The Assumed Objective Versus The Real Objective In Exercise

21 comments written by Ken Hutchins

The Assumed Objective
The Real Objective
In Exercise

By Ken Hutchins

In Volume I of The Renaissance of Exercise, I detail the differences between the assumed objective and the real objective in exercise. This distinction is neither intuitive nor automatic. And its grasp by the instructor as well as by the exercise subject is as fundamental to the understanding of exercise as is the mastery of phonics for learning to read and write.

Those of us who can read and write, especially write, just do it—often in a haphazard, sloppy way. We certainly don’t think out the phonics of our actions, never mind the more-immediately-present imperatives of proper grammar, sentence construction, and spelling. The phonics are buried deep in our elementary-school brains—taken completely for granted—assumed. And this assumption is special to the daily function of reading and writing (not so much speech).

More distinctively, the phonics assumption is resident in us after years of practice. It is the successful and intended result of organized conditioning that usually occurs at an early, formative age.

With exercise as well, we observe a basic assumption. And this assumption is not special to exercise. It is not the intended result of organized conditioning, but rather it is the unintended result of disorganized conditioning.

Note the RenEx video and articles on the subject of inroad and inroad theory. In these discussions, inroad theory is contrasted against steady-state philosophy. As you might recall, inroad is a term for momentary fatigue. And the inroad theory indicates the process whereby inroading crosses a threshold to stimulate a muscular growth mechanism.

The real objective in exercise is operational in and exclusive to the inroad theory. The assumed objective is operational in and not exclusive to the steady-state philosophy.

The real objective in exercise is to inroad the momentary strength of the muscle to stimulate a growth mechanism.

Of course, if we find a way to stimulate the growth mechanism without the inroading process, the real objective might become reduced to “stimulate a growth mechanism.” Until that fantasy is fulfilled, however, the real objective includes the process of inroad.

The assumed objective is to effect work volume. In more tangible terms, it is to lift the weights, to keep the machine going, to perform with more repetitions and weight.

Note—very important!—the two objectives are in conflict! To accomplish the real objective, you necessarily obviate the assumed objective. And to accomplish the assumed objective, you necessarily obviate the real objective.

The assumed objective is rather ubiquitous in human activity. It is epitomized by the more-is-better mentality that permeates society on every level and in every domain. It is not just the underpinning of steady-state philosophy and the justification for daily marathon workouts where subjects pace themselves to avoid inroad and seemingly to avoid attaining muscular failure (volume philosophy). It reflects the imbalanced behavior to deliberately overeat food or to starve into anorexia. It reflects supposed superior benefits by overdosing medications. It reflects the mentality to practice piano 16 hours a day to achieve perfection. It reflects many venues of extremism that are too numerous to mention, including the natural inclination to justify recreation as exercise. This is why the assumed objective is also sometimes referred to as “the erroneous objective.”

The assumed objective, i.e., the more-is-better mentality, is practically hardwired into our attitudes, sometimes for the better. It often connotes a kind of diligence and perseverance on some levels in some applications. But it particularly becomes obstructive to learning the correct performance of any particular exercise.

In any exercise it is natural to externalize…to think and to behave to make the exercise equipment do something. Externalization is the incorrect approach to an exercise and is a symptom of the assumed object.

Extremely Important!: The correct approach is to internalize… to think and to behave to make the body perform the proper action. The machine is relegated to merely go along for the ride.

The most serious exigencies of the conflict between the assumed and the real objective occur at momentary muscular failure. It is at this instant when the subject pits his intellect against his instinct. It is at this instant when he grapples with the idea that exercise is not the fun that recreation should be. It is at this instant when his emotional side panics with his erroneous imperative to make movement occur. It is at this instant when his nervous system loses its sense of position and, hence, loses its sense that movement—change of position—might or might not be occurring. It is at this instant when the exercise is most painful, his pulse rate and breathing highest, and calm, controlled, intelligent communication and reasoning is unlikely. The intellect wins very few contests against the instincts! Hence, the distinction between the two objectives must be understood before this instant occurs, not in the heat of the moment!

