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Decade Old Questions Answered On Heavyhands . . .

This is cool.

I found an interesting Q&A exchange with the inventor and developer of Heavyhands and a long time Heavyhander in the archives of an old Heavyhands blog run by the old distributor of Heavyhands.

This was at a time, over a decade ago, when Heavyhands was poised for a comeback into the mainstream of America.

Here is the question . . .

Hello, and Happy New Year to all

I am a retired pathologist living in Cape Town, South Africa

Len Schwartz has been an inspirational eminence in my life since 1984 when I was 38 years old. A moderately good but rather heavily built recreational runner (10k in 34:15; marathon 2:50; 170+lbs at 5’10)

I happened upon the first HH book in a local bookstore in Upstate NY and the B&W photos of the 57 year old were an epiphany.

That was the kind of body I wanted to have

The exercise physiology expounded seemed plausible.

I bought and experimented with a selection of generic dumbbells 1-15 lbs.

And quickly I made great improvements in my upper body endurance and strength.

Before I could test whether the enhanced muscularity of upper body was detrimental to my running, I tore a meniscus in my knee playing racquetball.

This was in the early days of arthroscopic surgery.

I couldn’t run for over 12 years without knee pain.

But I kept up religiously with HH walking medleys with lots of double ski poll exercises in particular

I, too, rarely ever saw anyone else doing Heavyhands right!

At age 50, I gingerly started running again as my knee pain seemed under control and entered some 5ks/

Interestingly, my age adjusted running times were several notches higher than almost a decade and a half earlier.

I was matching and often easily beating my erstwhile nemeses who had continued running and training hard all the while.

Now retired, I have recently taken up competitive race walking, a very challenging sport, but one far more suited to my (panaerobically conditioned) physiognomy.

Whereas I was an 84% level 53 year old runner (national class), I am a 90% level race walker at 57 (3k in 14:00 in judged competition – world class for age)

Clearly, quite consistent intense training with HH over 15 years has in my case been crucial in mitigating the usual or expected age related decline in aerobic capacity.

Aerobically trained upper extremities are a definite advantage in race walking (as predicted by Leonard Schwartz in his walking book)

A few questions for LS (I have many):

Len, would you say your originally rather heterodox ideas have now entered the mainstream in exercise physiology circles, or are there still doubters?

What was your (amazing) combined VO2 max of ~ 80 at age 57 estimated at?

What has been your personal experience with respect to VO2 Max decline in your 60s and 70s

What about your % BF and MHR/RP?

How recent is the great looking color photo on the HH website?




Monday, January 05, 2004

Responses to the questions posed by N.F. from Len Schwartz

N.F.: Would you say your originally rather heterodox ideas have now entered the mainstream in exercise physiology circles, or are there still doubters?

Schwartz. My guess is that the infiltration is both spotty and iffy! It appears that this ‘heterodoxy’ has been either bypassed or over a short time frame-adopted as the only way to go. This feast or famine quality may have to do with the fact that Long strength hasn’t really been presented to the public so that men and women would get involved. Same applies in physiologic circles. It appears that the folks at the University of Pittsburgh are eager to reengage = Heavyhands (Panaerobics-Longstrength) research. There are many interesting pockets of doubt, just as in all the basic areas of fitness/exercise research, but that’s where the fun lies!

N.F. Why was your (amazing) combined VO2 max of ~ 80 at age 57 estimated?

L.S. As I recall, we had measured my 02 pulse at various levels of continuous intensity earlier. That made it feasible for me to estimate V02s by merely pulse counting. With later direct measurements (many) this level was reaffirmed. I remember one level of 70 ml/kilo/min-1 was directly measured at a pulse of less than 120/bpm! A famous U.S. physiologist, looking at my findings was prepared to say that was indeed a most high test! Actually, given the likelihood of the reentrance of genetic and technical issues I make much less fuss about V02’s. We do what we can, period! More important, I think are those sub maximal V02s which is where the work of exercise is accomplished!

