Balanced Physical Exercise (21 April 2009)

The following idea was given to me by Jack Fischel sometime during the the 1970's or 1980's. He told me that he had gotten this idea from someone else and had added some changes. This idea, this exercise principle, stated simply says that for every push there must be an equal and opposite pull, and all muscles must be developed/exercised at once so that natural balanced coordinated development of all the muscles is accomplished; all the muscles of your body "learn" to work together, in unison. The opposite of such a development would be where there is a weak link in muscle development and hernia takes place at the "weakest link." Jack told me that a pushup is an example of one-way exercise; you are always developing only one set of muscles; when doing a push up, the pressure on the muscles is the same whether you are going up or down. One-way development bulges muscles which impedes circulation. An inter-connected network of chord-like development throughout your body with smooth, non-bulging muscles is the objective. Jack told me that an infant if left to itself practices natural exercise. I have watched my younger siblings do baby kicking on the bed, rhythmically moving their arms and legs. I include such an exercise occasionally in my routine.

Jack told how he built an exercise machine and trained on it and used the development he acquired to earn his living as a strongman in the entertainment business. From his description, I built an exercise machine and exercised on it for several years. Once when I moved I built a semi-portable version to take with me. At the moment I do not have a machine; I've devised a routine of exercises using dynamic tension (see below). If given the opportunity, however, I would definitely opt for a balanced physical exercise machine.

I built the first machine in my apartment on a base of 2 pieces of plywood which together added up to about 12 to 14 feet in length. Their width was about 3 to 4 1/2 feet. (Note: the measurements are not that important. If you built an exercise machine for a child or for a very tall person, the measurements would vary.) I then purchased two long L-shaped pieces of steel to form tracks on the plywood base. The tracks were about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet apart. I built two plywood weight holders or carriages (also L-shaped) that glided on the tracks, wood on metal to supplying the friction/tension. There are two stationary hand grips towards the front (the side your head faces when exercising) of the machine attached to the plywood base one on each side of the tracks. (I used 3/4 inch galvanized pipe nipples to make these grips.) I used a four-wheel dolly that ran on tracks to support my body. To exercise you would lie face down on the dolly, grab the stationary hand grips and pull your body forward on the dolly, pushing one weight cart with your head and pulling the other weight cart with your feet. Then you reverse the process: pushing on the hand grips, pulling with your head and pushing with your feet. I found after experimenting with various attachments to the weight carriers that a pad and a simple strap (webbed nylon) served well for the head and a simple horizontal wooden dowel or metal pipe about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter mounted at an appropriate height and away from the surface of the foot-weight-carrier would serve well. You push on the cushioned surface of the head-weight-carrier with your head and then letting the (nylon) strap hang back over your head and lifting your head slightly so that the strap catches at the back of your head/neck you pull. With the feet, you push the pipe or wooden dowel with the balls of your feet, and then wrap your toes around the dowel/pipe to pull. You do all this while laying flat on you stomach on the dolly that runs on tracks, either the same tracks as the weight carriers or separate tracks (I think I've done it both ways). That's it.

Jack mentioned a simpler way to create the friction necessary for the machine using sets of gears that could be tightened down upon each other. If you could add a dial to measure the pressure on the gears, you might be able to set the amount of friction desired. Using such a device or something similar you would have the perfect exercise machine for use in outer space; no dolly or weights required and astronauts would receive balanced exercise.

All this might seem complicated but the machine Jack used--the one he described to me--seemed quite primitive. I seem to remember Jack telling me that he used an old bathtub to make his machine. It's the principle that counts.

Jack said he had a special diet and sleeping routine during his training. He recommended that I eat plenty of green leafy vegetables to promote digestion and recommended whole foods and whole grains telling me to avoid highly refined sugar, salt, white flour, etc. He also mentioned that the hours before midnight were the best for sleeping. You can learn much about natural foods on your own by looking for books on these topics in health food stores. If you can get it, I recommend that you eat organic food. I also read labels on whatever food products I buy and avoid foods with artificial additives, food preservatives, etc. Again I suggest you do your own research on this topic. (I might mention that I keep to a mostly vegan diet. Jack told me that he ate beef tongue when he trained. I didn't include this in my diet.)

Jack cautioned me early in my training that many dormant muscles would begin to be used and toxins would be released causing cold and flu like symptoms. He also cautioned that you should set yourself (be fully aware of what it is you are doing) before each movement on the machine. You should also completely rest/recover between a set of movements so that there is no strain from repetition. If you build such a machine you might want to use steel barbells like I did. Whatever you use for weight start off light and don't strain and don't skip the rest period between movements. Jack kept telling me that those who strain end up with enlarged hearts which is not normal. Also, I suggest that you seek advice from a professional health care provider or professional trainer if you start this or any physical exercise program especially if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle, if you have any health problems, or if it has been a long time since you've done any serious exercising. Pushing and pulling with your head is not something done in modern city life so I recommend that you build up weights/tension very gradually, always keeping head and feet tension the same.

