A few weeks ago, a friend emailed me and said:
“I just got off the phone with John Jaquish, PhD, the inventor of something called the X3 variable resistance exercise system. He is an inventor, author, and scientist who stumbled upon his life’s mission to promote bone health and advance osteogenic loading research after his mother was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Determined to help her and others suffering from musculoskeletal conditions and pain, John developed amazing biotechnology devices that increase bone density, strengthen muscles, and improve stability while reducing injury risk.”
The email went on to describe how you could use John’s research to increase your bone density in just 10 minutes a week, and how you can put on more muscle in less time by leveraging John’s biomedical engineering wisdom—and this thing called an X3 Bar variable resistance system that he invented.
So I looked into Dr. Jaquish, and also got an X3 Bar resistance band bar system for myself to play around with. Turns out, he began his experience in life sciences after being told by his Mother that she had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. John, in an effort to help his mother, created a device to place axial loading through bone to safely cause osteogenic loading events. The device was to trigger the effects of high-impact loading, but without the risk of injury.
After successfully reversing his Mother’s osteoporosis, as part of his doctoral dissertation in biomedical engineering research at Rushmore University, he conducted four years of testing with human subjects focused on user comfort, biomechanics, and optimal musculoskeletal stimulation. Next, the device he designed was put into production, and has since been placed in over 240 clinics worldwide. Osteogenic loading has now helped over 12,000 individuals with their bone health. Published data has shown, treatment with this osteogenic loading device has resulted in over 14% gains in bone density in both the spine and hip over one year of once-weekly treatment.
Dr. Jaquish is currently advancing osteogenic loading research and speaking worldwide about its implications, as well as developing other biotechnology devices and products that will aid in the advanced health and wellbeing of people all around the world. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of American Bone Health, and the editorial boards of the Journal of Steroids and Hormonal Science, and Diabetes Open.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
How John developed an osteogenic loading device to fix his mother’s osteoporosis… 7:40
How the X3 Bar exercise band bar system came to be invented and the fascinating science behind it… 12:56
The use of variable resistance training to get 3x increases in power and strength… 20:25
The effect of variable resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone… 36:13
What kind of workouts you would do on it if you’re doing the 10 minute workout once per day… 49:05
What John’s 10 minute 1x/day workout looks like… 50:31
Ways that you can “biohack” variable resistance training with tools such as vibration, blood flow restriction, balance board… 58:29
[00:00] Introduction/Weekly Roundup/FourSigmatic
[07:40] How John Developed an Osteogenic Loading Device
[12:56] How the X3 Bar variable resistance system Came to be Invented
[20:25] The Use of Variable Resistance Training to Get 3x Increases in Power and Strength
[23:50] The Special Kind of Elastic Bands that John Integrated Into the X3 Bar
[32:37] Birdwell Beach Britches/Organifi
[36:13] The Effect of Variable Resistance Training on Growth Hormone and Testosterone
[49:05] What Kind of Workouts you Would Do on It if You’re Doing the 10 Minute Workout Once Per Day
[50:31] What John’s 10 minute 1x/day Workout Looks Like
[58:29] Ways That you Can “biohack” Variable Resistance Training with Tools
[1:03:26] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, it’s Ben Greenfield. Would you like to get a weekly email from me? A roundup that gives you all the new discoveries of the week, the cool new things I’ve tried, books I’m reading, new biohacks I’m experimenting with, things I’ve done that may or may not give me explosive diarrhea or better cognition or anything else. I test, I experiment, I read every week, and in my weekly roundup, I spill all the beans for you. So it’s very simple, if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com, you subscribe to my newsletter, you’re automatically in on the weekly roundup that comes out every Friday. So check it out, it’s all new kitchen tools, foods, supplements, recipes, little hacks, recently I’ve actually been using a high amount of Gerolsteiner Sparkling Water which is very high in sodium bicarbonate, as a lactate buffer throughout the day and to get all the alkalotic benefits of sodium bicarbonate. As simple as that, a bunch of sparkling water. So that’s just one example of what you’ll get in my weekly roundup, how to spend a bunch of money on sparkling water… no, there’s a lot more in there along with a whole host of entertaining snippets from my weeks. Check it out, the weekly roundup, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com and sign up for that.
Now in today’s podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing my friend John Jaquish. We’re gonna be talking about how to massively increase your bone density and your muscle with just 10 minutes a day. He’s got this really cool exercise tool and exercise strategy that we’re gonna talk about. So if you wanna get swoll or maintain muscle, build some lean muscle, stay strong when you’re travelling, all sort of ways you can use this. So have fun listening in to me and John chat.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“…and I always thought as dedicated as I am to training, this sucks. I really didn’t get much out of it and so as I was doing this bone density research, I said, I know that there’s a trigger here for muscular growth.” “And as I started doing this research and realizing that we need to just get rid of the weight and double down on the variable resistance, I thought I was just gonna write another book.” “Two workouts in, I could barely move my wrists and I could barely move my ankles. I was in pain.”
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield, and a few weeks ago, one of my buddies emailed me and told me that he had just talked with this guy named John Jaquish who has a PhD and invented this bar. Not like a bar that you eat, but a bar that you train with. And this guy’s an inventor and an author and a scientist who stumbled upon a way to get fit really, really fast while he was doing some pretty advanced osteogenic loading research, how to increase bone density really effectively. And he developed this protocol, I believe you were working… were you working with your mother, John?
John: Yeah, this whole thing was developed, right.