N.F. What has been your personal experience with respect to VO2 Max decline in your 60s and 70s

Schwartz. Surprisingly little, if any decline. A couple of years ago I did walk ‘n’ pump treadmill test that appeared to be as high or higher than that direct test.  The literature indicates that there is a fall off in performance among aging, regular, aerobic type athletes. I do believe that eventually Long strength type athletes will record some of the highest sub maximal performances. These could well be accomplished by athletes who handle heavy weights while doing  comparatively many repetitions (perhaps a thousand or more), within the aerobic sphere. The work of Pavel Tsatsuline at Dragondoor is fascinating in this respect.

N.F. What about your % BF and MHR/RP?

Schwartz. Perhaps 3-5% at my petite 130lbs! Resting pulse 40-50.

N.F. How recent is the great looking color photo on the HH website?

Schwartz. Pretty recent, within 5 years.

To read more original post of Heavyhanders and answers from Dr. Lenard Schwartz,

go to. There is some great history here to be discovered here.



Jogging Longstrength Style

Jogging Longstrength Style

In Dr. Schwartz’ patent for “Strength Endurance Method”  he describes what became his “Pan-X” exercise apparatus. While he has a separate patent for that device, he mentions it in order to describe his strength endurance method.

He describes a number of exercises for his strength endurance method and one is a version of “jogging”.

Why is it suitable for “longstrength”?

Here is an interesting passage from the patent filing that relates both to “jogging” with Dr. Schwartz’ device and other exercises he envisioned using too.

Dr. Schwartz had previously added “Heavyhands” to walking, jogging and running to maximize the aerobic value of those exercises. In his development of “Longstrength” theory, he envisioned using the body’s own weight to exercise both the upper and lower body in order to build not only aerobic capacity but muscles capable of exerting greater strength over longer than average times. Here is how that would have transformed “jogging” into a “Longstrength” exercise – by making it a “whole body” movement:

[The Pan-X device] used in “whole body” jogging movements in which the upper body is clearly a most active participant. “Press-ups” and “pull-ups” performed by the arms on the [cross bars of the device] add substantial upper torso work to these in-place ambulatory movements. Additional work may be included by lateral movements of the upper body (side-leans) and abduction/adduction movements of the thighs are options…. Thus, the goal of the method is to maximizethe “continuous strength” of a growing assessment of skeletal muscle groups, all within the framework of cardiovascular training. The measurable fitness levels achievable by this method cannot be duplicated by any combination of current conventional strategies, regardless of the complexity, size and overall expense of the equipment subserving those strategies. Further, those well trained by virtue of this method will find themselves able to enhance their performance at most conventional exercises and most forms of sport.

The nature of the additional strength made available by training with this method apparatus and its prescribed techniques is likely to be consistent with the development of “new” skeletal muscle mass which is structurally to be distinguished from that resulting from conventional strength training. It is believed that certain microscopic elements, i.e., intercellular capillaries and intracellular mitochondria will increase in number and density in skeletal muscles. In contrast, it is generally agreed that the distribution of such microscopic elements so crucial to continuous rhythmic work capacity are reduces or remain stable during prolonged conventional weight training.

In terms of agility, this method is employed to fuse strength and endurance and also makes for enhanced motor skill consistent with our general definitions of agility. This unique “whole body” mobility continues to improve along with additions of strength and endurance. Dance-like movements, compound movements, shifts [in position on the device], and sprints represent a few of the categories of movement choices that both require and add to the quality of agility that can be gained uniquely from this exercise.

In terms of pure strength, this method is apt to gain considerable strength and most of this will be of the continuous or “Longstrength” variety. This does not preclude training for a pure strength which can also be performed within the constraints of this method. Various pull-ups and press-ups during which the body’s weight is shared very little make for this option.Pure leg strength may be added in the form of one legged squats performed [with the device], first using a slight arm assist, gradually utilizing the leg musculature alone. Abdominal strength may be acquired by a number of movements in which the upper body segment is flexed against resistance,or during movements which require the lower body segment to flex upward while the feet are held off the floor, either while working [at various positions on the device]. Again, these strength movements can either represent the user’s total full strength training or be used as adjuncts to strength training of the conventional sort.