Some things I have learned about balanced exercise
Balanced exercise has made me more aware of the importance of posture: shoulders high with arms hanging loosely/freely from them, knees slightly bent, the back curved in at the small of the back then curving back out again at the shoulders. When walking you control your legs from the small of the back, lifting them then placing them for each step. (In fact all motions radiate from this central position.) You'll find that your arms cease to be a drag on the body when they hang loosely from high protruding shoulders; they become freer and ready for action. Your stomach and chest muscles come forward and fully participate in whatever movement you attempt; they come fully into play. A draggy posture is a drag not only on your energy but your attitude as well. By just assuming the proper posture you will feel better, stronger, more relaxed and better able to complete whatever it is you have to do. Posture affects attitude. If you drag your body around, slouch, you will feel subservient, weak, dependent, drained of energy. With natural posture you feel confident, relaxed, ready for action. I've tried shifting into natural posture when waling down the street numerous times and it works. It causes me to yawn and eases the load on my body. Of course you eventually come to the point where you must put it all together, etc., you must walk the talk which requires calm effort and courage/will.

Jack told me that balanced physical development stays with you for much longer than conventional, one-way development. After doing office work for a number of years, I was able to earn my living as a plumber's assistant which required me to lift and move heavy pieces of equipment. I think the balanced development helped me to do this heavy work even though I had discontinued my exercise program.

I mentioned above that at the moment I regrettably do not have an exercise machine but have devised some dynamic tension exercises (see below) most of which can be done easily in bed before getting up.

As with using the exercise machine you may find that you tire a little more quickly than when doing conventional exercises; so easy does it! Avoid strain. I find a short relaxation after each exercise set to be glorious, like the completely-letting-go feeling you get after a good stretch. Also you might find that you require deeper and more frequent breathing when you exercise; just take mini-breaks till your breathing returns to normal. You also might find that you want to stretch or yawn. Indulge yourself.

Something I've added to my exercises is that after I do a pulling movement with my hands using palms and fingers I reverse this by pushing with the back side of my fingers (and thumbs) bending them at the middle knuckle. However I wouldn't worry too much about this added feature if it complicates things.


Though I have never tried the following, I think it may serve as a convenient, equivalent alternative to building your own exercise machine. Also, because--to my knowledge--it has never been tried before, I would suggest that it be tried on an experimental basis with trained or professional athletes at least until all the variables/problems are completely worked out. Issues involved are the weights of participants, the types of clothing they wear, surfaces in exercise area, methods of contacts/grips used by participants, etc. I think that it would be best if all participants were about the same weight, wore the same type of clothing (perhaps sweat suits) and exercised on smooth surfaces such as a wooden gymnasium floor. If I were doing the experimenting I would like to assure myself that the experience comes as close as possible to the balanced physical exercise machine itself.

Here is the idea. Say you have five participants who are all about the same weight and all dressed in sweat suits and all in a gymnasium with wooden floors. One participant lies on their stomach, another sits cross-legged at the prone person's head and another sits cross-legged at the prone one's feet. Two persons serve as stationary hand grips for the prone person's hands, one on each side of the person sitting at the prone person's head. To begin, the prone person grips the hands of the two who serve as stationary "hand-grips" and pulls self forward on the gymnasium floor pushing with the head against the cupped hands of the person who is sitting in front of them and pulling the person who is sitting at their feet who is holding on to the toe portion of the prone person's shoes . When finished with this movement, the prone person reverses the process by pushing on the two stationary person's hands, pulling the student sitting at their head and pushing the person sitting at their feet. To accomplish this, the person sitting at their head cups their hands, interlocks fingers, and places them gently on the neck of the prone person just behind the head. The prone person then slightly lifts their head into this "cup" and pulls the one sitting in front of him. The person sitting at the prone person's feet holds onto to the prone persons arch/toe area of their shoes and is pushed. Persons change places so that each gets to try every other position.

It may be that all persons will need to lie flat/prone/on-their-stomachs so that all gripping is on the same level. But these things can be worked out as you experiment. There could be many variables; if you do the exercise on a slippery surface, for example, the exercise may be much less strenuous than if done on a non-slippery surface. Also the clothing the students wear may affect the tension/load. Also there is the human factor; participants need to cooperate.