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“Arthur set out ‘to reach a tiny minority of humanity.’ Ultimately, he has influenced every person who has exercised from 1970 through the present, and every person who will ever exercise in the future.” John Szimanski, Piedmont Design Associates
“The secret, if there is one, is HIGH-INTENSITY; and when you are actually training with high-intensity, you don’t need a large amount of training.” Arthur Jones
The Arthur Jones/Nautilus Story
Asked to describe Arthur Jones in a recent interview, I said, “A sort of angry genius.” To say that Arthur is an unforgettable character would be an understatement.
I attended the 1970 Mr. America contest in Culver City, CA, where Arthur unveiled the prototype to what came to be Nautilus machines; he called it “The Blue Monster.” I read his articles in Peary Rader’s Ironman starting in 1971, and his Nautilus Bulletins No. 1 and 2 published about the same time. Carol and I spent about 12 hours, over two days, with Arthur at his home base in Deland, FL, in 1973. When we landed, he was waiting for us on the landing strip in his 6-passenger airplane; we deplaned from our commercial flight, walked a few steps, and climbed into his private plane. We were impressed! It may have been the most intense two days of our lives.
I briefly toyed with the idea of going to work for Arthur, having just left the law firm where I had spent ten years working my way up to partner. I wanted to be on my own and have more freedom to pursue my passion for fitness. Peary Rader suggested that I go down and talk to Arthur, who he described as the most innovative and fast-rising force in fitness. (How right he was! Arthur and his Nautilus machines revolutionized sports training and the health club industry. Szimanski writes: “They literally owned the conditioning business from approximately 1974 through 1982.”)
Wasting no time getting the play on his side, Arthur told me early in the visit that he was to the right of Attila the Hun and hated communists, but agreed with them on one thing: when they take over a town, as the first order of business, they kill all the lawyers. He said he had no need for my legal talent, that he considered lawyers parasites. Moreover, he said he’d have to train me from the ground up, because I’d have to unlearn everything I thought I knew about weight training. Like all of Arthur’s employees, my job would be to do “whatever is necessary.”
After about two hours, Carol and I decided that didn’t sound like a very promising work environment. We thanked Arthur; told him we didn’t want to take up any more of his time, and that we were going home. He seemed to accept that okay, saying we were making a “hasty but possibly correct” decision. But then he went into overdrive, spending the rest of the time telling us of his mental power. Among many other things, he told us his I.Q. was beyond measure, on par with the Wright brothers and Albert Einstein. He succeeded in convincing us that he is unusually smart--we bought one of the first Nautilus Hip & Back Machines, still have it--but in the course of doing so reinforced our opinion that I wouldn’t be a good “fit” for his operation. It was an intense and fascinating encounter, one we’ll never forget.
Arthur Jones' motto: Younger Women, Faster Airplanes, Bigger Crocodiles.
I was happy to learn that my friend John Szimanski (the king of fractional plates) has published an authorized biography of Arthur Jones: Younger Women, Faster Airplanes, Bigger Crocodiles. I was eager to read his book and learn more about Arthur. I was not disappointed. True to his engineering background, Szimanski provides a no-nonsense 157-page summary of Arthur’s many-faceted life. Some of the many twists and turns overlap and are hard to follow. Nevertheless, it’s a riveting saga and a good read for anyone interested in perhaps the most colorful in a long history of colorful fitness-industry characters.
John Szimanski clearly likes and respects Arthur, who now lives in Florida in semi-retirement. John appears to be a “true believer.” He accepts the Nautilus training principles as close to the gospel truth. Still, he tries hard to verify everything Arthur has said or written, through other sources, all meticulously footnoted.
To whet your appetite, I’ll tick off some of the interesting facts John uncovers about Arthur and Nautilus, and then give you my take on a few of Arthur’s ideas on training. (Arthur would love being second-guessed by his long-ago visitor! That is, if he could be bothered to read it--not likely.)
Arthur Jones Factoids
Arthur’s father, mother, grandfather, and great grandfather were all physicians. His half sister and half brother also became doctors. “The reason I never went to medical school along with my siblings,” Arthur told Szimanski, “[was that] I was not inclined to work 24 hours a day.” As it turned out, Arthur only worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Szimanski.
“[Arthur] says he read his father’s entire medical library at least twice before he was 12 and every book in the Seminole [Oklahoma] library before he was 14,” Szimanski writes.
The Chief of Police in Seminole issued Arthur a permit to carry a concealed weapon when he was in his early teens. “I know you have a pistol,” he told Arthur. “I know you need it; in the likely event you have to use it, it will be better all around if it is legal.”
Arthur dropped out of school in the tenth grade and was penniless when he left home. He went broke “more times than he can count.” And eventually made the Forbes Fortune list of the 400 richest people.
Arthur’s Nautilus revenues, rumored by the media to be as high as $300 to $400 million, actually peaked in the mid-1980s at $50 to $70 million a year. Nautilus was a private company and the actual numbers are confidential.
Inge Topperwein is Arthur’s longest continually serving employee. He hired her in Africa while “filming elephant culling” in 1966. Asked what she did by Carol during our visit to Florida, she dutifully replied: “Whatever is necessary.” Always a stabilizing factor, according to Szimanski, Inge became Arthur’s sixth wife in 1994. She continued working for him.
