Warning: Declaration of thesis_comment::start_lvl(&$output, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /home/renex/public_html/wp-content/themes/thesis_185/lib/classes/comments.php on line 137

Warning: Declaration of thesis_comment::end_lvl(&$output, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /home/renex/public_html/wp-content/themes/thesis_185/lib/classes/comments.php on line 142

Warning: Declaration of thesis_comment::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output, $data_object, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $current_object_id = 0) in /home/renex/public_html/wp-content/themes/thesis_185/lib/classes/comments.php on line 147

Warning: Declaration of thesis_comment::end_el(&$output, $comment, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output, $data_object, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /home/renex/public_html/wp-content/themes/thesis_185/lib/classes/comments.php on line 163
What Came First? Nautilus Simple or Compound-Movement Exercises?

What Came First? Nautilus Simple or Compound-Movement Exercises?

43 comments written by Ken Hutchins

 by: Ken Hutchins

Note: This article is a response to a question from Donnie Hunt.

At first, there came the Pullover.


Gary Jones in one of the earliest pre-production Nautilus Pullovers. As a teenager, Gary ’s original idea was the Nautilus cam. Circa 1970. Photo by Inge Cook.

The Pullover was the basis for everything to follow. It was the physical manifestation of Arthur’s great epiphany to the body’s locomotor principles—a rotational format.

Appropriately, the Pullover was Arthur’s choice as the most useful and needed device to address the accessible—that massive and largely untapped musculature about the upper torso.

The Pullover made the upper torso structures accessible, because it provided direct resistance—resistance applied directly to body parts moved by the target muscles rather than filtering the resistance through the weaker arm musculatures.

Other areas of the body demanded the same attention, but they were not as accessible. They presented access barriers that would require later circumvention.

And the Pullover possessed some marketing barriers. How was Arthur to overcome the fact that few people performed such an exercise? How could Arthur make them relate to its value for the abdominals, the pectoralis musculatures, or a musculature most could not see or feel because it was behind them—the latissimus dorsi?

Arthur smartly dubbed the Pullover “the Upper-Body Squat.” This instantly connected with the bodybuilders, weightlifters, powerlifters, and football players, but was not a connection with the general public or most other athletes. Additionally, “squat” had negative connotations among many who did grasp the term. It was associated with knee injuries among some, especially the orthopedic community.

Meanwhile, Arthur saw an easy and very salable application of the Pullover’s inherent principles in an arm machine—the Nautilus Biceps/Triceps. In some respects, this machine addressed less-important functions, but it tied into what most people—particularly men—were already focused upon.

A 1986 Nautilus Leverage Plateloading Biceps/Triceps. This machine was redesigned and manufactured by Gary Jones with adjustable seats, Kevlar drives, re-camming, and chromed finished.


Besides, an arm machine satisfied Arthur’s personal preoccupation. It was what he wanted for himself. Don’t forget that Arthur, too, was a bodybuilder at heart.

Arthur’s tremendous intellectual focus upon these three rotary functions was the foundation that led to his temporary opinion that compound movements were unnecessary. In fact, there were some early Nautilus facilities that adamantly adhered to the idea of rotary-only equipment and exercises. This is just one example where Arthur’s Ten Requirements of Full-Range Exercise were extended too far.


Once Arthur decided to manufacture machines for compound movements, he incorporated them with rotary-format exercises to take advantage of the pre-exhaustion principle. Here is the vintage Double Chest that he produced by the thousands. Photo by Inge Cook.

Apparently, Arthur somewhat corrected course for this blunder. He soon embarked upon the design of equipment that addressed compound movements and produced them on a massive scale. The debacle concerning his rigidity on the Ten Requirements was postponed.

Exactly when, why, and how Arthur made the transition from purely simple to the inclusion of compound movements is somewhat beyond my historical knowledge. I suggest consulting Ellington Darden, PhD, for more detail on this history. He was there at that very moment. I was not.


