Interview With Bill De Simone: Author of Moment Arm Exercise

Moment Arm Exercise

Bill De Simone is the author of Moment Arm Exercise, a revolutionary book on the often overlooked bio-mechanics of exercise. I read the book many months ago, have applied my own personal understanding of the concepts, and have reaped results from those actions. I believe what Bill offers not only increases the safety of the way one can exercise, but also brings about better results.

Below is an interview I performed with Bill recently (various links have been added by me).

*Bill, these are my own words. Can you briefly tell us a bit more about yourself?

Currently I have a personal training studio, which opened a little over three years ago. I’ve been self-employed as a fitness guy since 2001. Previous to that, I’d been involved in commercial and corporate fitness, physical therapy, and practice management for various lengths of time.

Started as a personal trainer in 1983 at the Sports Training Institute in New York, which at the time was the only place to personal train. In fact, it had been the Nautilus showroom in NYC prior to my time there, so we had some early prototypes. Some of the older trainers there told me about Jones and Mentzers’ visits, also prior to my time. I crossed paths with each of them once.

I’ve been NSCA and ACE certified, and have my Nautilus Instructor certificate from 1986 and Mentzer autographed Iron Man cover from 1978 on my wall. I’ve presented at community colleges, NSCA events, HIT events, Club Industry, all on biomechanics and exercise.

So I have a varied background in different aspects of exercise. I consider myself more of a “physical culturist” than pure HIT, but I am definitely HIT-influenced.

*What is Moment Arm Exercise (book), in your own words? What is the major premise behind it?

That there has been a disconnect between Biomechanics and Exercise, which at best leads to ineffective and inefficient training, and at worst, leads to chronic and acute injuries. And when you correct that disconnect, with what I called Congruent Exercise, joints hurt less and your training becomes more precise and productive.

*What inspired you to write MAE?

Primarily rupturing my own biceps during a routine curl, nothing dramatic, it just popped off. When I looked into the injury, it’s reported as very common among 60 year old men, but I was 40, so I wondered, what possibly could have accelerated the wear and tear on my shoulder joint? I pretty much concluded that using an exaggerated range of motion during the previous 25+ years of weight training was probably the cause.

Then later the same year, I fell on skates and ruptured the triceps. (That one hurt. Don’t turn 40, kids). When everything healed, I found that in some movements, I lost zero strength, but in others, I couldn’t even get into position. So I skipped past all the exercise and fitness texts and magazines, went to biomechanics, kinesiology, and anatomy books to try to figure out what was going on. I was shocked to find out how far away from proper muscle and joint function much of what I had “learned” about exercise was. I rebuilt my own workouts and realized that I had a piece of work that others might be interested in.

*Can you provide a quick example of how someone can apply this to their training, right now, and how it would benefit them?

Full explanations are in the manual, and the videos provide a visual demonstration. The quick story is to stop with “stretch” position exercises, and to not worry about “full range of motion”; you’ll find your joints hurt less and your muscles immediately work heavier and harder. Tweaking the classic exercises is closer to “right” than loading extreme joint angles.


*What are some of the things you see “wrong” with the current “fitness” industry?

We don’t have enough bits and bytes to catalog that. We could start with the history of snake oil that is part of the fabric of the “fitness industry”. It’s a classic scenario: “buy my book/supplement/machine/program, it’s the key to success; if it didn’t work, you must be deficient in vitamins/motivation/proper equipment/attitude, this new product will fix that”, and so on. I saw that in the muscle magazines in the ‘70s, and what does P90X do today? It’s the same story.

Or we could start with the whole economics of the situation: health clubs’ success depends on selling air, not results; consumers buy based on wishes, not reality.

Or the generally poor quality of most personal training, at least from a purist’s point of view.

*Some of the things you see “right”?

Well, one thing about personal training, in spite of the lack of standards and erratic quality, it can be a pure, objective, marketing transaction. If you please the client, they put their hand in their pocket and pay. If you don’t, they don’t; there’s no hiding behind seniority or cronies.