1: “The secret, if there is one, is HIGH-INTENSITY; and when you are actually training with high-intensity, you don’t need a large amount of training,” Arthur Jones wrote in connection with the famous Colorado Experiment. (In that experiment, Casey Viator, training under Arthur’s guidance, gained an incredible 63.21 pounds of muscle in 28 days. Full details are in the book.)
I agree. Overload is the cornerstone of strength training. But no one can--or should--train with maximum intensity all the time, no matter how infrequent the workouts. It’s not feasible. And it’s certainly not fun. Varying the degree of stress in a periodization format is a much better strategy for long-term progress; see article 8 in our Strength Training category and my books and DVDs.
2: In summarizing Arthur’s current thinking based on frequent quotes and numerous personal and phone conversations, Szimanski writes: “Special equipment [beyond barbells and dumbbells] is not required. [Emphasis mine] If you have access to the right equipment, you do have the opportunity to be more effective, more efficient and safer. The most effective equipment provides: Proper line of motion for the specific exercise (linear or rotary); direct, balanced, full range and automatically variable resistance for positive and negative work; …pre-stretching; and unlimited speed of movement.” Nautilus machines of course, provide these features.
I agree that special equipment is not required. But I have serious doubts about Arthur’s notion of the “most effective” equipment. As the owner of five Nautilus machines, I understand the advantages. (The pullover machine is my favorite; I use it regularly.) Nautilus machines are probably the best ever made. Arthur was/is truly a genius at conceptualizing and building--and promoting--strength-training machines. Nevertheless, in my opinion, free weights are generally better, at least for advanced trainers. (Machines may be better--safer--for beginners who don’t feel comfortable using free weights or trainees with joint problems or injuries.)
Arthur included barbell squats in the routines used during the Colorado Experiment and the West Point study (see below) for a very good reason: The barbell squat is the best exercise there is for building overall body strength and muscle mass. Add the dead lift, bench press, bent row, standing press and curl, and you have a routine that will produce results as good--and probably better--than any routine done on machines, and for far less expense.
Why are free weights better? Because the balancing and stabilizing they require activates more muscle mass and triggers more neuromotor units than machines. The fact that machines do the balancing and stabilizing for you is their main drawback. I could go on, but in my view, that’s the simple answer. It’s up to each person to decide what’s best for him or her. (See my discussion of athletic-type strength training in Challenge Yourself.)
3: One more idea and then I’ll stop: Arthur believes that moving as quickly as possible from exercise to exercise will simultaneously produce maximum strength and aerobic improvement. That was the main surprise coming out of “Project Total Conditioning” at West Point in 1975. To quote Captain James Peterson, who set up, ran and documented the project: “The study made it clear that high intensity [weight] training is the most efficient conditioning method known that simultaneously develops high degrees of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. It offers increases in size and strength, as well as cardiovascular improvement.”
I believe that such results are possible, but only in a controlled setting such as West Point. “The sessions were brief and brutal,” Szimanski writes. “Resting was not permitted. The subjects were rushed from exercise to exercise in the minimum possible time.”
Colonel Al Rushatz second in command in the Department of Physical Education at the Academy, who joined in the training himself, told Szimanski, “he had never worked so hard himself and had never seen anyone worked to the level the cadets achieved.”
Tell me, does that sound like a practical and sustainable way to train? Hell no! As Arthur told Carol and me, his methods work best when he’s on hand to literally kick people in the rear if they let up.
Doing weights and aerobics separately in a periodization format is a far better way to achieve and maintain total fitness. For more details, see my book Lean For Life.
To learn more about the enigmatic Arthur Jones and his amazing Nautilus machines read Younger Women, Faster Airplanes, Bigger Crocodiles by my friend John Szimanski. To order call 1-864-963-5640 or visit www.fractionalplates.com. Do it today.
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The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results, by Ellington Darden, Ph.D., Testosterone Publishing (2006)
After graduating from Florida State University with a Ph.D. in Exercise Science in 1973, Ell Darden took a job with Arthur Jones and his Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries and has worked with Jones directly or indirectly ever since. The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results is his 48th book on various aspects of high-intensity training--and it may be his best! It's safe to say that, except for Arthur himself, no one knows more about Arthur Jones and the application of his Nautilus training principles than Darden. His new book is a combination of well-written text, stories, interviews and wonderful photos, which keeps the reader turning the pages and wanting more. Darden writes on the front cover: "Most trainees don't want that bloated, drug-induced look of a modern pro bodybuilder. They'd much rather have that chiseled, athletic look of the Golden-Age Mr. Americas--such as Steve Reeves, Boyer Coe, and Casey Viator." (That's true, isn't it?) Darden has "taken those lost techniques of the masters--added today's science--and created the new bodybuilding for old-school results." It's a sound premise and Darden delivers a product you'll enjoy. (As always, take what you can use, and leave the rest. See above for my views on Arthur Jones and his ideas on training.)
My favorite line in the whole book comes from Darden's interview of Boyer Coe, the 1969 AAU Mr. America and NABBA Mr. Universe--and the man who has won more national and world-level bodybuilding contests than any other person. When asked to name top bodybuilders before and after 1980, Boyer refers to those that understood the secret and those that never seemed to figure it out. At the end of the interview, he reveals what it is: "The secret to bodybuilding, or anything in life worth accomplishing, is effort--PERSISTENT EFFORT."
To order your copy, go to www.DrDarden.com. Do it today.
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