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Slow training puts a spin on how you would normally lift heavy weights, but is it better? We did some research to find out if it's something you should include in your training routine

Since the 1940s there was a movement away from normal training towards an adoption of slow training, with it eventually even being trademarked as “SuperSlow” by Ken Hutchins. The super slow system advocates lifting the weight so slowly that it takes 10 seconds to lift the weight and 5 seconds to lower it. That means each repetition takes 15 seconds and a 10 rep set would take two and a half minutes.

It seems like too much of an effort but there have been a few schools of thought that have agreed with such an approach to training. 

According to WebMD, a fitness researcher named Wayne L. Westcott heard about the programme and staged two informal studies in 1993 and 1999. In each, about 75 people trained with the SuperSlow program - for 8 and 10 weeks, respectively. Those doing SuperSlow in both groups experienced a greater than 50% gain in strength. In fact, the results were so difficult to believe that Westcott had them verified at Virginia Tech.

But this research has been called into question due to the nature of slow training. Slow training fatigues the muscle to its fullest extent over one set due to how intense the training is but the issue with this research is that it never compared it to normal training, but their current strength. And if you are untrained then training would show any amount of gains, which makes the 50% somewhat unsurprising.

In terms of looking at it from a research perspective, slow training is also HIIT, or high intensity training. One of the foundational concepts of HIIT is that the intensity and amount of time spent working out are inversely proportional. Meaning, the greater the intensity, the less time you have to spend working out. With slow training, it posits itself on not having to be done daily to get the same results as you would get from another type of training but this is also due to the actual “real feel” of slow training as your muscles would be more fatigued doing one set but with reps being held for up to 30 seconds a time rather than doing the normal 2-4 second reps.

More research has been done in real-time on the impact that slow training has because the claims appear to outweigh what is commonly known to work. One article explains that exercise also needs to understand the SAID principle, or 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. So, while slow training may not be as effective as it has been thought to be, it does offer a new way to change up your workout and keep your body guessing, which will stop you from plateauing and reaching your fitness goals.

The concept has flaws that are sometimes overlooked because apart from the time needed to perform a few workouts due to the time taken to perform a rep, taking 10 seconds to lift the weight as your default training method is generally ineffective because it forces you to reduce your poundage so much that you lose the strength and hypertrophy stimulus you were after. It is no secret that in order to maximise your gains you always need to be adding more weight to your exercise but with slow training and eccentric loading, you won’t be able to lift as heavy a weight as you would be able to if you were completing a normal rep. Therefore, you would need to use way less than your maximum rep that will strain your muscle but not add muscle to it. This sort of exercise is more suited to older people and people going through rehabilitation because it lengthens the muscle and reduces the risk of injury.

Another article states the same thing as it points out that using slow repetitions with lighter weights occasionally can offer a change to your usual workout routine, and may even be helpful at times. You could even conceivably use super slow reps (with lighter weights) during times when you don't have access to a full set of weights and you need to make the most of the lighter weights you do have by employing eccentric loading techniques over your regular repetitions.

However, what must be stated that although it can be helpful at times, one discovery that is heavily under-researched as compared to the regular principles surrounding strength training and regular high intensity interval training is not enough to change your entire training regime. You need to employ a range of techniques when you are focused on fitness and cannot discount the effectiveness of tried and tested exercises in favour of exercises that may fatigue your muscles more over a shorter period of time but won’t give you the results that you want if you want to build muscle and increase your strength and power.




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