Ben: Yeah for his mom, that’s so sweet. And anyways, so John develops this amazing biotechnology devices to increase bone density and strengthen muscle and improve stability, and I got my hands on one of these bars that he created, it’s called the X3 resistance bands system, to play around with myself. Speak of the devil, I actually have it in my hand right now, I’m standing on the platform with the band attached, and while we’re podcasting today, John, I actually as I’ve done before when I’ve used this thing in airports and here in my office when I want kind of like a minimalist, quick, ten-minute workout, I’m actually doing my workout while we’re talking. How cool is that? I mean I figured if there’s one guy I could work out to while I’m podcasting, it’s you. So if you hear me grunting, I’m not taking a dump while I’m interviewing you, I’m working out.
Ben: Just to clear that up.
John: Yeah, I actually just did another podcast, it’s called the Motor Cop, and there’s a video component of it and so they wanted me to do a set to complete fatigue, and I could barely breathe. It really does wipe you out.
Ben: Oh it does. We can talk about this later but I’ve got one protocol that I do where… this totally sounds like some dumb biohacking exercise that I’m sure any powerlifter would snicker at, but it works for me. I stand on a vibration platform with your bar set up on top of the vibration platform and I do, specifically the deadlift and the squats-overhead press, and dude it just wipes me clean because you’re fighting against the variable resistance that we’ll talk about here in a second, but then also having to deal with all the tiny, little proprioceptive cues from the vibration, and dude, it’s a pretty crazy way to train. The other thing I’ve done, I didn’t tell you about this but I have one of these… it’s almost like, have you seen a balance board, like a fluid stance or a waddle board or any of those before?
John: Oh yeah, fantastic.
Ben: Yeah, I’ll set this on top of that so I’m actually having to balance while at the same time I’m doing so on that, I’ll do curls or upright rows or squats. So I’ve been playing around with this and figuring out a lot of ways to make it even harder or enhance it even more, so…
John: I will… I’m so glad you brought that up. You’re surging growth hormone while you’re doing that. I didn’t even send you the study but…
Ben: Wait, what, with the vibration platform or with the balance?
John: They work the same.
John: I did a meta-analysis on that. We’ll talk about that…
Ben: Okay, let’s get into that. I won’t forget to come back to my little tweaks on this thing. Tell me first of all about your mom and this concept of osteogenic loading and how you actually came to get into this concept of almost biohacking bone density?
John: Yeah, so I was 20 at the time and my mother when I came home from undergrad and I was looking for something to eat and to get my laundry done like most kids, and so my mom was pretty upset and I could see that on her face. And I said “what’s going on?” and she said “well, I’m gonna die.” My mother’s very dramatic so I’d heard that before, but I said “why?” and she said “well I was diagnosed with osteoporosis today.” And I thought “okay that’s a real thing.”
John: So I said “let me do some reading about it” and I was majoring in marketing at the time and playing Division-1 rugby so I wasn’t focused on medicine at all. But as I began to read, and this process took months and months, where I looked at who built superhuman bone density.
John: There’s a group, there was one group and it’s very distinct: it is gymnasts. The rate at which they hit the ground is incredible.
Ben: Gymnasts, really?
John: Gymnasts, yeah. When they dismount from the uneven bars, they can get ten times their body weight.
Ben: That’s crazy, except the little, skinny, anorexic ones, right? They probably don’t have great bone density.
John: Well some of them have overtraining issues and eating disorders and is why they actually fracture a lot.
John: But they’re still going through these very high loads. There’s no way you can dismount from the uneven bars and not get 6/7/8 times your body weight. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other things, like orthopedic surgeons will tell you the most fascinating people to work on is gymnasts but they’re also right on the edge of incredible damage.
Ben: Right, same reason but in reverse why an astronaut would have poor bone density. They’re not getting any loading, they’re not getting any impact, they probably also don’t have gymnastics equipment in space. But it makes sense, impact creates an osteogenic load that induces some kind of an osteoblastic cell formation, right?
John: Right. So basically, what I did was I looked at this gymnastic research and I said “okay, I need the benefit”… and I’ve been told by my professors, I went and got my PhD in biomedical engineering after this. My professors all told me “if you got your education first, you would have talked yourself out of this because it’s so unconventional.” But what I did was I thought “okay, I’m gonna build a device that gives the benefit of high impact without the risks.” So slow and controlled loading in the impact ready position. So think, if you jump in the air and land, there’s a 120 degree angle behind your knee…
John: We’re gonna isolate that and we’re gonna allow compressive force to go through the lower extremities. And so my mother was using six times her body weight after just a year of using the first prototype which I built in the garage.
Ben: Wait, you mean the prototype of what I’m standing on right now? This is the same thing you built for your mom?
John: No, no, no, no, no. Bone density device…
Ben: Okay, so this is different.
John: Oh yeah, yeah. They’re gigantic metal worth $100,000, computer screen on, giving you biofeedback.
John: You can find them at OsteoStrong locations, there’s 54 clinics. I just got back from an opening in Stockholm, where they opened the first one in Stockholm.
Ben: OsteoStrong. So this is the device that you created.
Ben: So if someone is suffering bone density, they can go find one of these devices near their house and use it?
Ben: Okay, I’ll put a link to that. Oh by the way you guys, the links for today are gonna be over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/tenminutes. You’ll learn why here in a little bit, but go ahead, John.
John: Nice, I like that. So compressive force at far higher loads than anyone would normally be able to get through even weight lifting, and this is why so many post-menopausal females have bone density challenges and they say “but I don’t understand, I’m a runner, I go through high impact.” Well, it wasn’t until 2012 where some researchers in Bristol, United Kingdom determined with accelerometers and blood marker turnover tests where they would do a blood analysis on a regular basis and look at their loading through the accelerometers, where they were determining that in minimum of 4.2 multiples of body weight going through your lower extremities to trigger any bone growth at all.
Ben: Oh, wow.
John: So that’s not gonna happen by lifting weights.
John: That’s gonna happen either through high impact or, at OsteoStrong locations where there’s a controlled event where you’re safely loading and using computerized biofeedback, and the machines are actually robotics so they really calculate the right position for you and then allow you to expose a load in that very optimized position.
