CrossCore180® versus Free-weights
The upstart portable takes on the heavyweight champion of resistance training
By Marty Gallagher
Coach, Team USA, IPF world team powerlifting champions; IPF world masters powerlifting champion
Imagination is the only limitation
Fitness defined: Why do we go to all the time, trouble, expense and effort to include fitness into the overwhelmingly complex matrix of our already complicated lives? In most cases, the motivation to commence a fitness regimen springs from a profound dissatisfaction with our body, our physique, our external self. Because of this dissatisfaction, we seek to favorably alter the composition and configuration of our physique using fitness modes and methods. By engaging in an effective fitness regimen, one that produces tangible results, we improve our body and simultaneously improve our health, well-being and quality of life. We want to look and feel better as a result of our fitness efforts. In almost every instance these transformational hopes and dreams never come to fruition, for a wide variety of easily understandable reasons.
Finding the right fitness method, an effective fitness method, is akin to finding a proverbial needle in the fitness haystack. There are a legion of competing fitness theories, strategies, methods and gurus, all telling you that they alone have the magical method or mode. With so many possibilities and choices, how does a regular person leading a regular life find the true expert, the legitimate tool, the truly effective method? Here is an inconvenient truth: 99% of fitness methods, modes, tools and products flat do not work. Want proof? If even 10% of the commercially available fitness products and systems worked, this nation would be overrun with muscled-up, leaned-out bodies…the opposite is true: we are overrun with flaccid, out-of-shape, skinny-fat bodies. Every fitness product needs to generate sales in order to survive and the eternal temptation is to make exaggerated claims about the results derived from use of the product.
The first step in transforming oneself from flaccid into fit, from fat into fantastic, is to define results: what exactly can we realistically expect from our fitness efforts? What methods work? How long and how often do I need to train? How best do I utilize my available training time? How long do I need to wait before I start seeing results? How long until I have achieved the complete physical transformation I see in my mind’s eye? These are all legitimate questions: the problem is unscrupulous product makers will entice a sale by suggesting that the use of their magical potion, product or system will allow you, the purchaser, to shortcut or completely avoid the time, discipline and intense physical effort that invariably accompanies a true transformation. When pondering the dilemma that is transformative fitness, it is critical that we identify what constitutes real results. What is the irreducible core goal of real, result-producing fitness? What is it we seek, at a fundamental level?
We cannot obtain a thing or attain a thing if we cannot define that thing.
Ultimately, all the diets and all the various types of exercise, all the nutritional supplements, legitimate or bogus, all the experts, real and imagined, all the exercise equipment, all the best selling diet books and infomercials touting fitness products – all of it is designed to improve the shape, configuration and composition of your body. To achieve a true transformation we need…
- A dramatic increase in lean muscle mass
- A dramatic reduction in body fat
Fitness, ultimately, is about building muscle, reducing body fat or some combination of both. If somehow we were to suddenly become leaner and stronger we would reap a cornucopia of physical and physiological benefits. When we become leaner and stronger we automatically improve all of our measurable physical capacities and benchmarks. Leaner and stronger means we are able to run faster, jump higher, leap further, go longer, go harder…we improve stamina, mobility, agility, you name an athletic attribute and we improve that skill in direct proportion to how lean and how muscular we become.
How, specifically, do we find those scant and elusive effective tools and productive protocols, the type and kind that enable the trainee to engineer their very own radical physical transformation? With so much bad information and disinformation and misinformation, all tainted by commercialism, how do we discover those modes and methods that deliver the dramatic results we seek? Elite trainers understand that to maximize results we need engage in two separate and distinct modes of training:
- strength training increases lean muscle mass
- cardiovascular training (in sync with disciplined eating) oxidizes body fat
Let us take a quick moment to dispel a persistent fitness myth – that, like the Yeti or Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, there exists a mythical training mode that delivers maximum strength and muscle-building results while simultaneously providing maximum fat burning results – the contention being that there exists a perfect two-for-one training protocol that combines strength training with cardio training and produces twice the results in half the time. This is a falsehood of the highest order. The very premise a physiological impossibility (for a variety of reasons) and a bad compromise at best. Those that attempt to wed the cardio and strength in one protocol end up with the worst of both worlds. Beware any fitness gurus that promise the magical 2 for 1 protocol panacea.