In terms of flexibility, this method makes possible a unique approach to the acquisition and maintenance of flexibility. Given the support of the body at both [various positions on the device], whole body flexibility can be attained in either the “static” or “dynamic” mode. The hands can control the force which is applied to any of a large series of stretching movements that also eventuate in increased ranges of motion at the joints (an essential ingredient in most definitions of flexibility)….

Jogging while supporting oneself with the arms is a whole exercise, which happens to include something that remotely resembles what runners do when they call what they doing. But the hang time is different when compared with conventional running. 120 steps/minute can be achieved with the arms supporting the body. This is impossible during an unsupported jog.

So Dr. Schwartz envisioned a mode of jogging or running that would end up training the whole body because the arms would be supporting the body during the exercise and be activated as they supported the running movement. Pressing up, pulling up, supporting the body’s weight, etc. would strengthen the arms and the “core” while the legs were being actively exercised and aerobic capacity developed.

One of his main students John McKean never mentions this exercise. Dr. Schwartz himself sees it almost as a form of “active rest” in between more “tiring” exercises based on the above description. In any case, “whole body jogging” or even “dancing” is mentioned as one of the key elements in the development of “longstrength” and, if only for variety, practitioners may want to know how to do this exercise.

While only three prototypes of Dr. Schwartz’ “Pan-X” apparatus were made, the exercise he describes can be mimicked with very good results on any suspension trainer suspended over even a small carpeted area and used in conjunction with “furniture sliders” compatible with carpet.

Here’s a youtube video of the kind of exercise that could pass for “Jogging” for those interested in “Longstrength” instead of old fashioned “aerobics”.

While you’re using the carpet sliders, remember to try Dr. Schwartz’ suggested “scissor movements”, side to side bending, and different ways of supporting your body while sliding, jogging or “dancing”.  It may turn out to be a lot more taxing than the “active rest” Dr. Schwartz seemed to envision!

Note: When he asserts that “intracellular mitochondria will increase” as a result of this exercise, he is laying a basis for the claims mentioned in Marty Gallagher’s discussion of “Third Way Cardio” in “Purposeful Primitive” that describe so-called “super hybrid muscle” that have not only endurance but a higher general level of strength as well. As Gallagher noted, other trainers spoke of this possibility and sought to achieve it through adaptations to traditional training, but Schwartz did so with a physician and researcher’s reserve and with his own unique methods (other methods tend to be based on more traditional weight training).

Leonard Schwartz, Isotonometrics, Charles Atlas and Dynamic Tension

Leonard Schwartz, Isotonometrics, Charles Atlas and Dynamic Tension


In a previous post on Isotonometrics, the question was asked: “So was this “isometrics”? Or “dynamic tension”? Or something else? That will be explored in a future article!” This is that article.

Dr. Schwartz’s extant writings interact from time to time with the systems advocated by other fitness experts who are mentioned by name, like Charles Atlas.  He is always courteous but clear about how his viewpoint differs and what advantages he believes it to have.

So how did Leonard Schwartz see his work in relationship to Charles Atlas’ “dynamic tension” and “isometrics’? The answer is found in his patent filing on “Fitness Method” with some observations drawn from the Charles Atlas course itself.

Dr. Schwartz writes:

…the concept of dynamic tension or isometrics is well known, having been popularized by Charles Atlas many years ago. The concept of isometrics involves pitting one or more muscle groups against other muscle groups in a stationary fashion. Typically, one hand of an exerciser is pushed against or pulled apart from the other hand with the other hand imparting an opposite and generally equal force. Neither hand nor the exerciser’s body is typically moved during the pushing or pulling of the hands.