Ben: Did you actually make this thing out in your garage for your mom or did you have access to some kind of a production facility?
John: Well this took years.
John: And the initial prototypes… the first prototype had chains, wooden blocks, duct taped towels to it to use as pads. So I threw all those away, I don’t even want people to see what I did. My mother was very upset when I made her use it coz it looked very scary. Now they look gorgeous.
John: In fact, Tony Robbins has a set.
Ben: I’m looking at the website. Yeah, Tony Robbins, Dave Asprey appears to be a big fan of this thing, but yeah, looks pretty advanced. Looks far more advanced than this thing that I’m using.
John: [laughs] Right. Well what’s interesting is the bone density research, the whole time I was doing the bone density research and building those devices and getting the robotics right and the mathematics right… I wrote a book called Osteogenic Loading. So I looked at what was going on with bone and I thought “gosh, we’re using really high forces” which tells me that humans are capable of a lot more from a force production standpoint than we’re really getting in weightlifting. In fact from a functional, which is the most misused word in fitness, from a functional perspective, we almost choose our stronger range of motion. When you run, you have 180 degrees of flexion available on your knee but you only use 7 degrees.
John: Why is that? And when a fighter punches somebody, they don’t wanna punch somebody one inch away from their face, they want it at almost full extension within 120 degree of inclusion between the upper arm and lower arm.
Ben: Yeah, unless you’re Bruce Lee.
John: Right, exactly. But if you watch the way the rest of his body moves, he does optimize his biomechanics… he twists his body.
John: So we all want to use our optimized ranges of motion, that’s just the way our reflexes work. And then when we go into the gym, it’s like “no, I’m gonna use a static load through the most compromised position and then in the strongest position, too.” But that’s a thing, and as a sport of the bench press and the squat and weightlifting and powerlifting and things like that which is great, but if we want to be as strong as possible, we need to look at these biomechanical variations. And when you read the research section of the x3bar.com and look at what I came up with for muscle which is sort of like the other side of the coin into the bone which is X3 Bar variable resistance system… I thought “okay, this device is not even gonna be really expensive” but ultimately what I looked at first was what Westside Barbell was doing.
Ben: Yeah, and you know what? Before we dive into how you developed this X3 Bar resistance band training system after you developed this OsteoStrong unit, just to close the loop on OsteoStrong. Basically what you’re saying is that the minimum for required to trigger bone growth, for people who are listening who might have osteopenia or osteoporosis, is about 4.2 times the body weight. And in order to generate that amount of force safely in somebody who has osteoporosis, you need to be on something like one of these machines that kinda walks you through various ranges of motion. There’s like a leg press and like a pressing unit. It almost looks like, are you familiar with these ARX machines that produce both eccentric and concentric force.
John: Oh yeah. I’ve used it at Dave Asprey’s house.
Ben: Yeah, it seems kinda like that. Is it kind of a similar concept?
John: No. The ARX, you’re really wrestling with a motor.
John: And you’re going through a full range of motion, and the loads are not very similar. For example, I put 4,000lbs through my legs when I use the OsteoStrong.
Ben: Oh, holy cow.
John: 21,000lbs through my upper extremities to compress bone.
John: And listen to this, I took a DEXA scan, I’m two standard deviations above normal.
Ben: That’s crazy. Coz you’re getting this huge axial load that triggers bone growth in the actual bone?
John: Right, massive. So I am fracture-proof.
Ben: And you can’t do that with a barbell? You can’t get that amount of bone loading or is it more of the injury risk in someone with low bone density?
John: You know, there are some people who have done lockouts and really loaded bars up, but would you really, in a power rack, would you really wanna get under a thousand pound bar? If that power rack fails…
Ben: Yeah, I get it. So using a machine to generate copious amounts of force that actually induce osteogenic load…
John: And when you use the OsteoStrong devices, you get to see exactly what your maximum output is as opposed to choosing what to impose on yourself.
Ben: Right, coz there’s a computer dashboard that show you how much force you’re producing.
John: Right, how much force you’re putting…
Ben: I’m gonna look for a place near my house. I’d love to go try to work out on one of these coz in looking at your research, it looks like there’s a pretty significant effect on muscle growth and also blood sugar and some other health parameters, too.
John: Well it’s creating a myofibril adaptation which ultimately creates more receptor sites for insulin.
Ben: For people who don’t know what a myofibril adaptation is, explain that.
John: Density of cell as opposed to holding more fuel in the cell. There’s two types of muscle growth, sarcoplasmic and myofibril. Sarcoplasmic is when you sort of compound the path of the muscle, this is what most people who lift, especially bodybuilding style, they are able to hold more glycogen, creatine, phosphate and ATP in the cells.
John: So the cells become vehicles to hold more fuel for contraction.
John: Whereas people who absorb more explosive force like gymnasts, people who use OsteoStrong, they’re gonna have a more dense cell.
Ben: Right, that’s actually pretty fascinating.
John: Yeah, you can do sarcoplasmic training and more myofibril type training.
Ben: Yeah, I do both, just for aesthetic reasons. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy or sarcoplasmic training where this volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases via a bodybuilding style training or a high weight-low rep style training, or even like a blood flow restriction type of training with body weight. That’s great for maintaining blood flow, for getting a metabolic response to training and for just, whatever, looking good in a swimsuit with your shirt off. But it’s also why body builders tend to be kind of weak relative to the amount of muscle that they have coz a lot of the hypertrophy is just sarcoplasmic fluid and it’s not an actual increase in the contractile proteins like actin and myosin. I think… actually in my book Beyond Training, I talk a little bit about this research that Paul Jaminet discusses in his book Perfect Health Diet where he goes into longevity research in guinea pigs and this idea that like the explosive, wirey, more like myofibrillar-based hypertrophy is better for longevity, it’s better for strength. Like you want to…
John: It lasts.
