Brandon Jonker – Does Repetition Duration Matter?

Brandon Jonker (Brandon [@] Jonkercc [dot] com), former Director of Operations at Discover Strength, is an experienced fitness industry executive and the founder of Jonker Coaching and Consulting. Brandon helps business leaders achieve the most out of their organizations by helping create organizational clarity through systematization and teaching tools on organizational strategy and people management. Brandon has a proven track record in the successful implementation of operations management principles and tactics to help scale and optimise a fitness business.  Brandon received a BA in Exercise Science from Gustavus Adolphus College and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist.

Brandon joins me on the podcast to discuss Discover Strength’s repetition duration study and the operations management cornerstones that help make Discover Strength one of the fastest growing high-intensity studio businesses. Discover Strength’s four personal training facilities are among the highest volume/revenue training facilities in the country.

Brandon Jonker & co
From left to right – Dr James Steele, Lawrence Neal, Dr James Fisher, Luke Carlson and Brandon Jonker at Kieser Training in London, UK (now closed)

“Inspect what you expect”

– Wise words from Brandon on running a smooth strength training business operation.

Highlights:

  • We discuss the recent Discover Strength study on the Results and Application of the Repetition Duration
  • How to create an exercise menu that improves personal training service quality
  • How to shadow trainers to improve client retention
  • … and much, much more!

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This episode is brought to you by ARXFit.com, ARX are the most innovative, efficient and effective all-in-one exercise machines I have ever seen. I was really impressed with my ARX workout. The intensity and adaptive resistance were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I love how the machine enables you to increase the negative load to fatigue target muscles more quickly and I love how the workouts are effortlessly quantified. The software tracks maximum force output, rate of work, total amount of work done and more in front of you on-screen, allowing you to compete with your pervious performance, to give you and your clients real-time motivation.

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Selected Links from the Episode

People Mentioned

  • contraction/time/fatigue

    Great discussion guys. Seems like the cornerstone of all this, the safe catalyst, is: high effort contractions, sustaining these contractions, over the course of the exercise, which of course eventually results in significant fatigue/inroad.

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Thank you! Nailed it 😉

  • R&R

    Regarding the discussion (24:00) of lack of observed change to body composition, it might be interesting in the future to see a study replicating these protocols but in which the body composition is measured after a one week rest.

    Based on your podcast in March with Blair Wilson, the results might be different after some time off for super compensation

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Indeed! This is the downside with a lot of RT studies. They are too short term to see these kinds of effects.

      • enlite

        True !

  • Bill DeSimone

    A couple of observations. You both know me, so you know I’m not being snarky or trolling. Did you guys mention Ellington Darden or Ken Hutchins by name at all? “2/4 and 30/30/30, as popularized by Ellington Darden”, “Superslow 10/10 as promoted by Ken Hutchins.” If you’re going to do work based on other people’s work, at least point in the original direction. The links are to Wikipedia and to a negative review, not original material. Second observation: I have a little experience in this whole personal training thing too. Management and protocols are fine, but the overwhelming factor in success is rapport with the client. Owners and managers don’t want to admit it, but the connection between the trainer and client is the business. Which leads to a huge discussion in a variety of directions, but ignore that at your own risk.

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Hi Bill – Thank you for your honest comment and constructive criticism. I did not intentionally leave out their names and I respect that both have had an enormous impact on HIT and strength training in general. I’ve read a couple of Darden’s books and enjoyed them immensely. I admit, I was a little lazy in finding the best sources to represent SuperSlow or 30/30/30. In truth, I found it difficult to find “original” sources. I will however spend some time to find a better source to link too. I did not intentionally point to a negative review, however I did not read the entire post from Drew Baye and that is bad on my part. I’ll get this sorted asap. Please feel free to suggest other sources if you have them.

      I would say rapport with the client is a given, no? And I would argue the opposite – I would be very surprised if owners and managers didn’t understand that the trainer / client connection is critical. Furthermore, I’ve had plenty of discourse on the podcast regarding the importance of trainer / client rapport, like in my last with Luke Carlson. One set, one rep: https://corporatewarrior.co/productivity/luke-carlson-rev-gen/

      • Bill DeSimone

        Disqus?! Where did this come from?? Cunning.

        • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

          Huh, you’ve lost me?

    • enlite

      Ken Hutchins himself admitted that he didn’t come up with 10/10 as if i remember correctly a 10/10 & 12/12 rep protocol was mentioned in one of Bob Hoffman’s mags many years ago . While we should appreciate the contributions of others in this game i don’t really think that anyone can lay claim to a rep protocol for example . I myself have incorporated many different rep protocols in my training before i even heard about many of them from others and i suspect that other people have as well .

  • Greg P.

    One of the core principles of high intensity or evidence based training is that you need to take an exercise to failure to derive maximum benefit from it, and once failure is reached, no need to do more. Over the years, there have also been some who have advanced the idea that the path to failure is important. Arthur Jones promoted the use of cams to make sure that muscle was appropriately loaded over the full range of motion. The Superslow/Renex folks argued that, in addition to variable resistance, a slow speed of movement, coupled with good turnaround technique was important. For those that argue for a certain path to failure, it was never that clear (to me) if the better path was simply a means to greater efficiency, or if reps done that way were supposed to be superior from a stimulus point of view (maybe even leading to better ultimate results). The study you talk about here clearly suggests that path to failure matters less than getting to the proper end condition.

    This got me to thinking about the recent ARX podcasts, where they argue that their machine delivers a superior stimulus by virtue of fully loading both the concentric and eccentric through a full range of motion. That clearly is an argument for the importance of the path used to reach failure. But then I realized that you really don’t train to failure on that machine! Given the nature of the adaptive resistance, there is no obvious point where you fail to produce or control movement, you just continue to fatigue and get weaker.

    From the comments made, it sounds like they arbitrarily terminate the exercise when strength levels have fallen off by a sufficient amount (whatever that is). Accepting the view that ARX training works at least as well as conventional HIT, doesn’t this mean that reaching failure can’t be a critical requirement? That would seem to have some interesting implications… Maybe all you really need to do is inroad to a certain level. Want more inroad than you’ve gotten at failure? Drop sets come to mind.

    • contraction,time,fatigue

      Great comment Greg P. You delve deep into it here. I’ve thought about some of what you say here and you’ve given me some other things to think about.

      I’m still quite fond of somethings Al Coleman once said. Something along the lines of “Popping in the selectorized weight pin and just go” also “Attempting to lower one’s momentary strength as quickly as possible”.

      For me, there is a certain feel I need with the load, or prefer rather, to feel like something is happening. Sometimes this is easier to accomplish than others. Keeping track of the load used is something I go and forth on. I do like drop sets at times. While I understand the desire for precision, I feel like for me, trying to track too many things in the moment, takes away from the true objective: High intensity, high effort contractions and getting temporarily weaker. The getting temporarily weaker thing still needs some work for me, depending on the exercise.

      The central theme of this interview appeals to me greatly as what I said earlier about trying to track too many things in the moment distracts me. Counting reps and rep speed becomes a distraction for me . A better option for me if I did track such things would be to video the workout, watch later and count those things.

      • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

        Video the workout to track after the fact. What a great idea!

        • enlite

          Yes !