We expect a subject who does not understand the real objective of the exercise to be difficult, if not impossible, to instruct. We expect him to break form at every opportunity in order to defeat the equipment and, hence, to avoid the inroad stimulation and its benefits. We expect him to lapse into babbling justification to perform more exercises, because he avoids doing the necessarily few in a deeply-enough-inroaded manner. We expect him to be combative and unreceptive to instructions due to his high frustration level—a frustration due to behavior consistent with the assumed objective when applied to the real objective. Like water and oil, the two do not blend.

In contrast, a subject who thoroughly internalizes the real objective often needs a minimum of instruction once taught the exercises. The proficiency of performance often directly reflects the degree of this understanding. This underscores the instructor’s responsibility to properly convey these concepts to his subjects.

In addition to these explanations, I tell subjects, “Bear in mind that proper strength training is the only endeavor that you will do in your life wherein the more proficient you become, the more difficult, not easier, it becomes. And as it becomes more difficult, you must remain emotionally stoical.”

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Thomas January 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Where does tension fit into inroad theory (or does it)? I’ve assumed that in addition to fatigue, high muscular tension is an important component to activating the strength/growth increase mechanism(s). I’ve also assumed that muscular fatigue doesn’t necessarily equate to adequate muscular tension (like with high TUL and lighter weights). For this reason, I’ve generally steared away from lower weight, slow and higher TUL/reps and toward heavier weights, slow turn-arounds, but otherwise extremely hard contractions where I “try” and push the weight as fast as I can but with no body english. I especially try and religate this effort to the end of the set when the weight actually cannot be moved fast even though I’m trying to do so. To me, this is a high tension and high fatigue (inroad) method-but I’m assuming that high muscular tension is also important. Am I off base here?


avatar jim January 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Great article and again you require us to inroad our intellect . You have succeeded as I am mentally stronger as a result of the reading , strong enough to perhaps challenge YOU to a deeper inroad . I want to challenge you last paragraph using the principle that you elucidate . IF the a priori is that the experience is internal then that experience will get easier , not more difficult . This is because the agony of real exercise is not physical , but rather it is the agony of wrong assumptions . With an internal / psychological shift in relation to what this is and what it is for failure is seen as success .

I have noticed in my own application of the approach over the past year that while I have improved 10-20% my numbers are going down lately as I attend to the principles , as I concentrate on purity of form , as I do more listening as it were and strangely my panic / agony is less as well . This article explains all that I have intuited along the way .


avatar Joshua Trentine January 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm


This response is from Ken Hutchins:

Congratulations, Jim. You make an interesting point.

I was hoping that my last paragraph would set off some picky debate. We need more people in this industry, like you, who can do more than blindly swallow the traditional HIT fare! In addition, we must remain vigilant to our premises and logic from said premises regarding the required changes toward improvement.

There is another imbedded assumption in that last paragraph. Can you identify it? Is it possible to completely confirm or deny that assumption?



avatar jim January 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Not sure but I’ll take a stab , Ken . Given that proficiency is a measure of an internal experience we are struck with a circular logic problem as to the measurement of proficiency with an external criterium . The assumption of exercise being internally mediated is easy to lose if internal proficiency is measured by external strength vis load . It shouldn’t matter what the load is if that internal experience is stimulated as inroad . This proficiency moves inward and becomes intutitive on a deeper and deeper level irrespective of load . If I can stimulate that experience on a subtle level with less weight then Job is done . Would it then not be possible to activate this response while sitting in a chair as a direct inroad to a state of consciousness ? I am reminded of the research that I read years ago when a Physical education Undergrad at Cortland where they found that the left arm got stronger ” in sympathy” to loading the right arm ?


avatar Donnie Hunt February 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Great section of dialogue here!


avatar Jonas Olofsson January 31, 2012 at 2:58 am

One of the most important things to understand IMHO. Probably the most important thing to be able to exercise correct and effective.

