Have you heard of super slow resistance training? The idea is that if you exercise in a very slow and controlled fashion, you get stronger and avoid injury while spending less time in the gym. Sounds intriguing? Get-Fit Guy explains. Plus, get an exclusive super slow workout!
Although I wasn’t able to find evidence to support or refute the idea that super slow training is any safer than a more traditional lifting style, I think it is pretty plausible. So does Dr. Doug McGuff, author of the book, Body by Science. In his book, he says "With other exercises, to make them more challenging, you usually have to increase the force required...which brings on aches and pains. This makes them more dangerous. With SuperSlow, you can make exercise much more challenging without increasing force."
While it is true that the most important aspect of training safely (while lifting slow or fast) is good form, I believe it is possible to maintain good form at any speed. The idea that a slower cadence may lend itself to developing a more mindful or attentive lifter does make sense (although that may be more dependent on personality type rather than on speed alone).
According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine called “Comparison of once‐weekly and twice‐weekly strength training in older adults,” super slow resistance training may really work. At least it did in the older adults they studied.
In the study, a group of subjects aged 65–79 years were randomly assigned to two groups who each performed just one set of exercises all the way to muscular fatigue. Group One trained one day a week and Group Two trained twice a week using three lower and three upper body exercises for a total of nine weeks. Using this super slow style of training, researchers noted no difference in strength changes between training once a week versus twice a week. Which doesn’t seem like a win at first glance but when time is of the essence, this is significant.
Also in 2001, there were three studies done that compared super slow to traditional lifting. Two of the studies showed a small advantage to super slow and the third showed a small advantage for traditional lifting. So, this style of one single weekly super slow resistance training probably is not going to be your fast track to being on the cover of Bodybuilder’s Weekly, but it appears to be a great strategy when your time is limited.
At the end of two of those studies, the researchers concluded: “Super Slow training is an effective method for middle-aged and older adults to increase strength.” Plus, as the author notes in this article, you don’t have to find or purchase fancy exercise machines to do this type of training. You can use your own body weight, some resistance bands, kettlebells or dumbbells. Combine those devices with exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, overhead presses, or rows, right in your home, backyard, garage, basement, or office and you are good to go!
A Quick and Dirty Super Slow Workout
Today, I will give you a fun workout that incorporates some super slow exercises that you can try at home. But first, let’s look at how to do the individual exercises:
Feel free to use a door handle or sturdy piece of furniture for balance if you need to. Stand with your feet hip width apart and then squat down slowly, taking 10 seconds until your thighs are as close to parallel with the floor as you can manage. Pause there for two seconds, then start going back up. Take the full 10 seconds to reach the top. Then immediately change directions and do it again. Nice and slowly. Continue doing this with good form until your form starts to suffer. And don’t forget to breathe!
Get down on the floor in a plank position, with your hands shoulder-width apart, wrists directly under your shoulders. Slowly lower yourself for 10 seconds, until your chest and shoulders almost touch your hands, then pause for two seconds, and then slowly raise your body back to the starting position arriving there after 10 seconds. Again, continue this movement with good form until you simply can’t do another rep. Did you forget to breathe?
Pull-ups or Pull-downs
As I explained in the episode Do You Have a Pull-Up Bar at Home?, you can always start with a chair under the bar, if it means you can complete this exercise properly. Get under the pull-up bar or grasp the ends of a resistance band and slowly pull your body up for 10 seconds until your chin passes the bar or pull the resistance bands down until your hands are basically in your armpits. Breathe for two seconds and then slowly (for 10 seconds) return to the starting position. Continue this,with perfect form until you can no longer complete a repetition. Are you breathing?
Ok! Now, here is one of my favourite workout circuits, which incorporates cardio, explosive lifting, regular tempo lifting, and super slow training. Go through the entire circuit with minimal rest between each exercise. Do 2-6 rounds of the circuit, depending on your level of fitness.
Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of a full body movement like sun salutations.
5-10 explosive burpees
10 super-slow push-ups
20 regular speed mountain climbers
5-10 super slow pull-ups (or pull-downs)
15 regular speed dips
10 super slow squats
30 seconds of jumping jacks
Rest for 30 seconds and start again.
Cool-down: use any of the techniques I outlined in the episode Cooling Down After Exercise.
Although the overall efficacy of super slow resistance training versus traditional strength training clearly warrants further research, it is clear that both training methods show significant increases in strength. And since we should all focus on having a wide variety of resistance training stimulus in our exercise regimen, why not incorporate both methods?
Some of you may find the super slow method tedious, while others will love the extra challenge (and muscle burn) that it presents. So, I encourage you to give it a try especially during those times when you don't have enough time to squeeze in a decent workout.