Ben: Yeah, you wanna be more like a quick, explosive, wirey powerlifter and be doing more of this either single set to failure training or heavy load training versus the traditional bodybuilding-esque 12-15 reps to failure which I guess would be a good segue into this bar. So I wanna get into that, how’d you come from the osteogenic loading devices to developing this thing I’m standing on now?
John: So as I was doing the research, I had always been a generally disappointed guy in the gym. I played Division-1 rugby, I was always athletic, I had access to great strength coaches. I think all the weight I put on was really just getting older. From the time I did wrestling, swimming and track in high school and then rugby in undergrad, so I just… like 180lbs kinda guy, 6 feet tall… I was fit. When I took my shirt off at the beach, people would be like “oh yeah, you work out” but when I was wearing a shirt it would be like “okay, you’re just a regular dude.”
John: And I always thought as dedicated as I am to training, this sucks. I really didn’t get much out of it and so as I was doing this bone density research, I said “I know that there’s a trigger here for muscular growth.” And it’s not completely clear to me, but I can see with human capability in these optimized ranges of motion, look at the loads I have elderly women putting through their musculoskeletal system.
John: If those are the kind of forces that people are really capable of, then we’re massively leaving on the table, or as the case may be, at the gym that we just can’t get with standard fitness. So when I came across… somebody sent me a link to Westside Barbell and was like “I think you need to take a look at what these guys are doing, I think it may have some bearing on your research.” And what they were doing is they would off load a little bit of weight for regular weight training. Now they train weightlifters and… I dunno if powerlifters or weightlifters, I’m not really in that space but they train people who are participating of the sport of the squat, sport of the bench press, and the deadlift… so, the main lifts. And they have these special racks to hook bands to, so you have bands and the weight…
John: They off load some of the weight, so let’s say you’re holding a bench press bar on your chest and that weight is x, and then as you extend, the weight goes to 1.3x, and so I got that off of some of the writing that they have done.
Ben: Yeah, I actually… I dunno if I told you this but I used to be a bodybuilder and I would use that a lot especially during squats and bench pressing, loop the bands around the bars. And not only do you get a lot of kind of… the best way I can describe it is like a shaking and almost like a dynamic movement of the bar as you move it up and down, you gotta work a lot harder to control it but then it presses against you a lot more. On the same side, you could say this about gymnastics, right? One gymnast that I was working with who was teaching me the muscle up, he simply used an elastic band to deload me and to help me get up through a muscle up. So yeah, it could be used to load or to deload, but I yeah, I first started using this kind of concept back when I was a body builder.
John: Right. And so they were doing something great now… they’re doing something a little different than what I’m trying to do. They’re trying to make people good at lifting free weights.
John: Whereas my objective with X3 Bar variable resistance system was I don’t care about what I bench press or what I squat. I’m 41 years old, I wanna be as strong as possible and I wanna stay as strong as possible for the rest of my life. And so that’s kinda where my head was when I was looking at what they did, and so I observed what happened at Westside, and then somebody showed me a study in 2008. So I’ve been working on that bone density thing for a long time, so they showed me 2008, Professor Anderson and researchers took [0:24:57] __ athletes, split them into two groups, had one group to the regular weight training, tested tem pre to post for strength, and then had another group do something similar to what Westside was doing. So less actual weight and then banded, and they grew muscle three times fasted. Now that’s where I got the whole X3 Bar resistance band bar system thing, but that’s not exactly what we’re doing because when I look at the two groups, I say “okay, now I think I’ve got it.” Both groups were using weights, the group that had the three times gains was using a little bit of variance. So let’s ditch the weights and double down on the variants, because as I was seeing in my research that I had just… when I was reviewing all this information just in 2015, published a study, wrote a protocol in the hospital that ran the study in London, where loading postmenopausal women with 6/7/8/9 times body weight through their hip joint. So I’m looking at what they’re doing and when I compare that to the American College of Sports Medicine, loading data. When you look at the American College of Sports Medicine says non-athletes’ versus athletes’ load to their lower extremities, it’s 1.3 to 1.53 multiples of body weight.
John: We’re training with like 8-9 multiples body weight with deconditioned women.
John: That are over 50 years old.
John: And so I’m saying “okay, screw the weight, we don’t need the weight, what we need is massive variance.”
Ben: Massive variance, like what do you mean, massive variance?
John: Like very low weight where your joint is compromised in a weak range of motion, and much higher weight. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re beyond your one rep maximum or anything like that, but a weight that is drastically different in the strong range versus the weak range.
Ben: Now when you say the joint is compromised in a weak range of motion, what do you mean?
John: Well, you don’t injure your shoulder when you’re at extension in a bench press, it’s at the bottom. That’s it, the greatest risk of injury.
John: Right, that’s where you can potentially sublux a joint.
Ben: Coz you’re the weakest at the bottom?
John: Right, right. And ultimately, mechanically, if you’re lifting a static weight in a conventional manner, you only go to fatigue in the weak range of motion, hence we call it the weak range of motion.
John: And what do we know about the weak range of motion? You have the least amount of muscle firing and the joint is at its greatest exposure for potential injury.
Ben: Okay, so what I’m confused about here is when you’re talking about this [0:27:45] __ study where they compared people who trained with elastic and they were producing… I looked at the study, there were like three times greater response for the squat, three times greater response for the bench press, three times the amount of power produced as a result or as a response to conventional training, training with the elastic bands and this concept of very low resistance versus traditional weight training. Are you saying that in that study, not only were they using elastic bands but they were putting people into their weakest range of motion?
John: Yeah, they were going full range.
Ben: Okay, so full range of motion but what you’re saying is when you add elastic, it produces the greatest amount of stress when you’re in your weakest range of motion?