This has changed the way I look at, execute and measure my training today. For that, I thank you.



avatar Karthik January 31, 2012 at 5:26 am

I love this “Exercise as a Science” methodology. When all the dust settles and exercise as a science triumphs, we are gonna have a healthy society that also finds a lot of time for other important activities of life, that may require “more” time.


avatar Thomas Morrison January 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I am impressed with Thomas’s original comment (not myself though we have the same first name). I believe his understanding concerning the need for adequate tension in creating a hypertrophic response deserves a reply. I understand that effort is king as far as muscle activation is concerned, but the level of tension the muscle is experiencing is no doubt also important within a range. It is questionable, for example, if a time under tension extending to as long as 1.5 to 3 minutes is producing adequate tension for optimum hypertrophy in many people–especially past the beginners stage. Your thoughts?


avatar Joshua Trentine January 31, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thomas and Thomas,

I don’t see a conflict between tension (load) and inroad, with proper cam effect you will be able to use far more load with far better quality and accumulate more fatigue.

Our recommendations for novice, intermediate and advanced subjects are covered extensively in the Renaissance book.



avatar Thomas January 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm

“I don’t see a conflict between tension (load) and inroad, with proper cam effect you will be able to use far more load with far better quality and accumulate more fatigue.”

I don’t see a conflict either, unless the the weight is too light. Proper cam effect may be your ace in the hole as it sounds as if that’s what allows one to use high weight and longer TUL’s. But without proper cam effect other techniques, inferior as they may be, would be appropriate to combine high tension and adequate inroad. My above described technique (it’s really a combo of things I’ve read from Dan Riley and Ellington Darden) is but one. While maybe inferior, rest pause may be another.

Believe me, I’d love to try RenX training on RenX equipment, but as I cannot do that at this point, using other techniques to satisfy the spirit of the law (but not the letter) is necessary. I sounds impossible to train in a RenX manner without the right equipment. But I think the principals can still be followed to a high degree (maybe not fully though).

Thanks, Thomas Morrison, for the consideration.


avatar John Tatore January 31, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Josh, Ken, Gus, Al & Jeff

What a surprise to receive the Renx Q & A Audio CD today. I just finished listening to it. it was 55 minutes of great stuff. You guys are really hitting the details of this wonderful protocol. It’s a treasure.



avatar Joshua Trentine February 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm

You are welcome John


avatar Justin Smith February 1, 2012 at 7:59 am

Ditto to what Mr. Tatore said. The first two questions on the CD that were addressed were from me, and I was impressed with the answers,



avatar Joshua Trentine February 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm


Thanks for the questions.


avatar Terry Condrasky February 1, 2012 at 8:05 am

“What a surprise to receive the Renx Q & A Audio CD today. I just finished listening to it. it was 55 minutes of great stuff. You guys are really hitting the details of this wonderful protocol. It’s a treasure.”

I concur! Thanks much for the CD! Great Stuff!
Be Well


avatar Joshua Trentine February 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Thanks Terry!


avatar Paul Marsland February 1, 2012 at 8:10 am

Let me throw a mental curve ball out there….is there also the danger that as we become more proficient at lifting weights we could lessen the inroad effect? What I mean is, we have to be vigilant that proficiency does not make the exercise and its objective less efficient…ie: we discussed the concept of muscular bracing in the last post…this in my opinion is a classic example of the body (and the trainee) looking for ways to may the exercise “easier” and thus become more proficient at lifting heavier weights….



avatar Jonas Olofsson February 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

How do you get the CD?



avatar Mario. Di Leonardo, MD February 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Still going through the book.
I would hope that many exercise “experts” read it to finally understand the objective and the most efficient way to achieve it.


avatar Joshua Trentine February 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm


Mike Mentzer once said that exercise should be a branch of medical science, I believe this book is the vehicle to take it there.

We need to make some inroads in to general exercise practice.(pun intended) 🙂


avatar Jim Johann Jr. April 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm


Obviously I’m late to the game with buying the RenEx Manual some 2 years after this article was originally published about the Renx Q & A Audio CD. That said, I really enjoyed the CD section concerning bodyweight training and was wondering if you have considered offering a Bodyweight Training DVD? You could demonstrate the three mentioned exercises, push ups, pull ups and squats and the variations you teach of each, plus some discussion on inroad, learning to contract, etc as it applies to bodyweight would be fascinating.


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