Photo: In 2011, Mike Mattox was chosen as the Chrisman Hall of Fame inductee. At the same ceremony an honorary award was accepted by the grandson of Chrisman Alumni President Harry Truman and Bess Truman. http://www.williechris.com/whHOF4.htm
William Chrisman Hall of Fame
Inductee: Mike Mattox
Football, Basketball, Track & Field,
1962 State Champion in Discus, 3rd in shot put; In
college was Decathlon National Champion
Elite U.S, Decathlete
Mike Mattox is a former collegiate athlete who starred in basketball and the decathlon. Mike tried out for the 1968 Olympics as a decathlete. After graduation, Mike combined his biology degree and love of athletics and to became a pioneer in the development of athletic equipment highly effective isometric and isokinetic mechanisms. Mike Mattox’s isokinetic machines were used to trained the legendary University of Houston college basketball team that featured NBA Hall of Famers Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, also known as “Phi Slama Jamma”. His isokinetic machines are still being used to train people today. The Mattox’s machine equipment has become is affectionately referred to as “The Miracle Machine” because of its unbelievable effects.
We had the great fortune to sit down and talk to Mike about the history of athletic training and his journey through the training world.
Sport Science Lab’s T Vitiello: Mike, you were a very successful athlete, what sports were you involved with in growing up?
Mike Mattox: I played football in high school. In college I played basketball and competed in the decathlon. I competed with [Olympic gold medal decathlete] Bill Toomey. Bruce Jenner was my roommate my last year at college. I went to the Olympic Trials in Santa Barbara in 1968. I was in great shape. Two months earlier I weighed 245 pounds, then at the trials I was 196. At the trials I pulled a hamstring. That injury stems back to high school. I played football and broke my ankle. Then I played basketball with a boot cast on. That really screwed me up.
SSL: What happened after college? Most people don’t graduate and just build one of these isokinetic machines, how did you get involved with isokinetics?
MM: I got out of college, I’d been a jock, and I became a statistic. I had a biology degree and a sports background in track and basketball. I knew the whole history of resistive exercise. The best way to learn is to make a mistake. I had a lot of mistakes made on me.
A friend of mine took me to a clinic in Canton, Ohio. I saw some isokinetic machines. I was intrigued with it, so I started selling them. I eventually developed my own, and I just kept going from there.
SSL: Do you have any patents on isokinetic equipment?
MM: I have four patents on isokinetics.
SSL: You have a great deal of experience with isometric and isokinetic training. Most people have never heard of isokinetics, can you define it for us? How did you get involved with isokinetics?
MM: Simply put, it’s isometrics (the muscle contracts but does not shorten, giving no movement) in motion. As you go through a range of motion at a given speed, no matter how much energy you put in or resistance, you constantly go through that speed. Adding air is what makes it better, it accelerates rather than keeping a constant flow.
SSL: So that’s why the term ‘Accelerating Isokinetics’ is used?
MM: Yes, exactly.
SSL: You also use isometric training in addition to isokinetic training. What are some the isometric exercises that you use?
MM: We use leg lifts to train the ab muscles. No one can object to the value of a leg lift. The legs can be active, you can hold or move them up and down or scissor them. It’s amazing how quick you can get into shape, strength wise, doing this exercise. It hits so many muscles. Isometrics is the fastest and one of the best ways to build strength.
SSL: Why do some people shy away from isometrics?
MM: There’s a misconception that isometrics puts excessive pressure on the low back, not true.
SSL: Most conventional training programs today involve weights, but has this always been the case?
MM: No, before football and other sports programs started using weights they used isometrics. They had racks on the wall of wooden bars. You’d go over there and pull on them. You were static in that one range. That would build all kinds of strength.
SSL: Can you talk about the change in that occurred in football training in the late 1950s?
MM: Boyd Epley started using weights at the University of Nebraska in the late 1950s. That started a big problem. Epley founded the Strength Coach Association in Lincoln, Nebraska before it was moved to the Olympic Center in Colorado. Using weights requires guidance because of the risks involved.
Using isometrics doesn’t require guidance. There are a lot of great minds who know the value of isometrics. James Edward “Doc” Counsilman earned his PhD from the University of Indiana and trained Mark Spitz. He loved isometric training and stayed away from weights.
SSL: We’re standing in front of one of the isokinetic machines that you built. We call it the Miracle Machine because we’ve seen it work miracles with people. Can you talk a little bit about this machine?
MM: It’s a good one. It was great when I brought it visit this site to the University of Houston in the early 1980s.
SSL: Who worked with it at the University of Houston?
MM: Their basketball team.
SSL: The final four team, labeled, ‘Phi Slama Jama, which included future Hall of Famers Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon?
MM: They used that machine.
SSL: We’ve seen how beneficial isokinetic machines are, why don’t more people use them?
MM: Too many strength coaches lift weights. Doc Counsilman said that it takes 30 years to get a new idea in, but sometimes it takes another 30 years to get rid of the crap, which is isotonics or traditional lifting.
Weights are bad stuff. Now there’s an argument for them, but I happen to believe, along with many others, that you don’t have to destroy the body to get ahead. That’s what weights do. A lot of weight lifters feel safe if they lift easy and smooth. You want to go slower and get a better performance? Sorry. Your performance will improve by training with speed.
SSL: What do say to people when they say, “If I lift all my weights fast, then I will be fast.”
MM: Not really. For instance, if you have a weight and go through a range of motion (simulates a bench press) you have the same resistance no matter what speed you go. (Walks over to the isokinetic machine) With the isokinetic machine you get resistance at an accelerated speed. The faster you go, the more challenging it becomes.
SSL: What are some of the long term benefits to using isometric and isokinetic training?
MM: They force your entire body to work together. When you train, you are training your muscles and your brain. If you train your muscles in isolation then your mind is trained in isolation.
If your body is strong as you get older you’re not going to walk like this (Mike hobbles across the room), you’re going to walk like with fluidity. As people get older you hear them say, “I lost my balance,” when in reality they are losing muscle strength.
SSL: Mike, it was a pleasure talking with you, thank you very much for your time.
MM: You’re welcome.