John: No, no, no. What I’m saying… I understand the question now. When you lift a static weight, the control group we’re talking about or anybody who’s doing a regular bench press, you are limited by your weakest range of motion, that’s why we call it that, right?
John: So in that weak range of motion, you have the least amount of muscle firing and you have the greatest exposure to potential injury. So what they did in that [0:28:54] __ study is they off loaded that range of motion slightly. So they use less weight on the bar, and then they use the elastic to deliver more force in the stronger range of motion.
John: So like I said, x weight on the chest and then 1.3x at the top.
John: And then when I… it’s really important because some of the online trolls will look at one sentence in one study and say “well, you’re not doing exactly this so you’re wrong.” No, the reason we have multiple references is because I’m pulling observations from multiple studies. So when you look at the Anderson study and then you look at my study from London, and then you look at the American College of Sports Medicine data, there’s a seven –fold difference from weak range to strong range. So, why don’t we train that way? In fact, the Anderson study and what’s going on at Westside Barbell is just scratching the surface of what variance in resistance can do. So that’s when I came to the conclusion “alright, get rid of the weights, just massive variance.”
Ben: Because the body can’t tell, especially muscle tissue or this myofibrillar response for hypertrophy or for actin and myosin fiber growth. There is no difference in the way that the body interprets a load if it is from say like heavy tension-based elastic band versus a barbell made of iron.
John: Of course. Yeah, the muscle has no idea.
Ben: And there’s actually, correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there a greater eccentric loading effect when you’re getting pulled back out of that range of motion by elastic?
John: Not necessarily. There’s more stability priority for sure.
Ben: Okay, so it’s more of a proprioceptive cue than eccentric contraction? Coz you’re trying to maintain it as it moves through space?
John: Right, so the protocol that I have people following that comes with the product is that you go to fatigue in diminishing range. So let’s say you take the heavy band, throw it around your back and go to do a chest press, and let’s say you hit 15 repetitions at the top and… you’re 6’2”?
John: So you’re probably getting… I’m 6 foot so that’s 250lbs for me at peak, so that might be 275lbs or something like that for you. Let’s say you hit that 15 times, now all of a sudden you can’t get to the top of that chest press anymore. So you keep going and you’re doing half reps with let’s say 180lbs and you do five more of those and now you can’t get to that range anymore, and your last couple of repetitions may only be one inch in range of motion. Now you’ve fatigued all ranged of motion simultaneously in one set.
John: So this is an absolute fatigue of muscle, this is not something you can do with a weight.
Ben: Interesting. But you’re not changing the elastic band as you go through a routine like that because your system… and we can explain this in a second, it comes with multiple resistances of elastic bands you can use for each movement. What you’re doing is you’re simply adjusting the range of motion that you’re going through as the muscle becomes more and more fatigued?
Ben: Okay, got it.
Ben: I wanna get into here in a second how this thing is actually built, what it looks like, but there’s also some really interesting research in addition to this three-time greater increase in power that you talked about, and also the increase in bone density and that would be the hormonal response which you alluded to as I was talking about how I have it on a vibration platform or I’ll use if when balancing. Talk to me about what you’ve found as far as the hormonal response to… I guess you would call this the, is the technical term for this variable resistance?
Ben: Okay, tell me about the hormonal response to variable resistance training.
John: So the reason why, and let me just back up and look at how in strength training with a lot of athletes that really need to perform on a field. We’re not just talking bodybuilders here but, like in a football wait room you’ll see a lot of power racks, you won’t see a lot of leg presses. I doubt you’ll ever see a quad extension, right? And they noticed that there’s a lot of translation from squat power on the field power whereas not so much for the other two types of exercises. So if you look at, and there’ve been a few different studies comparing the squat to a leg press, so if you look at what happens… obviously you handle less weight on your back on the squat than you handle on a leg press. However, you get 0% change in growth hormone levels pre to post with the leg press. With the squat, when you do a 10 rep set, you’re making a 400% increase. Actually, I think it’s 443% increase was the last study that I read on this. So Henry Alkire, a researcher that I worked with, he’s with the company, we did a meta-analysis together last summer. And what the meta-analysis we looked at was, we’re trying to find out what this pituitary axis is to trigger growth hormone upregulation. There’s a couple of them, you can fast to get more growth hormone, you can get a really good night’s sleep, you have a higher resting growth hormone. But growth hormone is fantastic, and I think recently on your show, somebody referred to it as human repair hormone when you’re an adult, it doesn’t really grow you, and… I forgot who that was you had on your show.
Ben: Probably the guy, I interviewed Dr. Richard Gains about growth hormone.
John: Yup, that’s him.
Ben: He’s the guy who does my dick injections and he’s also a big hormone expert. And yeah, I think he described it as human repair hormone which makes sense.
John: Yeah. Much, much better explanation coz people hear the word growth and be like “I dunno, I didn’t grow anything, weird.”
John: So what Henry and I did was we found two different data sets that looked at stabilization firing through exercise. And pre to post, and in some of the groups, some of the data sets had control groups too. So either pre to post or control to post tests, and in the meta-analysis, you take all the different data sets you used to normalize them. I know you would know what that is but your listeners might not. So we put all this research together and did a bunch of statistical tests to determine, with the absolute highest level of statistical significance, P value at 00001, that it’s stabilization firing has a massive effect on growth hormone levels. The only thing that attenuates greater upregulation of growth hormone is the weight that somebody is using. So if you’re unstable and you’re doing a one-legged squat, you’re just lightly bending one knee not all the way down, you’re gonna get a little bit. If you stand on a vibration platform, you’re gonna get more, quite a bit more. If you’re using X3 Bar exercise band bar system and doing like an overhead press as you alluded to, your core is firing at an incredible rate because when you get to the top of that pressing movement, you’re holding a weight that you probably wouldn’t be able to get there otherwise. So you’re holding a massive weight when your arms are at extension over your head.
