Does Super Slow Training Work?

Some believe that lifting weights in a slow and controlled manner gets you better results than with regular weightlifting. Is it true? Get-Fit Guy gets to the bottom of these claims.

Ben Greenfield,
March 26, 2012
Episode #085

Have you ever heard of “super slow training”? In most cases, the pitch for this style of exercise goes something like this: By lifting weights in a very slow and controlled fashion you can burn more fat, burn more calories, get injured less, and get stronger faster.

But are these claims true? In this article, you’ll find out if super slow training works, and if lifting weights slowly gets you better results than other types of workouts.

What Is Super Slow Training?

Super slow training was originally used by bodybuilders way back in the 1940s. At that time, it was referred to as “muscle contraction with measured movement,” and involved a 10-second lifting period followed by a 10-second lowering period. For anybody who has ever tried to do a dumbbell curl, a squat, or a push-up for that long a time period, you know that this can require superhuman amounts of patience – not to mention a lot of time.

In comparison, in a traditional weight training routine you’ll typically take about 1-2 seconds to lift a weight, and slightly longer than that to lower the weight.

But the uniqueness of super slow workouts doesn’t stop there. Rather than doing multiple sets for each body part, super slow training typically involves just one long set for each exercise, and each set is performed until your muscles are completely fatigued.

Does Super Slow Training Work?

The idea behind super slow training is that by decreasing the speed of movement, you can create more tension in your muscles. Theoretically, the more fatigued muscle will respond by growing, thus making you stronger and potentially boosting your metabolism.

However, studies have shown no significant difference in the amount of force your muscles produce when regular weight training is compared to super slow training. In addition, the only studies that have shown super slow training to result in superior strength gains have tested individuals with – you guessed it – super slow training!  

Of course, there is also the time consideration. Even if you can somehow get superior results with super slow training, is it worth it if you need to spend an extra 30-60 minutes in the gym each time because you’re taking much longer to complete each set?

What About Safety?

Couldn’t the slow, controlled speed of super slow training keep you from getting a muscle strain injury or from lifting with bad form? Good point.

Although there is no evidence to support or refute the possibility that super slow training is more safe, this is a plausible idea. However, you can lift in a controlled manner with very good form by taking 2-4 seconds to lift and lower a weight, and not 10 seconds to lift and 10 seconds to lower.

However, none of this means you shouldn’t be doing some super slow training every now and then. In the episode How to Get Better Results From Weightlifting, I introduce you to the SAID principle, which stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.” The SAID principle means that your body will eventually get used to the type of workouts you do, and for this reason, it’s important to vary your training as much as possible. You can achieve this variety by doing some slow cardio workouts, some higher intensity cardio intervals, some cross-training with sports like swimming, soccer or tennis, some explosive weight training, some regular speed weight training – and some super slow training!

How To Do Super Slow Training

So how could you incorporate super slow training into your fitness program? Here’s one of my favorite workout circuits, which incorporates cardio, explosive lifting, regular tempo lifting, and super slow training. Go through the entire circuit with minimal rest, and try to do 2-6 rounds, depending on your level of fitness.

  1. Warm-up for 5-10 minutes

  2. Do 5 explosive dumbbell swings per side

  3. Do 10 super-slow pushups (5-10 count down and 5-10 count up)

  4. Do 20 mountain climbers

  5. Do 30 seconds of jump rope or jumping jacks

  6. Do 5-10 pull-ups or pull-downs

  7. Do 60 seconds of bicycling, treadmill, or elliptical trainer

If you have more questions about if super slow training works, and if lifting weights slow and controlled gets you better results than other types of workouts., then share them in Comments or on the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page!