{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Joshua Trentine October 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm

More coming this week on the Duo Squat, The Barbell Squat, The knee, How strong can you become? and how to do so? internalization-and the Real Objective.—–stay tuned—-


avatar Donnie Hunt October 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Thank you very much for forwarding my question to Ken, Joshua. Ken, thank you very much for the detailed answers. I have been interested in all this since reading Dr. Darden’s, “The Nautilus Book” back in the early 90’s. After reading about the “The Ten Requirements of Full- Range Exercise” in the book I did wonder for quite some time: Why use any compound machines if you had access to a full line of simple machines? I eventually got away from this view. By the way the cams on that pullover machine that Gray Jones was using a huge! Thank you also for the recommendation of asking Dr. Darden about Arthur’s transition.


avatar Joshua Trentine October 30, 2012 at 10:37 am

Donnie ,

You are welcome.



avatar Donnie Hunt October 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Looking forward to all this.


avatar Donnie Hunt October 30, 2012 at 7:53 am

“By the way, the cams on that Pullover Machine Gary Jones was using are huge!” Sorry for the typos.


avatar db144 October 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

It’s a good thing Hutchins is here to correct all of Jones’ mistakes otherwise everyone in the weight training world would still be wandering in the dark or worse (such as using SuperSlow protocol).

How are the machines sales and the retrofit business?

Josh any truth to the rumor you’ve been using multiple sets to make up for your deteriorating condition?



avatar Joshua Trentine October 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Everything is an evolution, I’m aware of no practice that remains unchanged without advancement.

Business is keeping us busy as we continue to prototype and manufacture.

I’m not sure who your sources are, but I’m in the best shape of my life and can only see getting better into my mid-forties.

My workouts were discussed and demonstrated at the RenEx conference, some of the attendees can discuss the volume and style of training I use.


avatar db144 October 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

Can someone explain this to me?

Hutchins, Kenneth M., Altamonte Springs FL registered “Renaissance Exercise” as a trademark on 11/28/2000. Trademark Status – Dead.

On 6/11/2010 Overload, Ltd. Westlake OH then registered “Renaissance Exercise” as a trademark.

Josh is RenEx your idea and protocol or Hutchins?



avatar Joshua Trentine October 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm

It appears you have some time on your hands.

We decided to reduce the name to RenEx, since this is how we are known by most.

RenEx is a product of contribution from myself, Gus, Ken, Brenda Hutchins, Jeff and Al Coleman as well as input from my staff @ OVERLOAD FITNESS.

Unless you have anymore pressing questions I’m going to return to my writing, we’ll be having some interesting blog posts that I believe you will enjoy.


avatar db144 October 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Thank you for your time.



avatar Joshua Trentine October 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm

You are welcome, this is what we do.


avatar Jason October 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Josh said:
“I’m not sure who your sources are, but I’m in the best shape of my life”

Really? The recent pictures of you show you looking pretty big, but pretty fat as well. In fact very fat — which would explain your increase in size, as fat takes up more space than muscle does. Hence, your condition is questionable. Remove all that fat and it’s likely you’ve got no more muscle than you had years ago.


avatar Joshua Trentine October 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Might wanna look before you leap….someone else tried to pull this same stunt on facebook 2days ago…. I went in the bathroom and took pictures and swoosh….silence.

You wanna post pics? if you are in anywhere near the shape I’m in I’ll except being called fat.


avatar Joshua Trentine October 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm


You have a poor eye for bodybuilding…..don’t get yourself embarrassed.


avatar marklloyd October 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm

It doesn’t take much to appear “out of shape” by competitive pro bodybuilding standards; merely not being dehydrated will do it. Worse, magazine photos: Elaborate lighting, hours of perfected posing, taking full advantage of 2-dimensional illusions, body make-up, touched-up & photo-shopped; might as well be comic-book artwork. 99% of bodybuilding “fans” have little to no experience beyond this. Any real body is bound to be a disappointment by comparison.


avatar Joshua Trentine October 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm



avatar Robert Nickerson October 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm

In 1972 the Spartan Gym, in Oxon Hill, Md., a Washington D.C. suburb, bought their first Nautilus machine: the plate-loading biceps/ triceps machine. I had been training for more than a year using “Nautilus principles”. I pounced on opportunities to use the phrase “full-range,direct,rotary,automatically-variable resistance in conversation; and had gained 20 lb. of muscle and a new wardrobe in the process. Thank goodness for stretchy double-knit polyester bell-bottoms.
Spartan(we pronounced it spar-tan, accent on the second syllable) was a new and definitely heavy- duty gym. fixed-weight dumbbells up to 150 lb., Olympic lifting platform. Hugh Cassidy, the 1971 powerlifting heavyweight world champion, and father of singer Eva Cassidy, was a member. In the health food store in the front they sold Iron Man magazine, which was not widely available in those days, and in which were being published the paradigm-changing articles of Arthur Jones. The first articles about Nautilus I ignored because I thought they were about training methods aboard nuclear submarines(The first nuclear sub was named Nautilus.)
My first attempt on the triceps machine was about what I expected, with consistently hard resistance throughout the range of motion, but the biceps machine was a revelation. I was then doing one-arm dumbbell concentration curles with 50 lb., so I started with what seemed a conservative 75 lb for the two-arm Nautilus curl. The first half of the range of motion went just fine but the scond half felt like compressing a giant spring, as the increasing moment arm of resistance of the changing Nautilus cam made finishing the movement impossible with that weight. After removing plates and making more attempts, I finnally managed a full-range, target-rep set with 25 lb.. It was definitely a case of “check your ego at the door and get ready to learn something.” In this case, I learned what a skewing of the strength curve resulted from
conventional training. Four sessions later the 75 lb. was no problem as the strength curve deficit rapidly filled in. Strangely, there was absolutely no discernable difference in biceps size. The filled-in strength curve seems to be a permanent thing over the years regardless of the equipment being currently used, or perhaps I now emphasize the formerly-deficient range when using less-optimal equipment. For instance, the gym where I now train has Cybex selectorized weight-stack equipment, which is generally satis factory, but the biceps curl machine has a nearly circular cam. This means that a weight I can hold in maximum flexion for two minutes with one arm is too heavy to safely curl from full extension with both arms. The workaround is to reach over with the free hand and pull up on the movement arm or push down on the counterbalance arm in order to position the other arm in full flexion.
In an early article in Iron Man, Arthur wrote that when originally designing his cams, that in order to eliminate the skewed strength curves resulting from conventional training he did not use data from weight lifters, but from deconditioned rehabilitation patients and muscle cross-sectional-area data from cadavers.He said he was able to obtain such data because of the high number of medical doctors in his immediate family.



avatar Joshua Trentine November 1, 2012 at 11:35 pm


Thank You for sharing this story.



avatar Robert Nickerson October 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I forgot “omni directional”. I still love the way it rolls off the tongue but it got lost in the typing. full-range,direct,rotary,omni-directional,automatically-variable resistance.


avatar Henry November 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm

@ Josh,

If you’re truly MIA @ BBS, thought I’d try reaching you here.

What’s your proposal on exploring the A,B,C bodybuilding protocol?



avatar Henry November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm

@ Josh,

If you’re truly MIA on BBS, thought I’d try reaching you here regarding next steps on the A,B,C protocol…



avatar Joshua Trentine November 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm


Ya, I’m done with that.

Shoot me an email with the info i requested.



avatar Henry November 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm

@ Ken,

I’ve always been surprised/curious as to why the early Nautilus equipment employed such large cam. What factors led to cams of this dimension? What factors allowed the cams to be significantly downsized the proportions seen in RenEx?

Thanks and regards,



avatar Joshua Trentine November 2, 2012 at 10:28 am

Posting a response from Ken Hutchins:


I do not believe that such large cams as that shown in the picture of the early pre-production Pullover with Gary Jones were representative of the cams in the production machines.

A large cam indicates a large vertical stroke of the weight stack. Realize that a one-pound weight stack that strokes vertically 1000 inches EQUALS a 1000-lb. weight stack that strokes vertically one inch.

There are physical and practical limitations to these extremes. On one end of the spectrum we do not want weight-stack stroke to require a frame exceeding the standard 8-foot height of ceilings. And on the other extreme, we want to avoid weight stacks that are so heavy that they are difficult to move and transport, and that are excessively costly, and that exceed building load specifications.

