The First Definition of Exercise

12 comments written by Joshua Trentine

The two most important and valuable foundational concepts in the RenEx philosophy are Ken Hutchins’ treatise on Exercise vs. Recreation and his elaborate Definition of Exercise. Anyone who seeks to embark on a program using the RenEx protocol will best be served by reading and understanding the premises in each of the two theses.

In this post, I’d like to support the Definition of Exercise as it is presented in the RenEx technical manual and provide yet another context for its importance.


The First Definition of Exercise

By Ken Hutchins

The Definition

Exercise is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature, in accordance with muscle and joint function, in a clinically-controlled environment, within the constraints of safety, meaningfully loading the muscular structures to inroad their strength levels to stimulate a growth mechanism within minimum time.


In a proper, authentic program of Renaissance Exercise, the protocol and philosophy culminate in the praxis of the workout itself. As anyone who has participated in this process can attest, a fully developed RenEx workout is a unique event. Under the auspices of having attended to all of the criteria as per the Definition, a RenEx workout stands to deliver the following benefits:

– a complete, full body workout that regards safety first by attending to the biological basis of exercise
– a workout that forces the body to respond with adaptations to all the physical and biochemical improvements we would expect in any type of exercise (including cardiovascular, muscle and bone (including the joints and flexibility), and metabolic).
– a workout that favorably influences all of the biomarkers of aging
– a workout that is brief so as to minimize wear and tear
– a workout that is infrequent (as little as once per week) so as to maximize not only recovery but also growth
– a workout that requires little variation (for ease of record keeping)

If, then, the RenEx workout program can deliver the above benefits (and more) by holding true to the directives of the Definition, then a new standard has been set. It is not so much that the Definition seeks to diminish or demean activities that do not meet the criteria of the definition, not is the purpose of the Definition to exclusively laud Renaissance Exercise. If ANY activity can meet the criteria of the Definition and provide for the subject the same level of safety, effectiveness, and efficiency, then it too carries the title of “exercise” as per the Definition. In other words, IF what we are saying about Renx is true, then the onus is on others to show us how other activities can at least match what we are talking about.

It is obvious and clear to us that one can embark on innumerable activities to achieve many of the same benefits above but in almost all cases, something will be missing. The only activity that exists solely to produce the benefits listed above is strength training and the best strength training is the kind that satisfied the Definition.

Again, in case it has been misunderstood, let me be clear that the Renaissance Exercise philosophy does not eschew non-exercise activities. It merely posits that you will achieve maximum results when you use Exercise (as per the definition) to improve your body and then use that improved body to partake in any activity that you wish so that you may better enjoy that activity, safely.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Gayle January 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm


While awaiting your text I grabbed an envelope for return shipping and typed up an autograph request. The book arrived yesterday and as I skimmed through it I observed the signature on the front page.
What’s it like to be someone who thinks of everything?

Gayle S.


avatar Joshua Trentine January 7, 2012 at 12:19 am

Hey Gayle,

The first 100 mail order books went out signed.

Thank you for the order, hopefully we’ll meet you one day.



avatar Trace January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

My view exactly. I’d like to emphasize the positive influence that this defined exercise bestows on the aging process – potentially the most significant factor for preventative health care. I’d also like to know what the results were for the osteoporosis study? Thanks for making sense in the midst of chaos.


avatar Joshua Trentine January 7, 2012 at 12:21 am

Hey Trace,

As far as I’m concerned this is the most legitmate “anti-aging” program….I’m not quite old yet, but i’m in far better shape over 40 than i was in my 20’s.

The osteoporosis study was shut down a few years in, it was never completed.



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avatar jim January 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Nice read , I love semantics . Those who say ” that’s just semantics ” demean the field as meaningless and unnecessary .

I’d say that this definition is a good start . We are at least 20 years away from ” exercise ” as a medical Rx / standard- of- care modality and this gets that conversation going toward shaping the dose through analysis of the response . My feeling is that ” muscle strength increases ” has a fairly low resolution as criterium but again a nice start .

Right now , and for several decades to come , preventive medicine is ” take your pill ” and ” have your colonoscopy ” but as even these prove too costly / providing an indefensible treat to cure ratio , ” exercise” may be mature enough to step in .


avatar jim January 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

I just want to add that a definition of exercise based on a measure of fitness for a hunter gatherer , while empiracally rational ( evolutionary genetics / laws of thermo dynamics ) in every aspect , is , in modern cultural context , almost silly . It feeds the objection to semantics as an end instead of the tool that it is in its best sense .

This is why I say that ” muscle strength ” per se is not your best criterium of definition for ” exercise ” . Ultimately it was a lack of comparative muscle strength that led to our ” evolutionary success ” . Hunter Gatherer had access to other more evolutionarily advantageous characteristics that allowed for his longevity and success e.g huge brain , communication and fire . In fact the most successful within such tribes were the most excused from the need for muscle strength per se . Think of The Mob as model , with their paid ” muscle” at the bottom of the heirarchy and even they use guns .

I suggest then that the measure of such a definition will have to change to some criterium more relevant to life as it is e.g. intelligence . I would guess that the obvious difference in the Renex Model is the IQ , Level of Education and Socioeconomic Status of its adherents . I think that a scientific survey in that regard would support that intuitive conclusion . Studies do show that you get smarter and more successful simply by affilliation and the implication is that this had / has epigenetic consequences . Of course , some biochemical test of this would be helpful and again , I predict that this test will exist in 20 years and the Renex cohort will lead the pack .


avatar gus January 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I’d like to add something to my post.

Many people will claim that the Definition is merely a ‘description’ or an indication of what we think exercise should be. To this I would submit that any Definition is at least partially a description so, so what?

The trouble is that these days almost everything can be considered exercise. The broadness of the current definition includes everything from walking (which is just human locomotion after all), to training for the Olympics, to yoga, to using the “shake weight”. For many reasons, this is problematic and is part of the challenge of prescribing meaningful exercise to people to help improve their health.

The Definition is highly focused and intelligently crafted as a robust description of exercise that clearly articulates axioms as well providing a guide to successful human action. What may not be so obvious is that the Definition exists as part of a thorough continuum including the Exercise vs. Recreation argument. When the Definition is placed in the context of Exercise vs. Recreation, it is far less insular, more tolerant and surprisingly sympathetic to our modern day predilection to “be active”.

When you put exercise in its place (by defining it a thoroughly as this) things really are a hell of a lot simpler and more enjoyable, in general.



avatar Nathan January 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Hi Joshua,

Do you know of any facilities in the Los Angeles, CA area that are going to carry RenEx equipment? I would love to contact them and look into training with them.

Thank you,


avatar Joshua Trentine January 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Hi Nathan,

Thank You for your interest, there are none at this time.



avatar Tiffanie February 2, 2012 at 9:06 pm

“For resistance changes, barbell plates were placed on pronged weight arms or in steel baskets.”

Steel baskets…really? How would the weight from the basket itself impact the effectiveness of the machine. Seems kind of primitive (in a good way, of course, lol).


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