Ben: Yeah, that’s what I’ve noticed. My whole body shakes, my entire body shakes like it wants to let that thing down. Far different than what I get if I had a barbell over my head.
John: Right, because you’re handling a higher weight and not only higher weight, more repetitions with a higher weight. I tell people “don’t be afraid to go 30 or 40 repetitions with X3 Bar fitness band bar system.”
John: Yeah, coz you’re getting to a massive force.
Ben: Do you still get a myofibrillar response or once you get up to that high of a rep range, is it just sarcoplasmic?
John: No, because when you fatigue the top range, you fatigue the stronger range, you’re not running out of ATP, that’s not what the fatigue is. You’re running out of contractile tissue so that’s a different stimulus.
John: So the body, when you go to fatigue in the stronger range of motion, so the nervous system’s saying that “yeah, we need to actually have more protein synthesis here. We gotta build more myofibrils, a denser tissue.”
Ben: Yeah, you’re training heavy into weak range of motion.
John: Well I mean at the top range, in the strong range and then when you get to the weaker range of motion, that’s more of a sarcoplasmic effect.
Ben: Okay, so you’re doing both to a certain extent.
Ben: Yeah, coz I’ve definitely had that sarcoplasmic pump after working out with this but I’ll be honest with you, I’m using heavier elastic bands and I’m only doing 5-10 reps max when I’ve been using it and just going through… you sent me a PDF with the basic exercises even though I know you have a full 12-week program on the website where you get into everything from forced reps to constant tension to I think you call reflexive warm up. You have a whole bunch of stuff and that’s all, by the way for you guys listening in, that’s all for free on his website if you just wanna go look at what this thing looks like when you’re working out on it. And I’m gonna describe it here in just a second but I’ll link to that, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/tenminutes. And again’ I’ll tell you why ten minutes in a second, but first, before we dive into that, describe to people how this actually looks and why you included each of the components that you did, because it’s basically three things: platform, a bar, and bands. So I could throw this in a suitcase, or just keep it underneath my desk or wherever, but describe to me why these three different components.
John: Right, and I’m glad you as question because a lot of people look at it and they expected the whole thing to cost $30. And what they don’t realize, the bar is designed to handle somewhere between 500 and 1,000lbs of force because you handle a lot more weight in your stronger range of motion plus there’s small bearing on each end so your grip is never compromised coz the bar swivels.
John: So that’s the equivalent of an Olympic bar.
Ben: It’s way different than just holding on to an elastic band.
John: Oh yeah, well the elastic band… so every once in a while I’m at a place where I’m showing a group of people why I went to Gold’s Gym in Chicago. And I started doing reps and somebody said “can’t I just do curls with a band?” and I had them do a couple of curls with the bar, and I’m like “alright, now let’s take the bar away.” And the guy said “oh my God, it’s like I’m gonna break my wrists.” He can’t do the exercise.
John: You need a way to grab it. There’s a reason we train with bars and not lifting rocks.
Ben: So component one is this bar with the ball bearings inside of it, and the elastic bands kinda slip over the little hooks on either end of the bar.
Ben: And then they go down to this plate, and I’m standing on the plate right now. Usually, until you send me one of these devices to mess around with, when I’m training with an elastic band, like let’s say I’m gonna do upright rows, I would stand on top of the band, not on top of a platform like this and use my feet to hold the band down and then do an elastic row without the bar. And the bar I could use way more force now that I’ve got this bar on my hands so I can use a much heavier, elastic band. But then the plate itself, why do you have to stand on this plate?
John: To protect your ankles, because if you’re doing a deadlift with a really heavy band, and these bands go to hundreds of pounds.
Ben: Yeah, they’re heavy.
John: The height differentially makes a difference. You, being 6’2”, you’re gonna have more because you stretch the band more. You’re gonna have a little bit more force than somebody who’s 5’10”. But the point is, people are training with 200-300lbs in a deadlift. If you try and step on a band that’s got 200-300lbs going through it, you will injure yourself.
Ben: Oh yeah, I’m doing deadlifts right now. Wait, I got this… so I got the bar in my hand doing the deadlift, so I have a plate, there’s no way… and I’m only using the second elastic band in terms of force. I know these things will go up to 500lbs of force if I use that thick one back behind me, but even right now my muscles are shaking as I’m at the top of my deadlift while I’m talking to you. And my ankles would be hurting me right now if they were being used to support this.
John: It’s a process called neural inhibition, right? When you’re uncomfortable, your body starts shutting your muscles down, like “what the hell are you doing, stop doing that.”
John: The same reason why you put your hand in the fire and it snaps right back, you don’t have to think about pulling it out of the fire, same kind of thing. So it’s a body protective process, and as I started doing this research and realizing that we need to just get out of the way and double down on the variable resistance, I thought I was just gonna write another book. I thought I was gonna write a book about band training and how much better it is than weights and then I went, and it took some … I actually had to search out who had really heavy resistance bands coz there’s not a lot of people who make heavy resistance bands. And so I found a couple and started doing some exercises in trying to make them as heavy as possible so I could really gain some muscle. Two workouts in, two days in, I could barely move my wrists and I could barely move my ankles. I was in pain. And I thought “okay, this sucks. I’ve gotta make an Olympic bar to grab a hold of these bands, and a way to mount the bands to the ground.”
John: Which is what that ground plate is. And then they needed to be built as strong or stronger than a regular Olympic bar because if you’re stronger in the stronger range, people, even people who don’t think they can lift that much are gonna be turning with a lot more weight than they otherwise would with more repetitions so these things needed to be built for absolute power. And I end up working with Legend Fitness which makes some of the greatest, really high-powered strength equipment, so they understand massive forces.