Separate from that, for anyone interested in learning, the resources available today are far superior and far more available than when I started out. Those of us training in the ‘70s either learned from others who lifted near us, or had to find muscle magazines, which they usually kept in the porn section of the newsstand.

*Do you have any favorite authors on exercise (and related topics) that you’d like to share?

Ellington Darden, especially his most recent stuff. I like seeing the change in his writing and attitude from 1980 to now, and I like the behind-the-scenes of events I read about when they originally happened. Mike Mentzer, who I now regard as a cautionary tale, but I still find his booklets and articles from the 1970s incredibly motivating.

Outside of HIT. Steven Vogel is an academic who writes on biology and biomechanics, and his Prime Mover is an amazing history of the study of muscle: who knew what when, what was debunked, how it works. The Gracies have a phenomenal dvd set called Gracie Combatives, which is jiu jitsu lessons, presented in an excellent teaching technique, but to my point, the exact opposite of what I try to do: I use biomechanics to take care of the joints, they do the opposite.

I’ve just been turned onto Tim Ferriss and Chris Anderson (Free), but back in the ‘70s/’80s, Charles Garfield had a body of work called Peak Performance (books, tapes, video, etc.) that dealt with similar concerns.

*What projects do you currently have in the works?

I’ll be doing “Moment Arm Exercise Live” in my studio this December, which will expand on the manual and YouTube videos, with live hands-on practice. There will be at least one video every month on You Tube. I also plan to write another manual, Biomechanics for Better Workouts: A Trainer’s Guide, which I’ll write in a more accessible style than MAeX. MAeX wasn’t originally intended for other people; it was written for me, found its way to other guys like me; but I think the comment that it is very dense and complex is legitimate criticism, which I’ll correct this next time.

*Where can readers learn more from you, and how can they contact you for further information about ordering MAE?

YouTube is turning out to be a great communication tool, and I encourage viewers to use the comments tool for specific questions. There’s also a link to an ebay store page which will have any new manuals, seminars, etc. posted.

My studio is called Optimal Exercise in Cranbury, NJ, which is where I spend most of my time.

Bill is one of the speakers we are hoping to have at The 21 Convention 2010 (USA) to present about exercise.

Visit Bill’s YouTube channel here for all of his free videos.

Read my review of Moment Arm Exercise here.

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at TheDreamLounge.net and Declarationism.com.

26 Responses to Interview With Bill De Simone: Author of Moment Arm Exercise

  1. Chris November 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    Great interview Anthony. I have ordered the book and am looking forward to reading more.

  2. Dream November 5, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    Well it’s no conditioning research interview ;), but I’m glad you liked it. Book rocks, hope to post more video of my workouts soon too.

  3. Chris November 6, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    Hey – I’m looking forward to your videos.

    I’m getting more and more focussed on a BBS / HIT approach nowadays.

  4. Nicky November 7, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Something I’ve loved about BBS/Big 5 is that it approaches exercise with dead simplicity – the simplicity that I think fits such a primal activity (building muscle).

    For that reason I’ve been somewhat resistant moment arm exercise; it felt like a layer of complexity that I don’t need, at the very least, right now.

    This interview has me rethinking that. I like how Bill presents it. I’m left wondering if Moment Arm Exercise has anything to offer me as long as I’m sticking to the Big 5 or if I should wait until I’m ready to change it up.

    As a side note: I’m a bit curious about what went into your decision to go beyond the Big 5 and how long you were on it, Dream.

  5. Bill DeSimone November 7, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    Hello, everybody, thanks for the interest.
    Nicky: I can completely sympathize with not biting on the next whatever. As it goes, a take away lesson from MAeX is simplify: exercise selection, range of motion, intensity. Only with solid biomechanics to justify it.
    I’ve told people A) buy it 😉 but also: “if it’s not a problem, it’s not a problem”. So if understanding it for its’ own sake isn’t enough, wait until you start having joint pain, or seem to be hitting premature sticking points, or if certain exercises or ranges hurt, that’s when the information is most useful.
    Thanks again for tuning in.

