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SuperSlow Training: Is It for Athletes?

Q.I recently read about the SuperSlow method of training in a Newsweek article in February and again on MSNBC; what's your take on that type of training for athletes?

A: Super slow has been around for a long time, although it's gained recent recognition in several popular print and electronic magazines. It's certainly worth trying at least once, if for no other reason than to get some more variety into your program. When we went to MSNBC's link, it had already expired, so if you didn't get a chance to read it and would like to, click here for the Feb. 5, 2001 article. To learn more about Super Slow from a "super slow fanatic," Ken Hutchins, elsewhere on the web, click here. Below, our commentary.

SuperSlow and the Athlete

Benefits: 1) Shorter workouts (20-30 minutes max); 2) working muscles to exhaustion (to feel what that's like so you can emulate that in future workouts, if that's the feeling you want to go for); 3) variety. However, keep in mind that nearly any program you try will give you results initially -- for about 4-6 weeks, at which point you'll want to switch things up again when your body adapts. If you are someone who really likes to "go for the burn" and want to try something a little different, then by all means try SuperSlow; 4) perhaps the biggest advantage in the minds of those performing it is safety -- no ballistic lifting required.

Disadvantages: 1) SuperSlow does NOT train the muscles specifically for sprinting or fast movements needed in cycling, dynos in climbing, basketball jumps and the like. It seems to target primarily slow twitch, rather than fast twitch muscles-- more endurance training, rather than. power/speed; 2) This type of training seems to be more effective for people new to lifting (lighter weights), although the article indicated that some athletes use this technique. Before we'd make any recommendations, however, we'd want to know which athletes, what sports, and in what sorts of controlled studies did they participate.

Is it more effective than traditional tempo training? Not necessarily.Is it harder? Well, if you are doing 8 repetitions at "normal tempo" (2 seconds to lift, 2 seconds to lower -- 4 seconds per rep compared to their quoted 7 seconds), the set only takes 32 seconds to complete. If you were to use a SuperSlow tempo (5-10 seconds to lift, 10 seconds to lower, quoted in the article as 15 seconds per rep) those same 8 repetitions are now going to take you over 2 minutes, or 4 times longer. The burn comes from working for so long -- BUT you won't be able to lift nearly as much weight, resulting in a gain in local muscular ENDURANCE, but not maximal strength, speed, power, or any of the other sport-specific characteristics. In addition, "feeling" the exercise immediately afterwards does not mean you're necessarily getting stronger; and who among us really WANTS to be super sore?

When we've tried it in the past, we've had to drop the weights back considerably -- counter to what many of us in sport want to do. In order to decide whether super slow training is for you, you really need to look at your individual goals, how long you have to train, and how long you have already been training in order to determine if this is the kind of training you want or need to be doing.

We'd suggest if you do decide to try it, instead of using machines like the articles suggest, still choose free weights exercises (as carryover to sport will be much higher) and use compound muscle group movements such as squats, pullups, dumbbell chest presses, maybe even some leg presses. Give it a shot and let us know what you think about it!


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