Quick looks slick-but slow is the way to go
By Dave Durell
Walk into any gym in the world, observe the people performing strength training exercises, and you will quickly notice something about the technique used by 99% of them.
Essentially everybody is performing their exercises very quickly. They throw the weight up. They let it drop back down. Mindlessly flailing their limbs with no apparent focus or concentration, often talking to someone at the same time. They rattle the barbell plates. They let the weight stack slam together. Momentum is utilized to the fullest extent possible. There is no pausing at any point in the entire set. The only time all this high speed of movement stops is between exercises, when the average trainee rests for several minutes, often while socializing, re-setting their I-Pod, texting somebody, watching television or checking their cell phone. It almost seems like they can’t wait to get their set out of the way, so they can get to these other activities with minimal disruption.
Why do people train like that?
I think that one reason they do it is since they see virtually everybody else doing it, they assume it’s the right way to do it, and that the one guy in the gym not doing it (me) is some misguided weirdo who is doing it wrong. This is the way a lot of people make all of their decisions-they go along with the majority, avoiding the painful job of thinking critically for themselves.
Once the trainee starts utilizing this method, they discover that moving the weights faster allows them to lift more weight more easily. Although less effective from a strength and muscle building perspective, this method is more satisfying to the ego. Fast reps also produce less muscular discomfort than slow reps, and avoiding pain is desirable for most people.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is inferior results. Moving the weights quickly lowers the intensity of the activity; and intensity is the stimulus required to cause an increase in muscular size and strength. Thus, the higher the intensity is, the more effective the workout will be. To maximize the intensity of each repetition, the weight should be lifted and lowered slowly, under full muscular control, utilizing the force of muscular contraction alone without momentum.
Going slow is also safer. Increased speed of movement increases the risk of injury. If you have ever witnessed, or been in, a car accident, you already know this.
In addition, going slower makes the workout more time efficient. You put more tension on your muscles in each set, allowing you to place a greater workload on your muscles in one set than the fast lifters get in 3 or more sets.
The lifting of a weight (including the weight stack on a machine) should take 2 seconds to perform. The lowering of a weight should take 4 seconds to perform. You should pause in both the start and finish positions on each rep. Thus, every rep you do should take approximately 7-8 seconds to perform. Simply put: lift in 2 seconds; pause; lower in 4 seconds; pause; repeat.
The goal of your strength training program should be to get the best possible results in the shortest possible time with the least possible amount of effort. Performing slow, controlled repetitions is fundamental to achieving that goal.
Keep it slow to grow,
Dave Durell, MS, CCS, PTA
(Dave Durell is a Clearwater Personal Trainer at Rock Solid Fitness Florida, a Personal Training studio in Clearwater, FL. For more information on Rock Solid’s fitness program, Click Here)