  6. Dream November 10, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    Hey Nicky

    Hmmm….I’ve thought about your comment for a few days now. I’m not so sure I can answer it in a single comment, so I may do a post on the transition from strict BBS to a hybrid BBS-MAE workout, mixed with some other concepts.

    As for how long I was on “BBS”, from January 2009 to July 2009. Come July I read MAE and began tinkering with it. Come August I was full tilt into applying MAE concepts, and have done so ever since.

    Are my workouts now dramatically different? I wouldn’t say so, as the underlying themes are still very similar, including one set to failure, a slow negative cadence, a somewhat slow positive cadence, avoiding valsalva as much as possible, focusing intensely on what I’m doing (to the point of wearing ear plugs), taking 6-14 days to recover from the full body workouts, etc…

    The biggest difference is only using machines sparingly, instead of exclusively. That and the limited Range Of Motion I use to make the exercises more congruent.

    I’ve also (this isn’t directly related to MAE, but indirectly perhaps) been using shorter TUL’s and doing more reps than I once did with machines only. Basically a shorter ROM will result in more repeitions, since each rep is literally shorter. However, too long of a TUL (say 80 seconds, not unusual for 5/5 cadence machine usage), would result in a ridiculous number of repetitions. As it stands I’ve been doing 20+ reps on my barbell squat no matter how high I increase the weight (and that’s usually less than a 50 second TUL).

    Which, is another advantage of tinkering with free weights.

    Anyway, I think BBS lays the foundation, and MAE expands upon that a bit. I sort of bridged the gap between the two and created my own workout, and I’ve had non stop progress (after hitting a bit of a plateau with machines only).

    If anything, stick with what’s working, stay away from fully stretched positions, and don’t worry about “full range of motion” (as Bill said in the interview). Do what’s intense, while not setting your joints up for injury.

    A bit long, but hope this helped.

    -Anthony

  7. Nicky November 11, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    Thanks to you both for the great responses.

    Bill,

    I appreciate the honesty. It’s amazing how information has the potential to both add clarity and add complexity. Anyway, I am definitely getting interested in the book after all this talk so it’s on my list of things to read asap.

    I don’t know if this falls under the veil of MAeX but something I have noted every week is that during the leg press my legs start to ‘go to sleep’, that numbness feeling. I’ve been trying to figure out what could be causing this (I’ve speculated that I need to be breathing more, but that only had mild results).

    That’s the closest to pain I’ve experienced so far but it usually comes before I’ve reached failure so it has me looking for a culprit.

    Dream,

    I see BBS as a science-based explanation for why high-intensity, low-frequency exercise is ideal and the Big 5 as their introductory application of those concepts. It makes sense that after 6 months or so one would graduate on to applying those ideas in new ways.

    I feel like my first 6 weeks+ was just getting my technique and diet straight and I’m actually getting into a groove that’s showing results now. So I’ll probably stick with this a few more months. Consistency is also nice because it makes it easier to track the numbers.

    I guess my biggest question about your transition is going from machines to free-weights. When you were first getting into BBS, you mentioned machines were great because they were extremely effective and safe enough to use for your entire life.

    Is your feeling now that free-weights + MAeX amounts to the same thing or is there a trade off? (If this’ll be in an upcoming article, feel free to just answer it once there)

    Thanks again!
    -Nicky

  8. Dream November 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    This should help…

    A. Machines are effective, like free weights. Full range of motion (in many cases) is not effective, regardless of the equipment used.

    B. The connection Bill makes in MAE between bio-mechanics and exercise, solves what Arthur Jones tried so hard to with Nautilus and MedX machines. (Bill solves the core problem though, instead of trying to accommodate for it).

    Are machines still great to use? Of course, especially for older people or other specific purposes, but I think most young-middle aged males are better off (if available) using “free weights” in the style Bill suggests.

    If you understand the concepts and continue to use machines (like I do in the case of a Nautilus ab machine and Hammer Strength pull over), it’s a non issue though. In fact I believe in those instances machines reign supreme (that’s just not the case across the board though).

