Put Away Those Barbells

El Sid

Upon entering the Nautilus room of the Indoor Track and Field facility you will behold what resembles an art deco torture chamber from which you can hear a cacaphony of screams, groaning chains, and disco music.

The nine Nautilus weight machines that stand against the wall were crated to Cambridge from DeLand, Florida last year and are supervised by Bill Stenson, Ted Gertel, Mike Paulovich, and assistant lacrosse coach Scott Anderson.

For the average undergraduate the Nautilus room is forbidden territory. The machines are used almost solely by varsity athletes who must be certified by taking a two-day orientation course in Nautilus technique taught by head supervisor Stenson and his staff.

Nautilus machines, which are now common accoutrements to most professional training rooms, impart degrees of muscle resistance which vary according to muscle movements. The stress is regulated by aluminum "cams" or gears shaped like nautilus shells. In barbell exercises, which are looked at with disdain by Nautilus aficionados, there are stages of too little resistance of "sticking points" with too much stress.

Dr. John P. Kalas writes in the Athletic Journal of January 1977, "A 60-pound barbell--if suddenly jerked or thrown--can exert a force of several hundred pounds, or can exert a force that literally measures below zero! Such rapid exercise is not only unproductive as far as strength training is concerned, but is also very dangerous to the joints, muscles, and connective tissues."


In Harvard's Nautilus room you can see football captain Steve Potysman grappling with the "Compound Leg" machine, which incidentally runs to a hefty $3,465 in the Nautilus catalogue, while next to him, Natalie Bigelow, a member of the women's basketball team, is outstretched on the DUOsymmetric POLY contractile Hip and Back machine.

The main devotees of the Nautilus are football and hockey players and members of the men's and women's swimming teams. The women's basketball team came down en masse one night to be certified in Stenson's class.

Stenson first became interested in the Nautilus when it was still a rarity in training rooms. A friend of his named Vinnie Bocchicchio opened the first Nautilus club in New York City in 1974. As president of Sports Condition Inc., Bocchicchio now owns five Nautilus parlors, which he runs on a strictly appointment only basis. Stenson began working for Bocchicchio and is now a Nautilus experty.

Supervisor Ted Gertel has an equally illustrious background in Nautilus technique. In addition to working out at a number of Nautilus clubs, he took a supervised reading course in biology entitled "The Physiology of Exercise and Sports Medicine," and a course on "Regulation of Muscle Function" at Harvard Medical School.

Harvard's nine Nautilus machines, which cost around $20,000 altogether, are set up so that the athlete should procede in sequence from one machine to the next. Each machine exercises a specific muscle configuration. The athlete runs the gamut of machines doing one set of eight to twelve repetitions on each machine which "exhausts your muscles completely," says supervisor Anderson.

In the process, one exercises almost all of the 434 skeletal muscles in the human body, which are in turn composed of 250 million muscle fibers that account for 40 per cent of the body weight of the typical American male. In his article, "Frequently Asked Questions About Muscle, Fat, and Exercise," Dr. Ellington Darden bluntly concludes "in the performance of most sports, muscles literally contribute everything, while fat contributes nothing."

The sweeping popularity of the Nautilus attests to its extraordinary efficiency in conditioning muscles and eliminating fat in a short workout. Anderson says, "If you went around these machines one after another for forty minutes you'd also get a good cardiovascular workout."

Last year Anderson coached at Cornell and when the Nautilus room was installed there, Nautilus sales representatives came to Ithaca and instructed the coaches on its use. Anderson was instructed by an ex-football-player for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Anderson says, "Lifting weights is painful but the athletes who use the Nautilus get results on the field and that makes it all worthwhile."

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