodybuilding exercise is to work the muscle at its maximum efficiency to achieve the desired goal. To effectively accomplish this objective, the bodybuilder must know and use the proper amount of force; the specific range of motion; the appropriate speed(s) of movement; the amount of time to complete each repetition and set; and the proper acceleration.

With these new machines, computers precisely control all these exercise requirements while at the same time recording volumes of information that can be easily analyzed at the end of the set or exercise session. No other exercise equipment adjusts to the individual bodybuilder as effectively or comprehensively as these cutting-edge devices. Thus they help ensure safety as well as effectiveness. Since all the parameters of exercise are programmed, computer controlled and automatically stored, the bodybuilder*s only concern is to focus on exercise performance.


Free weights and most conventional resistance equipment are gravity dependent. Therefore, they are subject to inertia and the exerciser can apply resistance only in one direction. In using free weights, the bodybuilder is limited to the weight that can be moved through the weakest point in the range of motion. Consequently, the muscle or muscles cannot be worked maximally through a full contraction potential.

Furthermore, free weights and conventional resistance machines offer little control of many of the exercise parameters listed above. The bodybuilder has to regulate them by feel and guesswork during the exercise. This is not efficient or objective by any stretch of the imagination, making it difficult for the bodybuilder to accurately gauge his or her performance.

The CES machines have a closedloop, feedback-controlled mechanism that overcomes many of the other disadvantages of free weights and conventional machines. The mechanism provides the user with the flexibility and adaptability to exercise at any resistance or velocity pattern throughout the range of motion. Moreover,

these computerized machines are capable of modifying the feedback loop during the exercise to achieve a planned sequential or patterned progression of resistance or velocity for the optimum effects on muscle growth and strength. For example, an interactive closed-loop feedback mechanism senses and automatically responds to the bodybuilder’s performance up to 16,000 times per second.

The advantage here over traditional equipment is that a bodybuilder can preselect the overall pattern of exercise. Then the machine assumes the responsibility for adjusting and controlling the precise resistance, the desired speed of movement, the exact range of motion, the chosen rhythm of movement, the prescribed number of sets and repetitions and the rest time between sets. At the conclusion of each rep, set and exercise, the machines provide more information about each than is available from any other source or device. What more could a bodybuilder or personal trainer ask for?


The Ariel machines can be utilized (Continued on page 238)

in either unidirectional or bidirectional modes. Unidirectional means that shortening muscle contractions (concentric) can be performed under resistance in only one direction if desired. The equipment can be easily returned to the starting position with minimal resistance in that mode.

Bidirectional means that the movements are comprised of double positive actions. The prime-mover muscle action is followed by an antagonistic muscle movement within the same exercise pattern. An example would be a curl action performed first, followed by elbow extension – or vice versa – within one full exercise movement. Another example is a pressing action followed immediately by a pulling action for one rep. Unidirectional or bidirectional training exercises have no negative (eccentric) muscle contractions.

Unidirectional and bidirectional exercises facilitate blood flow in the muscle, more effectively providing oxygen and nutrients and disposing of waste products in the muscle tissue. Unidirectional and bidirectional movements are new bodybuilding concepts that are very promising for providing exercise diversity and may be more effective and specific for building, strengthening and defining muscle mass.

Ariel’s CES machines also allow the bodybuilder to train either unilaterally (one limb only) or bilaterally (two limbs simultaneously). The actions for either are equally smooth and effective, more so than that provided by free weights and traditional machines.


A visionary feature of these new computerized machines is the ability to apply simple and noninvasive electronic recording of how the muscles are recruited and utilized during exercise. This is known as electromyography (EMG). With electromyographic technology the bodybuilder can determine when the muscle fibers are active during a movement. Using this technology enables the bodybuilder to ascertain which exercise best develops a specific muscle and in what manner. Various sections of the muscle can be monitored to establish how they are being recruited in a specific exercise with a specific intensity, velocity and range of motion.

This helps take the guesswork out of selecting which routines and exer

cises will produce optimal results. This revolutionary feature represents a quantum leap in bodybuilding training – a giant progression to a higher level of understanding of how to build a superior physique (see Figure 2).


The Ariel machines are fantastic tools that have great capabilities – but you have to know what you’re doing. So far, nine basic programs have been devised for these machines. Many more subprograms will be developed as bodybuilders, coaches and exercise scientists become more familiar with this new technology.

The nine programs devised are as follows:

1) THE USER PROFILE PROGRAM The User Profile Program produces an individual performance profile for range of motion, speed of movement and strength – a basic first step in using the technology. This program introduces the user to the machine so that the machine can more accurately react to his or her individual strengths and limitations.

This program is not an exercise program as such. It’s used to measure the user’s maximum abilities and other exercise characteristics. The maximum speed of movement and the strength of the individual for any specific exercise are used by the computer to determine the proper valve adjustment best suited to the user’s capabilities. The range of motion measurement is used by the system to ensure that the bodybuilder stays within the range of motion that he or she selects for any specific exercise.