    As for your legs going numb, are you leg pressing barefoot or in vibrams? (That could help). It sounds like not enough blood is getting to your legs. Are you gripping anything tightly with your hands during the exercise? If so that could be a contributor to the problem.

    -Anthony

  9. Bill DeSimone November 11, 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    Nicky: Is anything going on with your back on the leg press? Might be that the seat is pushing on vertabra pushing on a nerve. Not to alarm you, but generally, chiropractors and physical therapists crap a whale when they hear “tingling” and “numbness”.
    I haven’t put this in print yet, but the seat back on the leg press should be as open as possible, to mimic a squat, and ideally has the back curves built into the seat.

    Anthony: Full disclosure, I currently use mainly Nautilus Nitro compound movements, not because they’re magic, but because they’re convenient and let me train solo. I still manage the range of motion as in the manual. I use some other gadgets also, but more on that when the time comes.

    “Free weights vs. machines” ultimately comes down to preference, provided you manage the roms and safety issues. The argument that machines don’t require stabilization, and free weights enhance it is weak. You can have poor posture and sloppy joint stabilization with free weights, and the opposite with machines. It’s not the tool, it’s what we do with it that counts.

  10. Nicky November 12, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Thanks again! The point on ROM is really interesting and makes a lot of sense (I’m sure it will make even more sense after I read the book).

    As for my legs, I will definitely pay attention to my back and approach with caution if I feel anything else going on.

    -Nicky

  11. Chris November 14, 2009 at 6:32 am #

    My copy arrived yesterday – looking forward to digging in. Some interesting looking concepts there, for example with respect to the nature of failure.

  12. Chris November 14, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    Anthony, looking at your WOWs on the BBS blog you are doing some pretty high reps e.g. Smith squat- 305/55 23 reps; Smith press- 225/43 16 reps

    what sort of rep cadence are you using?

  13. Dream November 14, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    Nice Chris, enjoy it, it’s a good read.

    Regarding reps, the reason I do “so many” is due to the shorter ROM. Even at a “short” TUL of 35-60 seconds, I get in a lot of reps, simply because the movement isn’t very dramatic.

    The “speed” with which I move the weight is about the same as I did using a full ROM (which was a 4/6 cadence), only the positive may be a bit faster (so translated what I do now may be a 2.5/5.5 cadence).

    I do my best to avoid momentum, but really only care about keeping the negative as slow as possible (which is still only 1-2 seconds of movement due to the shortness of the rep itself), since that’s the only way to do any “negative” work in the first place (otherwise you’re just dropping it).

    Kind of a lengthy response, but hope it helped.

    -Anthony

  14. Chris November 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    Thanks Anthony that explains things.

    I’m really enjoying the book, but it is generating a lot of questions which I hope to direct to Bill in an interview.

  15. Dream November 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Kick ass man, I look forward to your interview with him! Will definitely share it to the max on my end.

  16. Chris November 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    Thinking on this again, have you seen the videos of Bill’s workout? He seems to use a larger ROM than I would have expected given his writing.

    I presume you are implementing Bill’s approach within a “BBS” template?

  17. Dream November 18, 2009 at 1:01 am #

    Yes I’ve seen all of them. He’s mentioned why he uses a slightly larger ROM than you would assume from the book on BBS.net, but I didn’t get a clear understanding why from the limited discussion.

    Would be a good question to ask in your interview with him.

    Per your BBS template question, yes for the most part. About once a week (or even less frequently), one set to failure, 40-60 second TUL. As mentioned in the new post however, I do not “rush” in between sets.

    let me know when your interview is up

    -Anthony

  18. Dream November 18, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    Kick ass, have it scheduled to release tomorrow on here. Will get social with it tonight.

  19. Chris November 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    Cheers

    Hope you don’t mind me grabbing your photo of the book?

  20. Dream November 19, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    Nope not at all, especially since it’s still hosted on my site (and linking back no less lol).

    Btw, filmed my workout today. Will post it up tomorrow with a link to your interview.

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