    • Kamen Stranchevski

      Hello Greg P. I think, that you should try an ARX workout, before you realise the whole picture. I see, that you’re guessing some things, but IMO it is hard to understand it all without a trial. And that’s normal. I myself have tried ARX twice – both Omni and Alpha and despite the fact, that I already had studied videos and materials prior to the workouts, it was still a revelation once I got to do a few sets on the actual Thing. I’d like to share with you some of my key observations regarding the ARX.
      First – The machine resists You, not the other way around. It moves at a pre-determined, selectable speed, that you can not change despite your best efforts. Even during the negative, when it seems to be “pushing back” at you, the reality is, that You decide how hard to push against it. Now, this “Best effort” of yours, to “speed” the machine up during concentric and “slow it down/stop it” during the eccentric is entirely entitled to You. You may be stimulated by the Coach to Speed up/Push and to try to Stop it/Resist and/or to be stimulated to do so by your onscreen realtime readings on the monitor (even more so when comparing yoursef to previous set or workout graph). What is hard to realise is, that with weights proper exercise form requires a skill set. You need to develop certain skills, to make the most out of weights gravity resistance. Then, as alsways with gravity, you must always have some things in mind, like positioning in space, racking unracking etc. Same goes to ARX, but there are already a few very important things are built in.
      Reps speed is built in (positive and negative independently), duration of a set is built in, ROM is built in. That means, with ARX you can try and really give your best effort in each movement and you can do this whenever you decide you’re ready. You do not have to worry about the built in factors. Just push and resist. What you’ll quickly realise then is that with weights, you somewhat “withhold” your effort, for the sake of form and safety, at least in the begining of a set. With ARX you can go Hardest right from the start, both on the concentric and eccentric – rep after rep. Next thing that you’ll discover is that this “rep after rep” usually means no more than 4-5 reps on such intensity levels. Yes, there is no “failure” with ARX, but You will fail keeping this kind of intensity for a prolonged time – trust me. And you will see it for yourself onscreen too!
      In the same time when using ARX, one should still know and use proepr body positioning and alingment, path of movement… BUT unlike weights if you’re not perfect in these, you risk much less.
      Secondly – the “Adaptive resistance” is the key player with ARX. In order to understand what they mean by perfect loading, I’d like to give you an example with a belt squat, that I did on the Omni machine. Normally with weights, I’d skip the top 1/3 rd of the movement because it is not challenging due to lever advantege and I’d try to spend more time in the harder portions of the motion. In my mind the top 1/3rd has always been easier to get through, once you fininsh your rep or exercise. Well, guess what – with ARX this is not the case. Honestly, despitee my knowledge, this came as a surprise to me, just because my mind is wired differently for all the years of training. The top 1/3rd on the Omni’s belt squat is in no way less challenging then the rest of the ROM, because the machine resists you there same as everywhere else – 100% matching your effort and not changing it’s speed in the same time. This is valid for every exercise you do on ARX. No “easy ROM parts”. For example you can do a 10 rep set and the first five reps on 50-60% of your perceived effort as warm up and then go as hard as you can for the remaining 5…if you can stand it.
      Third – the “failure” thing is incorporated in training with weights, only to guarantee, you’ve worked hard enough at a given resistance level. Once you know that’s covered remains the question of dosage or your personal Weight/duration mixture. Now that is solely depending on the individual and may change during different times of life (different recovery rates). So how many sets to failure with a given form, how many exercises per muscle, per workout, what exercises…is entirely dependent on you and the speed of adaptations and results that you expect and require from your workous. If you use ARX, then this porces of finding your dose is much more simplified and accurate. You are right, that there are many components behind the “strenght measurment only”. Neural adaptations, hypertrophy, skill etc. But ultimately, in the long run, if you constantly manage to increase your strenght, all of these components (having their own weight in the equation) shoud develop as much as it’s possible and to the degree it’s possible for your personal self…something positive must be happening. And we now have the DEXA scans and similer methods to prove this.
      People have gained with and without failure, with and without muscle soreness and so on. But the question is how Effective (timwise incl.) and Safe the chosen modality is! There things may differ greatly.
      Excuse me for the long post, but I hope it will be of use!

      • contraction,time,fatigue

        Great, very detailed description Kamen!

      • Greg P.

        Kamen,

        Thanks for the detailed reply. I agree that there is no substitute for actually trying something. Maybe someday I will get a chance.

        Absent that, I have imagined that performing an ARX rep has a lot in common with performing an isometric contraction: the force you produce is solely a matter of how hard you can force yourself to contract, and sustaining maximum effort for an extended period of time is likely quite demanding mentally. The main difference is that with AR, you are no longer contracting against an immovable object, but against a moving object, the velocity of which cannot be altered.

        The exercise literature clearly indicates that almost everyone can produce near full recruitment of muscle fiber (>95% recruitment) with a maximum effort isometric contraction. So I would expect you COULD (if you contract with high effort right from the start) have a high degree of muscle recruitment right from the start, and this would lead to rapid fatigue. What is unique with the machine, is that you get this going in both directions. So the ability to maximally resist the eccentric is something truly unique.