I surmise that a large stroke was used on some of the early Nautilus machines that utilized weight baskets for barbell plates. This then required lighter weights to accomplish the same inch pounds of work.

Perhaps Gary Jones or some of the other early Nautilus engineers would like to comment on this.



avatar Robert Nickerson November 2, 2012 at 3:14 am

@Henry and Donnie
With large cams the the moment arm of the resistance is increased which allows fewer plates to be used on the weight carriage, making weight changes faster and more convenient. The faster movement of the weight resulting from the larger cams could result in unwanted inertial effect of acceleration and deceleration if exercise speed was not controlled.
When Jones got to the marketing and production stage he adjusted the cam size so that a trainee would use approximately the same weight that he had been using with an equivalent barbell exercise. Remember, in the beginning, Arthur was writing and advertising almost exclusively in Iron Man magazine, an almost fraternal sort of mom and pop publication by Peary and Mabel Rader out that world media center: Alliance, Nebraska. All its readers would know what was an appropriate weight to be used for a given exercise, unlike today when “fitness centers” are ubiquitous, and clueless people wander in and, bedazzled by all the bright shiny machines, will swallow whatever bilge the trainers are selling. It was certainly a good marketing move, because Nautilus became almost a generic term for gyms and “fitness centers” and many thousands of machines were sold.
When he developed Medex machines which were aimed at physical therapy and medical rehabilitation, Mr. Jones used much smaller cams to reduce the effects of momentum and inertia. Smaller cam=smaller moment arm of resistance=slower speed of the weight stack. Keep in mind F=1/2 mV*2. The result is that a larger weight must be used on the weight stack to provide an equivalent resistance to that used with a larger cam: thus the entire machine is heavier.


avatar Scott Springston November 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Interesting articles about Jones and Nautilus! Thanks Ken!



avatar Joshua Trentine November 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm


Ken says “You are very welcome sir”.



avatar Henry November 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

@ Josh, Robert

Very insightful responses, thank you both.

I intuited a larger cam (an infinitely variable moment arm) would afford overall greater leverage to the selected load. This correlates in the pronounced contrast between the Nautilus One equipment I regularly use versus MedEx which required an approx doubling of my “normal” weights.

Presumably RenEx has balanced these factors/trade-offs so momentum is minimized while overall equipment dimensions and loads are within practical tolerances. Is reducing acceleration a more important consideration within the context of RenEx’s protocol?

Admittedly, I hadn’t thought through the secondary implications: i) particularly acceleration/deceleration of the resistance and more importantly, the trainee’s body; ii) varying ranges of weight stack stroke and overall frame dimensions.

Having taken courses on “statics” in college the underlying physics resonate, yet my background was focused on balancing dynamic loads to forego movement…probably a good thing for architecture.


avatar Joshua Trentine November 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm


You are welcome!


avatar Joshua Trentine November 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Posting for Ken Hutchins:

Reducing the weight-stack stroke to control momentum and acceleration (inertia) is a red herring. However, it is a red herring that is often exploited—deceptively or ignorantly—by some equipment companies.

One sometimes hears the term, “low-inertia weight stack.” This is poppycock.

Weight-stack inertia becomes a problem in only two situations:
• When the subject moves too fast.
• When the weight-stack stroke exceeds a stroke of about eight feet.

Hence, since we are constrained by the height of most ceilings to limit weight-stack stroke to less than eight feet, the only relevant issue (not a red herring) is the subject’s movement speed.

-Ken Hutchins-


avatar Henry November 3, 2012 at 2:09 am

@ Ken,

Fascinating, thank you for clarifying the factors (and non-factors) surrounding momentum.

As constraints to overall machine dimension implicitly negate momentum concerns, it would seem (at least conceptually) some “ideal” generalized scale of cam profiles would yet remain. While clearly other limiting factors such as material strength and general fabrication techniques exist, I remain struck by the implicitly broad continuum of cam scales across comparable machines for example chest press.


avatar Kenny O November 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm


In the RenEx text (page 302), you make mention of the the Nautilus Neck and Shoulder machine, and are looking towards revamping this machine. I am very interested to hear your take on the training of the Trapezius. Is this a muscle that requires direct stimulation? What is the proper training for the muscle, Scapula elevation as in traditional shrug, or more of a retraction, as per DeSimone’s recommendations? Does the trapezius receive enough stimulation if a proper horizontal row or Horz. TSC is employed?



avatar Al Coleman November 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm


This is a good question.