Ben: Are these elastic bands special? I mean like, coz honestly we all know you could go to Alibaba these days and get a bunch of elastic bands from China. Why is it that these bands are so special?
John: Yeah, so they’re not petroleum-based rubber like most bands, 99% of bands out there are poured in a mold and they’re petroleum-based. The problem with that is they don’t really have that much resistance even if they look thick. These are layered latex, so if you have a latex allergy, you gotta go out and get the rubber ones and you can do that, but layered latex is powerful. Far more powerful than a refined polymer, a petroleum-based polymer.
John: So yeah, that’s why these things are so powerful, and sometimes some of these small video online are like “this thing’s $550, I don’t understand why a rubber band thing…” Yeah, you don’t quite know what you’re looking at. It’s described very well in the website but people are…
Ben: Just layered latex. So it comes with these bands, what’s this plate made out of, that I’m standing on?
John: Polyethylene. It’s a high density polyethylene, they make boats out of that.
John: Really, really powerful. Yeah, I put 500lbs through that at repetition many times, no problems.
Ben: Okay, so in a pinch I can actually take this thing out into the ocean and use it as a boat. Good to know.
Ben: Okay so let’s get into this ten minutes thing, why do you say that you use this thing for ten minutes a day? Is it ten minutes a day or is it two ten-minute workouts a day? Describe to me the protocol.
John: No, I do it ten minutes a day.
John: Now I’m not wanting to throw other exercise in the trash, especially coz some of your listeners are crossfit guys or are lifters who are looking to get their next best performance. And so it’s like I don’t wanna say that’s wrong or anything like that, but for me, from my own personal needs and the needs of probably most people who buy X3 Bar variable resistance system, X3 Bar resistance band bar system is all they do. I do nothing, I do zero cardio, I’m lean as hell, I have veins in my abs.
Ben: How does that work, doing zero cardio? Is it similar to this Doug McGuff idea of a huge increase in, I think he calls a peripheral resistance? Where your heart is having to pump so hard against peripheral resistance from moving slow?
John: Oh yeah. Right, well with diminishing range.
John: With diminished range, when you fatigue the strong range, midrange and the weak range, your blood is pumping.
Ben: Yeah, my heart rate goes through the roof when I’m using this thing.
John: Right, right. So I’m cardiovascularly healthy, I have a low resting heart rate, I have low blood pressure or below normal, and so all I’m doing is ten minutes of X3 portable gym per day.
Ben: And what’s it look like for you? Walk me through a sample workout that it looks like for you for ten minutes, I’m just curious.
John: So like today, I’m gonna do my workout number one, so it’ll be chest press, tricep push down, overhead press, and calf raises.
John: So four sets all out, complete fatigue… that’s it, that’s the whole workout.
Ben: Now do you get some kick back, because this is something that I always raise an eyebrow at and a lot of everybody from crossfitters to strength-conditioning coaches will as well, doing things like bicep curls and calf raises and all these single joint exercises that don’t seem to be that efficient versus just having… like if I were to just do a ten minute workout on this with more multi-joint moves like the chest press and the squat. While we’ve been talking today, I’ve been doing the deadlift and the upright row just coz I can stand in front of my microphone and do it that way. But fill me in on why the single joint exercises doesn’t kind of fly in the face of efficiency.
John: Completely. However, people still have vanity and people still wanna look good. And then when I tell ‘em their calves are gonna look better if they’re in heels…
John: “Oh, okay.” Ultimately, it’s a product that’s for masses.
Ben: So if you’re doing this, you can use it for aesthetics and if you’re using it for aesthetics, some of these single joint exercises… when I was a bodybuilder, the way that I did things was I would do three full body workouts coz I’m a hardgainer, I’m a lean guy. So I would do three full body workouts, Monday/Wednesday/Friday and this was like deads, cleans, squats. So rather than me doing a body part split, it was three full body workouts and then on the weekends, I would do vanity exercises which is actually what moved the dial from aesthetic standpoint, where I do a huge amount of calf raises and bicep curls and abdominal work.
John: Ultimately the people, a lot of people talk about functional strength… most people wanna look pretty. So we’re addressing both.
John: If somebody goes “yeah, those specific exercise are just a waste of time, waste of energy, waste of muscle building resources”, that may be true, skip ‘em. But those are the people who know the difference, and ultimately, I have a twelve week program and I show people how to do some exercises. So last week I was with a group of recon Marines who got a bunch of X3 Bar resistance band training systems and they’re gonna be putting in into the program. Recon Marines still have to be recon Marines, these guys are special forces. So they want to do the movements like the deadlift, the overhead press, that mimic what Marines have to do. So they’re probably not doing a lot of bicep curls except for the ones that are trying to look good at the beach.
John: But when guys are special forces military, they’re not really focused on looking food at the beach, they’re killing machines. They gotta be efficient, so now I also worked with a local bay area SWAT team where they realized that one of the biggest deterrents of violence because they do a lot of riot control, we got a lot of unhappy people in America right now. So when they go to do riot control, one of the things they’re focused on when they’re lifting is they wanna look intimidated because that keeps people from picking fights with police officers. So bicep curls are right up their alley.
Ben: That makes sense. Now I know we kind rabbit holed there for a minute asking about the single joint exercises, but as far as the actual sets and reps for this ten minute workout that you’ll do each day, what do the sets and reps look like?
John: So the sets, it’s one or two sets to absolute fatigue. I find the guys that are more prone to be a slow twitch kind of potential marathon people, guys who ran cross country in high school sort of thing, they tend to do better with two sets. But for strength type athletes like myself, I do better with one.
Ben: Single set to failure?
John: Yeah, using constant tension, so never resting at the bottom, never letting the band go slack, and never locking the joint out of the top. So the constant tension and then, this is really important, diminishing range. First you go to fatigue in the strong range, then the midrange, then the weaker range.