        In so far a form is concerned, some of the ARX exercises are performed against cables, which affords more degrees of freedom of movement than a traditional machine, so some attention would seem to be required to maintain consistent form, and one can still potentially engage in squirming and bracing, or changing the angles of push, to try to get more force on the handles. I assume that needs to be avoided, if only to avoid straining joints, and get a consistent experience.

        With respect to failure: I agree that with a fixed weight, going to failure ensures that you have done as much work as you possibly could with that exercise (short of forced or assisted reps, or forced negatives). And, especially with lighter loads, going to failure ensures that all muscle fibers are eventually recruited. I think the latter is why achieving failure can be important. But I am skeptical that failure itself is some kind of magic trigger that turns on muscle growth. I think that is determined primarily by degree of muscle recruitment, level of muscle tension, degree of fatigue or inroad, and level of local metabolic distress that is developed during the set.

        I will add, as an after thought, that the conventional literature on weight training seems to have finally concluded that, is so far as hypertrophy is concerned, going to failure is more important that the loads or duration used to reach failure. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case with strength. In many studies, training with heavy loads still is better if your objective is to produce the maximum force possible in the trained movement. What I am unsure about is how much specificity is built into training for maximum force production in a given movement. In other words, if you train for strength instead of hypertrophy, how much of the extra strength that you gain will be transferable to other movements that use the same musculature?

        • Kamen Stranchevski

          Hi Greg P, I hope that I could help with better understanding of the ARX.
          Regarding static mode, you can do this modality also, on both Alpha nad Omni machines.
          Most of the exercises on ARX are cable based, since on the Alpha you can arguably do about 6 exercises in total, but on the Omni, which is cables only, you can easily do 20 + exercises;
          Yes, proper exercise form is always a must, only with ARX, messing it up a bit, is no longer “a death sentence” and you have a very easy way out if you are not feeling Ok.
          With regards to Strenght… The force, that a muscle can produce is one thing and the “performance strenght” for any particular movement/exercise is another. I believe we should not mix these two. As soon as you mention maximum force produced in a movement and about extra strenght, that may or may not be transferable to other “movements”, I think you refer to the latter e.g. strenght displayed, or maximum strenght performance in a specific movement (say back squat w barbell). In this case as far as I am concerned, Strenght = Skill 100% or Skill to perform that actual movement AND be aware – with the exact tool (barbell set) and with the Weight that is as close as possible to your maximum (if that’s the goal).
          So it is a skill to be practiced and it must be practiced as much as possible and in conditions as much close as possible to the desired end goal. In other words practicing barbell squats Only with 50% max weight ain’t going to be best for 1RM max (you have to consider even training your body to the feeling of a fully loaded barbell for example), using different barbell everytime ain’t going to be best, even using various rep ranges ain’t going to be the perfect way either… You get my idea.
          And last, I am pretty convinced, that your performance strenght in a particular movement will transfer to others very very poorly! Even if they seem as very similar and use the same musclulature. And one last example – there are people, who can max out a bench press machine, but perform very modestly in a push ups contest. The answer is in the body composition and core strenght – it’s a different movement, although pecs are invloved. Women usually strugle with push ups… but next time in the gym try doing push ups with a plate on your but, rather than on your shoullders and see what happens with your push ups performance :)))
          Kind Regards: Kamen

          • Kamen Stranchevski

            And Greg, here is a link to a very interesting youtube video, from the world of weightlifting, a real story, that will give you a lot of answers and room for thought:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWOm-1mIE6A

          • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

            Kamen / Greg – very interested and thought provoking discussion. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the blog. It’s very helpful to me the other listeners / readers.

          • enlite

            I find it interesting that many of the weightlifters became injured/over trained by lifting near maximum weights three days per week ! The so called success of the Bulgarian team was more a result of selection bias and those that managed to tolerate the abuse they were subjected to .

