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--- Heavyhands Revisited 

Is strength-endurance a unique form of fitness?

See our Products page (look under Recommended Books) for the Heavyhands Walking! book and the Heavyhands Video, and see end of article for sources for the Heavyhands weights.

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The soft-spoken caller said, "You may or may not remember me; this is Len Schwartz." With only a moment's hesitation I responded, "Sure, I remember you; you're Dr. Schwartz, the Heavyhands man. I first learned about whole-body aerobics from your book." Heavyhands (Dr. Schwartz's registered trademark) is a system of aerobic exercise using light dumbbells, 1-15 pounds for high repetitions, up to 30 minutes or more. We've all seen walkers pumping little hand weights. Well, they probably got the idea from reading Dr. Schwartz's Heavyhands book, published in 1982. His basic contention is that four limbs are better than two for expending calories and burning fat, that you can continue exercising longer at the same intensity than you can using only the legs.

We proceeded to have a nice chat. Dr. Schwartz is now in his 70s, and still going strong. He weights 135 pounds and works out with Heavyhands 30 minutes to an hour each day. Incredibly, he recently pumped 6-pound weights at a 110 stride/stroke per minute pace for 200 minutes - in a semi-duckwalk position! He has another book out, which he graciously offered to send me.

A few days later an autographed copy of The Heavyhands Walking Book! (Panaerobics Press, 1990) arrived with a letter from Len Schwartz saying he wanted to sell me "on the notion of gaining strength (admittedly a different species of it!) during aerobic sessions." Needless to say, I was eager to plough into Schwartz's second offering.

Act Boldly
Pump height drives intensity

We've all heard claims that hand weights add little to the workload or fitness benefits of walking. Dr. Schwartz says that's true, if you merely carry the weights at your sides. "Even huge weights don't evoke much aerobic work when hanging inertly," he explains. "You have to act boldly," pumping your arms high and fast. "Pumping 3-pound weights 3 feet up and down at 110 beats/minute convert a 2.5-mph walk to the equivalent of a 6-mph jog," Schwartz asserts.

I decided to try a little experiment on the treadmill to see for myself how much pump height, Schwartz calls it "verticality," changes intensity. Heart rate is a good measure of intensity, so I used my Polar Accurex chest-strap monitor to measure my heart rate while walking on the treadmill at 3.30 mph pumping one-pound Heavyhands to different levels: waist, shoulder, head and overhead. I used three grades on the treadmill: 0%, 2.5% and 5%.

First, I verified that merely carrying weights at your sides makes little difference. Walking without hand weights on a flat treadmill my heart rate was 86 beats per minute, and increased only three beats, to 89, pumping one pounders to waist level. As Dr. Schwartz predicted, however, my heart rate increased substantially, to 104 and 117, when I pumped to shoulder and head level, respectively. I tried the same routine with the treadmill incline increased to 5%, with similar results. Walking on a 5% grade without weights produced a heart rate of 100, while pumping one pounders to shoulder level upped my heart rate to 115. Finally, I lowered the treadmill to 2.5% and pumped all the way overhead. Significantly, this produced the highest ticker reading, 138 beats per minute. Not very scientific I suppose, but enough to convince me that Dr. Schwartz is correct about verticality. Pump height markedly increases intensity, even with dinky 1-pound hand weights.

Provocative Claim
A special fitness factor

Probably Dr. Schwartz's most provocative contention is that Heavyhands training produces a unique form of fitness. He calls this separate fitness factor "strength-endurance fitness," claiming it is more than pure strength plus endurance. "The best proof of that is that the strongest strength athletes don't enjoy much of it," he asserts, "and the best pure endurance athletes don't either." Strength-endurance, according to Dr. Schwartz, is gained through strength-endurance training, such as Heavyhands moves which condition all major muscle groups.

Pure endurance training, such as running, he points out, does not build strength. On the other hand, he says, strength training in which muscle groups are isolated and exercised in sequence does not produce strength-endurance. According to Dr. Schwartz, strength-endurance is only produced when as much muscle as possible is loaded simultaneously and for a prolonged period of time. Heavyhands Strength Walking as described in The Heavyhands Walking Book!, says Dr. Schwartz, is an ideal training strategy for those seeking strength-endurance.

My guess is that there is some truth in what Dr. Schwartz says. It is well known that the results of exercise are quite specific. It's axiomatic that runners should run, swimmers should swim, rowers should row and lifters should lift. By this line of reasoning, if you want to be able to pump hand weights high and fast, like Dr. Schwartz, then you should train as he suggests. You'll likely end up with a body stronger and more muscular than a runner, but with less strength and muscle mass than a bodybuilder. You'll probably be proportioned like Dr. Schwartz, with more muscular development in the upper body than the lower. You'll be very lean (if you watch your diet), and your whole body will be aerobically fit. As Dr. Schwartz points out - quite correctly, I believe - many prefer this type of body.


Dr. Schwartz doing his thing.

Still, as I said when I wrote about Heavyhands shortly after Dr. Schwartz's first book appeared, I doubt that there is any one ultimate exercise. My preference is to include Heavyhands in a total fitness program as one of many forms of aerobic exercise, along with conventional strength training with weights.

Nevertheless, if you are interested in a good mix of strength and endurance from a single form of training, you should give Heavyhands Walking serious consideration. We no longer carry The Heavyhands Walking Book!, but carry their YogaHands DVD for $24.95 + $5.60 priority shipping. For more information on the DVD go to video/dvd.

[For the latest on Dr. Schwartz and the availability of Heavyhands, see article 125, "New Heavyhands," Aerobic Exercise category.]

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