Ben: Okay, so if I were doing a squat, sorry to interrupt, what would that look like?
John: So you would start by going to almost straight leg, and you’d keep going let’s say 15 repetitions and all of a sudden you won’t be able to get to the top anymore because the weight’s just so high. And then so you do squats that are more like from where the femur’s parallel to the ground to about halfway up, you’ll do another 5 or 6 repetitions there. And then where you’re almost completely squatted down, when you’re discharged and the band is almost slack, you’ll do another 2 or 3 repetitions that may be 1 or 2 inches.
Ben: Right, so as you get more and more tired, you’re moving into those weaker ranges of motion.
John: And then usually you just collapse after that.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. So basically what you look at then is as you go through the actual exercise, there are points to the exercise where you got a little bit more tension, or I’m sorry, a little less tension in the band, like at the bottom of a bicep curl versus the top of a bicep curl.
Ben: Now what you’re saying is go full range of motion and then for a curl say go through midrange of motion and then finish in that range of motion where you’ve got kind of a little bit more elastic band left over but you’re so fatigued anyways it doesn’t matter.
John: Now one of the protocols that I’m working on, I’m a do some advanced programming, I’ve been planning on doing this for two months now, so I really gotta get to doing it. I have Cedric McMillan who’s a bodybuilder, he’ll be in the Olympian next year, he won the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic a year ago. And so what he observed was a lot of people think they’ve gone to fatigue and are really cutting themselves short, so the advanced programming is gonna be like some static, isometric holds at whatever top position you’re at. So really do a check, am I truly able to not go forward? And so there’s pauses at the peak depending on where you are in the range of motion, and I’ve got some of that and that’ll be in the programming. Another one who’s helping develop that protocol, you’ll probably remember this guy and he was just an amazing bodybuilder, Phil Hernon.
John: He was with the USA in 1996.
John: And he helps… he’s such a great guy. He helps people really get away from anabolics and focus more on nutrition and still be a competitive lifter. He’s really good with doing great work.
Ben: Nice, okay cool. I actually… I’ve been doing calf raises the whole time you were saying that. I’m not a big calf raise guy but it actually feels like it almost decompresses the spine too, it’s so cool. Now I’ve gotta ask you, like I mentioned earlier I’ve been doing this on the vibration platform, like I’ve got a full on Power Plate, vibration platform in my living room I put this thing on top of, I’ve used it on a balance board for a little bit of proprioception and that growth hormone response that you alluded to, just learned about that. I’ve used it with blood flow restriction bands so I get a little more lactic acid which also causes a dump of growth hormone. Any other interesting ways or inventive ways you’ve discovered people are using or incorporating this thing?
John: Those two things, the vibration platform, in fact… the company VibePlate is making a new vibeplate that accommodates the top of the X3 variable resistance exercise system so the X3 Bar resistance band bar system’ll plug right into it.
Ben: Oh that’s cool, nice. I like that. Yeah, that’s a great idea coz that Power Plate that I have it’s got some handles and some bands on it but they’re not even elastic bands. It’s just like isometric training and it doesn’t work that well on my end.
John: I used to be the chief science officer of that company.
Ben: Oh nice, cool.
John: Yeah, we could really go down the rabbit hole of vibration and some of the goofy claims that have been made about vibration. It’s a shame because it’s a great modality for what it does, but because so many of these companies chose not to do scientific presentation, more of like celebrities use this, they just absolutely have overblown what it does.
Ben: Yeah, all the ladies at the gym drinking their 24oz Jamba Juices and standing on the vibration platform to lose fat, those type of claims.
Ben: Well very interesting. I know your website, the X3 portable gym website, I’ll link to that in the show notes. If you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/tenminutes coz actually it’s a pretty cool device especially if you don’t have a lot of space to train in or you wanna get strong with pretty minimalist routines, or like John alluded to, it’s actually pretty good for body composition and aesthetics too. And you don’t have to be a big, old rugby player like John or an obstacle course racer like me to us it.
John: [laughs] I wasn’t big, I put on 30lbs of muscle the first year.
Ben: Using this thing?
John: Yeah, I was like you as a hard gainer. I couldn’t really get… and that’s part of my inspiration. The bone density device, my inspiration was my mother. The inspiration for this is just weightlifting didn’t really do much for me.
John: Yeah, I mean even when I played rugby. People look at me now and they imagine “oh this guy was always huge.” I’ll show a picture of me when I was 30 and I think my 30th birthday I went 160lbs, not 250lbs.
Ben: Wow. Well I just got a whole workout the whole time we were talking. I did upright rows, I did my curls, did my calf raises and I did deadlifts, so boom. I feel great, now I can go eat lunch. If you wanna grab one of these X3 Bar variable resistance systems. Basically you just go to umm… is it x3bar.com?
Ben: Just go grab one, do some workouts on it, let me know what you think in the show notes in this podcast with John. But I love this thing, and also I’ll put a link over to the OsteoStrong website too if you are concerned about osteoporosis or bone density and you wanna pick one of those up, I’ll link to there so you can find a location to… or not pick one up but go workout on one. I don’t think many people are gonna be buying a $100,000 OsteoStrong unit but these X3 Bar units are… how much are they?
Ben: Yeah, it’s like a full body training tool. Minimalist footprint…
John: Yeah, it’s a whole gym that fits in a drawer.
Ben: Yeah or in a suitcase, so good stuff. John, thanks for bringing this device to my attention and sending me one to try out and for being a guest on the podcast and sharing this stuff with us, it’s fascinating.
John: It was an honor, I’ve been a fan for a long time.
Ben: Awesome. Alright folks, well I’m Ben Greenfield along with John Jaquish, signing out. Check out his website, x3bar.com, and have an amazing week.
John: Thanks Ben!
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