2) THE ACCOMMODATING RESISTANCE PROGRAM This exercise mode can be programmed to increase muscle mass, or to enhance the shape of the muscle and improve local muscle endurance. An important feature of this mode is that the machine perfectly matches the strength curve of each individual during any exercise.

Keep in mind that as you move through a range of motion during an exercise, your ability to apply force changes as a consequence of the biomechanics of the joint system and the length-tension curve of the muscletendon unit. In other words, the actual muscular force output varies through the range of motion based upon the interaction of the muscle and bones.

Variable force, therefore, is part of all human movement. Only “intelligent” systems can precisely accommodate the changing resistance throughout the range of motion. Because the computers perform this function, the

bodybuilder can concentrate on maximally contracting the muscle at all points in the range of motion. The result: more growth. Again, free weights and conventional machines can’t provide this.

Moreover, the machines can be programmed to move at any desired speed, which allows the user to vary the force as he or she desires. This enables the bodybuilder to train all muscle fibers from the slow-twitch fibers to the fast-twitch fibers – and every muscle fiber in between – by performing repetitions at different intensities (Figure 1).

3) THE ACCOMMODATING VELOCITY (ACCELERATION) PROGRAM While the accommodating resistance mode matches the strength curve of the specific individual, the accommodating velocity mode matches the specific individual velocity patterns.

Acceleration is involved in all exercise motions. This program provides the appropriate resistance for each exercise while matching the acceleration patterns encountered in natural movements of any preselected acceleration or velocity pattern. This allows the bodybuilder to train the muscles at velocities and acceleration patterns that have never been available before with free weights and conventional machines.

This mode also simulates the traditional isotonic movements common with free weights. In addition, the computerized machines have the ability to 1) add and subtract weight throughout the range of motion; and 2) measure the speed of motion.

4) WORK TRAINING The main objective of this training program is to control the volume of work. It can be programmed to benefit strength, mass, local muscular endurance and bodyfat reduction, but the best application of this mode is to shape and define muscle.

The work training mode requires the user to complete a predetermined amount of work at a preselected velocity. The controlling factor is the amount of work to be performed. If you use a small amount of force, the number of repetitions needed will be greater and the length of time needed to achieve the amount of force will be longer. On the other hand, if the user decides to work at higher intensities, the number of repetitions will be fewer and the time needed to perform the work will be reduced.

This program is highly motivational and allows you to do more work in less time. It also provides a useful index of performance (the amount of

work divided by the number of repetitions needed to complete the preassigned work). Also, the time needed to perform the workload is another index of performance.

For example, you may assign a workload of 10,000 pounds. The bodybuilder can perform this work by executing 100 repetitions, which would give an index of 100 pounds per repetition. If the bodybuilder performed 10,000 pounds of work in 80 repetitions, then the work index would be 125 pounds per repetition (10,000/80=125 pounds). If you consider the time in which the total work was performed, you would have a power index. This power index and the other evaluations mentioned above can be used as evaluation tools, to develop training goals and/or to provide motivation for the bodybuilder.

5) FATIGUE TRAINING Fatigue training allows the bodybuilder to preselect the desired fatigue level. This takes the guesswork out of selecting the number of repetitions needed to produce exhaustion.

The fatigue level is determined by the machine when two consecutive repetitions fall below the preselected fatigue level. For example, if a 75% fatigue level is preselected, the exercise will terminate when the user has lost 25% of his or her strength.

Depending upon the specific fatigue level selected, the bodybuilder can use this program to achieve gains in strength, mass, definition, bodyfat reduction, cardiovascular conditioning and/or local muscle endurance.

If a higher fatigue level (80-90%) is selected, then more mass and strength are developed. A preselection of a moderate fatigue level (65-75%) will produce shaping and definition benefits. The selection of a low fatigue level (50% or below) will produce improved local muscle endurance and increase fat burning (see Figure 3). 6) TIMED EXERCISE In this mode a certain amount of time is specified for the completion of a specific exercise or entire workout. At the end of the specified time, the exercise will be terminated regardless of the amount of work or repetitions completed. In all, the timing function can be used to control the time allowed for the completion of a single set; group of sets; the time between sets; and the total time for a total group of exercises.

This function allows for the equal time distribution for each exercise and the control of the total training time. This function can be applied to any

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(Continued from page ?40)

bodvbuikling tthjectve.


This program combines a regular dynamic movement with up to eight sticking points. The length of time for each separate sticking point can be set from 1-S seconds as desired.

This program has two basic objectives. One is to develop maximal recruitment of all types of muscle fibers, which results in maximal increases in strength and hypertrophy. The second objective is to increase the weak points in the range of motion.

The combination of dynamic and isometric exercise has some very good support in scientific literature regarding its effectiveness as a strength and mass builder. Nevertheless, up until the computer-controlled machines, performing this type of training was time-consuming, dull and difficult. CES machines, on the other hand, make this effective brand of exercise much easier to do. There is great potential to develop mass and strength using this program (Figure 4).


Spectrum training involves training the muscles at many different speeds of movement. By doing this, the lx)dvbuilder can be sure to train fast-twitch, slow-twitch and intermediate muscle fibers.