The athletic elite engage in hardcore resistance training sessions to build maximum muscle and strength. The athletic elite engage in separate and distinct cardio sessions to build stamina and melt off body fat. Hard training spikes the heart rate, boosts the metabolism, accelerates the caloric burn rate, improves raw power and strength and, in close coordination with a power-eating regimen, hard training causes the mobilization and oxidation of stored body fat. Through the coordinated blending of diet and exercise we “force” the body to draw down on its strategic fat reserves, body fat stored in fat storage sites located around the body; body fat is preferentially used as fuel to power activity.
An effective fitness game plan has two component parts: training and nutrition. Within the training matrix there are three separate and distinct training modes or disciplines; each training discipline needs to be routinely practiced.
- resistance training
- interval cardio
- steady-state cardio
The Resistance Training Gold Standard
Result-producing tools of choice: free-weight barbells and dumbbells
The King of all progressive resistance free-weight exercise: the deep squat
Within the realm of effective, result-producing strength training and muscle-building, the King, the Gold Standard, the tool and methodology of choice amongst the iron elite is free-weight barbell and dumbbell exercises done using hardcore training protocols. Results are defined as tangible, measurable, quantifiable, irrefutable and dramatic increases in strength, power and muscle mass.
Crude barbells and dumbbells, hoisted and tugged in ultra-basic exercise movement patterns, remain the undisputed heavyweight champion of resistance results. No mode or method, no machine or tool, none can come close to delivering the muscle-building results obtained using barbells and dumbbells. In the world of resistance training, crude and cumbersome is far more effective at inducing the adaptive response, hypertrophy, than smooth and easy.
Those slick, beautifully constructed resistance exercise machines can cost as much as an automobile. They have an amusement park ride feel about them. Machines are fun-to-use, comfy, with their lying or seated padded back rests and butt rests, these press and pull devices are decidedly inferior when it comes to producing the real results we seek.
Another inconvenient truth: you obtain superior results pushing or pulling on a pair of dirt-cheap, filthy dumbbells or a barbell while standing on your feet. Difficult free-weights trump exercise machines that they mimic every single time…why? Resistance machines prevent access to the 3rd dimension of tension.
- Resistance training machines, with their locked-in motor-pathway, eliminate the “3rd dimension of tension,” the need to control side-to-side motion. This lack of stabilizer activation dilutes and limits muscle and strength results obtained from the use of resistance machines. In the world of effective resistance training, hard and awkward trumps smooth and efficient. This is a tough lesson to learn.
- Free weight movements need to use a full and complete range-of-motion. Full ROM using free-weights force muscle stabilizers to maximally fire in order to keep the payload within the proscribed motor-pathway. Free-weights are cumbersome and this awkwardness is what makes them so effective at building power and muscle.
While the rest of the fitness world seeks ways to make resistance training easier,
the athletic elite seek ways to make resistance training harder
The CrossCore180® is a portable, lightweight (five pounds) training device that enables to user to engage in either straight resistance training protocols, or, pure cardio protocols. In the hardcore resistance training mode, results obtained by the CrossCore180 trump results obtained from resistance training exercise machines. The inherent stability built into a machine ensure its results are inferior to the results obtained using the inherently unstable CC180, particularly when in pulled-pin mode. When it comes to building muscle and power, instability creates maximal muscle stabilizer activation. In a wide-range of progressive resistance exercises the results obtained using the CrossCore180 compared favorably to the results obtained by the undisputed King of muscle and strength building: free-weight barbell and dumbbell progressive resistance exercises.