          • Kamen Stranchevski

            Hey Enlite, I am not sure if you comment on the video above or not. But if you refer to Bulgarian olympic weightlifting “success”…so called, here are the facts. Lifters did 3-4 workouts a day! 6 days! a week. The weights were 90% + all the time, every time, no backing…still submaximal. Only 3 lifts, never more than 3 reps but 1 80% of the time…and so on. Watch the video again or if you’re interested in the topic, you can see more videos with this Max Aita fellow. I could send you some in Bulgarian, but these are the only sensible ones in English that I have found. Anyway, the moral of the story is what specificity, taken to extreme can do. The “so called success” was measured by over 70 Olympic medals and domination of the sport for nearly 20 years. And that is after splitting from the Soviet system previously used. Specificity is King, and you’re right, for those who can adhere. Funny fact is that Max was squatting almost everyday for 7 years…I guess influenced by his Bulgarian experience and he was doing front squats too – the only non competitive lift used in the system. Later on, he decided to switch to powerlifting and his back squats were just misserable…in the beginning. True he cought up fast

          • Kamen Stranchevski

            And one more thing…A selection biased explanation is hard to explain the whole thing, when you’re talking about a nation of 7 million people…even if it was a communist state.

          • enlite

            Selection bias is a perfectly logical explanation . The person Max i think was his name in the video himself stated that many were injured due to this training regimen . Certain countries specialize in certain sporting events so it would be logical to assume that dominating certain events whatever you take that to mean would occur . Another important variable to consider is genetics in that certain individuals will rise to the top irregardless of how they train . A certain coach in American college football was called a genius in coaching for years because of his teams dominance , but yet he himself admitted that he was in fact no genius and he simply was blessed with very good football players . I get very tired to be honest of hearing about ” geniuses ” and ” gurus ” that create champions when the truth is that the champions create themselves . No one can do the work for you .

          • Kamen Stranchevski

            Yes sir! I agree with your point. It is not a great invention. It is a very simple overuse of a specific adaptation, crazy regiment and work and some injury involved inevitably, all aimed at one purpose to win competitions. The fact is it payed off, it was not adopted by others and that genetically gifted individuals were out there in much much greater numbers across many other countries. It was just an approach that delivered results for a country lacking other resources. The reason I put it to the audience attention was to illustrate what a specific skills training can do and what type of results are possible. I have tried the idea many times to improve my personal lifts or performance results in several lifts. But I wanted to point out the Big Difference between performance numbers and exercise purpose of using some movements.

          • Kamen Stranchevski

            Not everyone can become an Olympic champion by far, but anyone can improve their numbers on a very specific lift or movement if they decide to narrow focus on it …if that should be a goal of theirs for whatever reason. And people should be able to make a difference with regards to what mechanism worked for what purpose.

          • enlite

            I take your point and that’s fair enough . I’m simply saying that taking a bunch of weightlifters and basically throwing them into a meat grinder , and then see who survives doesn’t make the coach/trainer a genius nor innovative . I think we also have to define what success actually means . If in the process of this success you end up damaging/crippling a lot of people in the pursuit of this ” success ” then perhaps it isn’t worth it in the long run .

          • Kamen Stranchevski

            Hey Enlite, I respect your opinion very much. All I have read in your posts so far is very True in my opinion. That’s why, I will do one last attempt to clarify myself about this whole story. It is not my intention to focus on Olympic weightlifting, neither to portray a coach as a guru or hero. I wanted to give a real life example of specific training. An example from my practice is how I managed to increase my number of pull ups for an exam. I did pull ups 5 times a day, 1-2 reps, every day. Did this for two months. In the beginning I could do 8 clean ones. At the exam , I managed 14, last one of which was arguable :)) All this I attribute mostly to skill training. Very frequent Practice + minimum fatigue at each attempt. Only successful attempts. I’d test my progress every 2 weeks by a set to failure. My form was out of question at the time, as was my overall strengh. In reality Most of what I had gained was skill to pull my chin above the bar or progress in numbers, that meant little in terms of muscle strength or mass. Still had a lot to learn back then, but I never forgot the experiment. Later on I did use similar approach to address back squats and Deadlift. Eventually got injured from the latter…just like the poor lifters from the team :)))

          • enlite

            I totally agree that one must practice the specific skill if one wants to develop proficiency at that skill .

