Ask an Expert: Super-slow weight training

Q: "What is super-slow weight training? Is this method something I should consider trying?"

Answer provided by Mike Boggs, BS, MBA, CSCS (certified strength-conditioning specialist), fitness specialist, Providence Fitness Services: 

Super slow is a method of weight training in which the participant performs a strength routine in slow motion, with emphasis on form and control.

Using the super slow method, the concentric movement (when you contract your muscles) is to a count of 10, and the eccentric movement (when you extend your muscles) is to a count of five, for a total of 15 seconds per repetition. Super-slow training calls for one set of four to eight repetitions per exercise, which should include a combination of six to nine lower and upper body movements. This routine should take no longer than 30 minutes, and should not be performed more than three times per week.

By comparison, standard strength training recommendations call for a one- to two-second concentric phase and a three- to four-second eccentric phase. Each set should include 8 to12 repetitions, with two to three sets of 6 to 10 exercises performed two to three days per week.

Super slow weight training has been widely promoted by Ken Hutchins, a University of Florida researcher who maintains this method can make a superior impact on strength and muscle size, metabolic effect and body fat loss while providing a high-quality aerobic workout. To date, little scientific evidence has surfaced to support these claims.

A 1999 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness did find that a group of slow lifters gained 50 percent more strength than a group of regular speed lifters over a 10-week period. This study did not use a standard testing method for all participants, however, raising doubts as to whether such results would occur in other settings. The study’s author also noted that of 147 slow lifters who participated, only one wanted to continue this “tough” and “tedious” style of training.

Other health and exercise professionals have questioned whether super-slow strength training provides the cardiovascular benefits of regular aerobic exercise. Super-slow weight training requires a lot of discipline and is difficult to do without a coach or trainer. Nor is it necessarily a practical way to train your body for sports and athletic activities that are not performed at a "super-slow" pace.

This is not to say there is nothing to be learned or gained from this style of training. Most people do lift weights too fast. While the super-slow method is too slow, you might want to try two to three seconds of concentric contraction and three to four seconds of eccentric contraction when lifting. You might also want to take a break from your regular weight routine and try the super-slow method for variety.

The important thing to remember is that if you are consistent with ANY weight training routine, you will show some muscular strength and endurance improvement.

July 2003