– The basic aim of this training mode is to maximally develop mass and strength – and this program may be the best mass-training program in existence! Spectrum training can van’ speed in successive sets or vary the speed in successive repetitions – or a combination of both.

You can go from slow speed to fast, or vice versa, or choose from man’ other variations. Here’s an example of a slow-to-fast pattern and a fast-to-slow pattern:




1 Slow Speed: Fast Speed:

i-6 Reps 9-12 Reps

2 Medium Speed: Medium Speed:

6-8 Reps 6-8 Reps

3 Fast Speed: Slow Speed:

9-12 Reps 4-6 Reps

One method of spectrum training varies the speed of exercise between each succeeding set. The first set is performed at a slow speed while the second set is performed at medium speed. Then the third set is performed at fast speed. Any desired number of

sets and repetitions can be used with any speed of movement.

Another way of applying spectrum training is to vary the speed of movement for each repetition in a set. For example, the first repetition is performed at slow speed while the second repetition is performed at medium speed. Then the third repetition is performed at a fast speed. Any combination of speeds and number of repetitions, sets or patterns can be programmed.

The latter method of applying spectrum training is really similar to pyramiding with free weights or conventional machine exercises, The pyramid can he an ascending pattern, where the speed of movement on each succeeding repetition is increased until muscular failure. In this case the resistance begins near maximum and on each succeeding repetition it’s autonuatically reduced until the desired level of fatigue is reached (Figure 5).

Another pyramid pattern is the descending format. In this pattern the speed of movement moves progressively slower from a very fast speed to a very slow movement. The resistance at first is very light and progresses to a very heavy resistance. One continues to execute repetitions until muscular failure (Figure 6).

Other versions can be used in combinations, i.e., ascending-descending or descending/ascending (figures and 8) – whatever the bodybuilder desires. These programs can produce the ultimate pump.

9) CONSTANT VELOCITY TRAINING Constant velocity training is isokinetic training performed with hydraulic resistance equipment. This is


Below are four different pyramiding formats that can be used in spectrum pyramiding training. Except for the numbers indicating amount of repetitions, each number in the chart repre

also known as accommodating resistance. The velocity of the movement is constant while the force at each point in the range of motion varies with the hiomechanics and In uscle-tendinous unit length. As you move through the range of motion, the resistance will be different at each point within that range. This type of training benefits size, strength, shaping and local muscular endurance and helps reduce

sents the speed of movement in degrees per second. The fewer degrees per second, the more the resistance applied during the exercise. The more degrees per second, the less the resistance.

Repetition Ascending Descending Ascending/ Descending/

Descending Ascending

1 20 130 20 120

2 30 120 -10 100

3 40 110 60 80

4 50 100 80 60

5 60 90 1(x) 40

6 70 80 120 20

7 80 70 120 20

8 90 60 100 -t0

9 100 50 80 60

10 110 40 60 80

11 120 30 40 100

12 130 20 20 120

bodyfat (Figure 9).


A few reasons why the new computerized workout machines are at the cutting edge of bodybuilding training include:

1) The computers accurately monitor and control velocity and resistance throughout the range of motion.

2) Variable velocity can be programmed to over 1,000 degrees per second in each direction for acceleration and exercise specificity.

3) Variable resistance can be progranmnied to over 1,000 pounds in each direction.

4) Pyramiding of resistance or speed can be programmed in each direction.

5) Range of motion can be programmed.

6) Velocity or resistance can be independently controlled in each direction of every repetition.

7) Computerized diagnostics and testing programs can be used to control range of motion, velocity, strength, peak force, peak hold, delay time and fatigue index.

8) The entire range of motion can

be programmed for dynamic calibration.

9) Each individual’s exercise and diagnostic history is stored and is available for immediate recall.

10) Comparison information is visually displayed on the color monitor. Also, the machines can print color graphs, charts, tabloid comparisons and previous exercise data and compare them with current performances and/or optimal performances, training and rehabilitation goals set earlier.

11) The machines display a performance profile that provides instant data, including of average force, power or speed of each repetition lifted; the maximum of each repetition; the average of both up and down movements; anti total pounds lifted.

12) They display a performance curve that illustrates the force, velocity, work and power created in relation to time, the position of the bar and the pace of lifting.

13) They calculate anti report caloric expenditures for each exercise and the total for each training session.

14) Over 30 different exercises can be performed on each exercise machine for total body exercise.

15) A set-up for testing and./or training can be accomplished in a matter of


16) An endurance program can automatically reduce resistance with each repetition to accommodate the user’s level of fatigue.

17) Comparison information can be displayed on the screen and printed with color graphics in a tabled format. Some of the comparisons include:

� Present performance/previous performance.

� Pre-injury performance/postinjury performance.

� Actual performance/ideal performance.

� Right limb%left limb.

� Extensors flexors.

� Force/power/speed – any comparison combination.

18) Up to nine different exercise result formats may be selectively displayed on the monitor and copied by the printer.

19) In addition to the exercise results, the following data can be displayed:

� Endurance by repetition.

� Endurance by time.

� Strength curve analysis.

� Fatigue curves.

20) Performance goals can be displayed during an exercise for each movement. A target value can be high