  • Bill DeSimone

    Lawrence, here’s a link to Darden’s Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/Ellington-Darden/e/B000APAG9K In the ’80s, he was THE guy putting HIT in front of the mainstream audiences, in bookstores with actual publishers, not self publishing with self promotion. Not that there’s anything wrong with self publishing and self promoting, as that’s how it’s done today. But where McGuff has 3-4 books (?) out, I put out a couple, Darden has dozens, all through publishers. The best discussion of negative training including 303030 is one of the recent, Bodyfat Breakthrough.

    • https://corporatewarrior.co Lawrence Neal

      Thanks Bill. I updated some of the links in the post including Bodyfat Breakthrough.

  • Scott

    Do we know what exercises were used in the intervention? I can only see they tested for chest press, leg press, and pulldown, but curious if they had other exercises in there as well. Thanks!

    • http://www.15minutecorporatewarrior.com Lawrence Neal

      Good question Scott. I’ll ask those involved.

      • Brandon Jonker

        Scott,

        Below are the two workouts. These workouts were the same for all three testing protocols.

        Workout #1

        (NautEvo) Chest Press
        (Avenger) Leg Press
        (MedX) Torso-Arm – Supinated
        (MedX) Overhead Press
        (MedX) Pullover
        (NautEvo) Adduction
        (NautEvo) Abduction
        (Ham) Seated Calf
        (Naur2ST) Abdominal
        (MR) Lumbar Extension

        Workout #2

        (NautEvo) Chest Press
        (Avenger) Leg Press
        (MedX) Torso-Arm – Supinated
        (NautEvo) Pec Fly
        (Naut2ST) Biceps Curl
        (MedX) Leg Curl
        (Ham) Leg Extension
        (Ham) Tibia Dorsi-Flexion
        (MedX) Core Torso Rotation

    • Brandon Jonker

      Scott,

      Below are the two workouts. These workouts were the same for all three testing protocols.

      Workout #1

      (NautEvo) Chest Press
      (Avenger) Leg Press
      (MedX) Torso-Arm – Supinated
      (MedX) Overhead Press
      (MedX) Pullover
      (NautEvo) Adduction
      (NautEvo) Abduction
      (Ham) Seated Calf
      (Naur2ST) Abdominal
      (MR) Lumbar Extension

      Workout #2

      (NautEvo) Chest Press
      (Avenger) Leg Press
      (MedX) Torso-Arm – Supinated
      (NautEvo) Pec Fly
      (Naut2ST) Biceps Curl
      (MedX) Leg Curl
      (Ham) Leg Extension
      (Ham) Tibia Dorsi-Flexion
      (MedX) Core Torso Rotation

      • Scott

        Thanks Lawrence! Very interesting…

        • http://www.15minutecorporatewarrior.com Lawrence Neal

          It was Brandon! 😀

      • Scott

        Oh so sorry – thanks Brandon! I find it particularly interesting that..

        1) These are full-body workouts, which I’ve found to be the most productive and there seems to be a general consensus among “experts” like James S, James F, Borge F, and Menno H that they are optimal

        2) Interesting that repeat certain exercises (mainly the compound big 3) but then rotate others (isolation). I personally would struggle a lot with doing those first three exercises twice per week. I can alternate Pec fly and Chest press for instance or leg ext + leg curl with leg press, but otherwise I have found I would stagnate doing these big moves twice per week. Have you found that with clients?

        3) Any particular reason why you don’t have direct delt movements? Shoulder presses have shown to be very inferior for delt recruitment compared to say a lateral raise or shoulder pull. I notice you incorporate a lot of other isolation exercises for tibia, core, lumbar, and abs, so was just curious why you excluded that one area.

        Thank you!
        Scott

  • enlite

    Great podcast ! I agree completely that too many HIT advocates have gotten caught up in debates about minutiae that really isn’t that important . The primary determinate with regards to good results with your training is effort pure & simple .

    • http://www.15minutecorporatewarrior.com Lawrence Neal

      Cheers Enlite.