When it comes to muscle and strength building, the first order of business is defining what we mean when we refer to progressive resistance training results – how do we keep score? What are reasonable expectations in return for our efforts? In world of progressive resistance training, there are two defining characteristics. Two benchmarks we need to obtain in order to be deemed successful; we expect in return for our efforts…
- A dramatic increase in power and strength
- A dramatic increase in lean muscle mass
To be an effective resistance training tool, functionality needs be combined with a productive protocol. The right tool combined with the proper protocol induces a level of muscular stress sufficient to trigger the adaptive response, hypertrophy, i.e., muscle growth. Hypertrophy only occurs when a muscle is taxed, stressed maximally in some manner or fashion. Without intense stress, what reason is there for the adaptive response to occur? We understand that muscle stress can take many forms and that capacity is a shifting target that varies day to day, regardless, hypertrophy only occurs when we push up to or past the limits of our current capacities, in some manner or fashion.
The target muscle really doesn’t care what tool you use in your quest to tax the muscle maximally and thereby induce hypertrophy. Things now get subtle and complex: despite the visual magnificence of a progressive resistance machine, despite their awesome technology and clever design, despite the machine-makers claims to the contrary, an exercise machine that has a locked in groove, a frozen, up-or-down motor pathway will inherently produce lesser results than a proper free-weight exercise that the machine mimics. The machine is too stable.
The CrossCore180 in “pulled-pin” mode is the ultimate in instability. Properly used, in a wide variety of exercises, the CrossCore180 can create just as much three-dimensional resistance as free-weights and in these instances CrossCore results rival free-weight results.
Proper protocols are critical for inducing hypertrophy
The CrossCore180® in pulled-pin mode is more unstable than a barbell. Two hands clinch and steady the barbell payload whereas, the CC180, in pulled-pin mode, approximates the instability of a pair of dumbbells. If the goal is to maximally provoke muscle stabilizers, dumbbells and pulled-pin CrossCore create maximum instability and, ergo, maximum muscle stabilizer activation. To compliment maximal muscle stabilizer activation, the CC180 user can utilize extreme angle or payload amplification protocols that enable the exerciser to duplicate both the instability and the payload of the dumbbells. We will reap all the results associated with dumbbell training when we are able to use the CrossCore180 to replicate the dumbbells precise motor-pathway (technique,) the dumbbells inherent instability and the dumbbells payload.
Because you can cut your own motor-pathway on every single rep, the CrossCore180 user can easily duplicate any exercise technique they can imagine. To spice things up, the CrossCore user can experiment with extreme angles, partner-resisted reps, partner-assisted reps, slow rep speed, explosive rep speed, pauses, weighted backpacks and weighted vest. In the new universe of CrossCore HardCore, extreme angle, payload amplification and pristine and consistent exercise techniques utilizing full range-of-motion are what enable the CC180 to replicate free-weight results in an astounding number of exercises.
Does the muscle really care what mode is used to tax it maximally? As long as the technique and payload are identical, what matter the tool?
Max results? Combine instability, pristine technique, full ROM and pauses
The magical formula for sparking maximum muscular results and maximum strength gains in hardcore resistance training is a simple formula: regardless the exercise selected, use a full and complete range-of-motion (ROM,) use maximum payloads for a limited number of reps utilizing pristine technique. Partial ROM results in partial results; sub-maximal effort produces sub-maximal results. One highly favored intensity-boosting payload-amplifying technique is to vary the rep speed in order to vary the effect. Explosive reps build explosive horsepower. Grind reps, done at a purposefully reduced rep speed, builds tremendous low-end power and torque.
Classical free-weight progressive resistance training induces muscle hypertrophy (growth) by bringing the athlete to positive failure in usually ten reps or less. Classical free-weight progressive resistance training induces strength gains by enabling the athlete to equal or exceed shifting capacities on a continual basis. CrossCore180®, utilized in the ‘full rotational’ mode, induces maximal instability thereby causing muscle stabilizers to fire rapidly and repeatedly. From a muscle-building, intensity-amping standpoint, instability is invaluable.
Atop the unstableness, use altered rep speeds – purposefully slow or purposefully fast, along with full range-of-motion, excruciating pauses at the rep turn-around (where descent becomes ascent) along with partner assisted or resisted reps, Experiment with extreme angles, exaggerated techniques and the weighted vest or backpack. The intelligent and diligent CrossCore180 user has a tool that can be every bit as muscularly taxing (and, ergo, beneficial) as the Gold Standard resistance of resistance tools: barbells and dumbbells.
The only limit is your imagination.