One of the drawbacks to the system of isometrics is the inability to generate sufficiently large workloads to involve the circulation (heart rate especially) appreciably. For one thing, the duration of each isometric exercise is too brief; for another the muscle mass involved in the exercise was generally too small. Consequently, isometric exercise only provides strength improvement and does not contribute to endurance, flexibility, aerobic training or the like.

Technically, Charles Atlas’ “Dynamic Tension” and Dr. Schwartz’ “Isotonometrics” are not “isometric” because they are not static holds. Movement is involved in each. Schwartz is correct though in that most Dynamic Tension and Isometric exercises attempt to isolate relatively small muscle groups, though some isometric exercises like the Kiveloff protocol seek a simultaneous “whole body isometric”.

For that reason, Schwartz says his isotonometric method involves “isometric like” action, i.e. limb to limb force and resistance:

“[Isotonometrics is a] fitness method that combines isometric-like physical activity with isotonic physical activity to achieve both endurance and strength.”

The Charles Atlas course of exercises taught the development of the body’s various muscle groups by way of specialization and isolation. His exercises were varied. Some were “dynamic tension” with limb to limb resistance. Others were “isotonic” exercises… well known calisthenics like his pushup variation, deep knee bends, lunges and, even, running. In general, however, there was no emphasis on involving all the limbs or the majority of the body’s muscle groups at the same time. One exception to this is a modified “burpee” that is demonstrated by Atlas in Lesson 6, Exercise 2. From the squatting position, the legs are kicked back. It is not a commonly known burpee that usually starts and ends in the standing position and may include a pushup or many other variants. In general, however,  Schwartz’ assessment of Atlas’ dynamic tension approach and isometrics in general was correct regarding the tendency toward isolating individual muscles and muscle groups.

Dr. Schwartz’ method of “Isotonometrics” in contrast seeks to involve as much muscle simultaneously as possible (a common feature of all his exercise recommendations). To involve as much upper body muscle as possible, he advocates a form of “dynamic tension” with broad movements with as much range and muscle involvement as possible for the upper body while activating the lower body with trunk bends, twists, knee bending, stepping, and lunging. He also envisioned arm to leg resistance exercises and leg to leg resistance exercises as part of his system.

Though Dr. Schwartz advocated innovation and flexibility in arm movements to avoid boredom, some of his “handclasps” and “handtrails” resemble the Atlas system. For example, in Lesson 1, Exercise 3, Mr. Atlas has an exercise that involves pulling on an imaginary rope from head to thigh. The motion of the downward hand activates the “latissiums dorsi” muscles among others which pull the arm down and backwards while the motion is resisted by the bottom hand which activates the biceps, frontal deltoid, and trapezius muscles which pull the arm upward. Obviously to exercise both sides of the body, the dominant hand must be changed half way through the chosen number of repetitions.

The “rope pulling” movement and several others in the same lesson are perfectly in line Schwartz “Isotonometrics”… the difference, however, is that in Schwartz’ method they would likely be performed at lower tension to accommodate higher repetitions and in conjunction with lower body movements or even dance like movements.

Schwartz’ Isotonometrics had several similarities to the Charles Atlas system while building on the results of modern understandings of training to produce cardiac and general muscular endurance. Both incorporated “dynamic tension” and “isotonic” (calisthenic) exercise though not technically “isometrics” in the form of the static holds studied, for instance, by the Max Planck Institute. Unlike Atlas, Schwartz consciously used predominantly upper body dynamic tension work to replace the use of hand weights for that purpose. Whether using weights or “dynamic tension”, the use of the upper body along with traditional lower limb cardio was to mimic the high oxygen processing of Nordic skiers while minimizing the stress and injury potential on any one body part.

There is a enough similarity in outward exercise forms between the two systems that a number of upper and lower body exercises from the Atlas course could conceivably be combined to form “whole body” movements. If those cojoined exercises were performed with a tension that allowed the activation of muscles for long enough time to create an aerobic effect, the untrained eye could not really tell the difference between the Atlas dynamic tension and isotonic moves combined and adapted for endurance training and the Schwartz Isotonometric moves.