My take is that the Trapezius MAY indeed benefit most from TSC as would other postural muscles in the body. This doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t benefit from dynamic movement as well. No one knows enough yet. If you look at the structure and function of the traps in most human movement they are statically activated much if the time to support the scapula.

What I can say is that I don’t feel retraction work only is enough. This doesn’t make sense when looking at what the traps do for the scapula. I hate to add a bit of “bro science” in here, but I’d be willing to bet that a physique athlete who ignores elevation won’t end up with the same trapezius development around is yolk that he would have had he added elevation. I’m someone in particular who had always suffered from poor trap development. Anytime I regularly include the Neck and Shoulder machine in my routine, I experience some semblance of neck region trap development. No amount of horizontal rowing does that. Again, I know that might not suffice the Internet biomechanics experts, but muscle is muscle. It’s there or it’s not.

It is also worth mentioning that the elevation of the scapula is the only way to get at certain tension related neck issues.

Hope that helps.



avatar Joshua Trentine November 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thanks Al! I want to add to this when I get some time.


avatar John Tatore November 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm

At the last workshop you guys discussed the TSC shrug done on the Renx/SSS leg press. Can you discuss the set up and why it’s a productive exercise.



avatar Joshua Trentine November 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm


We probably need to do a blog or video to do this subject any justice.


avatar Jonas November 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm


I have for some time used the paralell grip on the Nautilus Overhead press, like your OP. I tried the palms front grip (more like the barbell) and was surpriced by

1. Hiw much more I felt it in my shoulders
2. How much heavier it was (weaker I was)

Do you have any comments/recommendation regarding this (have the Nitro & XPLoad machines at the gym) what grip that should be prefered and why?



avatar John Tatore November 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I have recently turned my thumbs a little inward on my grip on the SSS Overheard press and have found the same .. more direct feedback … from the shoulders.


avatar Joshua Trentine November 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

John ,

The new handles make a big difference.



avatar Joshua Trentine November 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm


Sorry for the delay I’m just seeing this comment now.

Generally the exercise variation that produces the best feel in the intended area is the direction you may want to go, but some of this direction may take you more towards a more volumeus approach than what we advocate with our equipment. My recommendations of how to use the machine and even volume and frequency vary when we go from a barbell, to a Nautilus machine, to a MedX machine, and is even different with a RenEx machine.

I want to make it clear that the intent of our Overhead Press machine is not produce a “shoulder exercise” any more than our PullDown is supposed to be Latissimus exercise any more than the Ventral Torso is intended to be a “chest exercise”.

What we are looking for is the most complete, complex, innate movement synergy pattern…..one that takes advantage of tensegrity , one that optimizes bio-mechanics of the whole rather than a quasi-isolation exercise that is used in traditional bodybuilding paradigms and the way that all other equipment manufacturers base their designs.

The real genius in Ken’s machines is that they are more “compound” than any other compound movement or machine. I believe that this is the only way to actualize the ideas of consolidated training discussed by Mentzer, McGuff and Hutchins.



avatar Jonas November 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Josh, thx for your answer and that indicates that more volume is needed I guess, for most of us. Maybe Arthurs routines with 10-12 exercises is more ideal with less-then-ideal equipment after all.



avatar Mealin October 4, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Hi, i’m pretty interested by the way humanity have invented so many strange tools to make our life better (or worst sometimes).
I like the picture of the ” vintage Double Chest” and would like to use it on my website. Where can i find the original and/or all the copyright informations ?

Best regards


avatar Bill Sekerak November 20, 2015 at 12:49 am

I spoke to Arthur in 1996 at which time he unequivocally stated to me that it was his conviction,after all of the research he had reviewed with MedX in combination with past experience, that isolation exercises were all that was required to build all of the muscular structures of the human body and compound exercises were not necessary.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: