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Len's exercise(s) of the month:

Superslow moves for SUPER gains?

About six months ago, some of my clients began asking me what I thought of this article in Newsweek about SUPERSLOW training.  Since I hadn't read the article, I figured I had better find out what the hubbub was, so I checked out the website and ordered their training manuals...

As usual, there's good news and bad news.  The bad news is, the powers that be who have trademarked  the SUPERSLOW name and workout system are kind of fascists.  They have a manual, certification and protocol (the "ultimate exercise protocol", at that), and prescribe a specific regimen with NO deviations allowed.

It's kind of a SUPERSLOW cult, and you either buy into every tenet, or you aren't allowed in the club.

The good news is, although I can't call it SUPERSLOW, since I'm not hewing to the absolute letter of their law, picking and choosing and incorporating SOME slow movement sets into your workout can make your muscles SCREAM for mercy, and get stronger FAST.


To try out some slow movement sets in your routine is basically pretty easy.  Say you are doing three exercises for your chest, a flat press, an incline dumbbell press and a cable or pec deck flye.  Normally you are doing three or four sets of 8-12 reps on each of these three movements.  Choose one of these exercises (to start, choose whichever you normally perform last), say your pec deck flyes.

To do a slow movement exercise, drop the weight from what you normally use, by about 20%.  If you are using ten plates, drop it to eight for instance.  Now instead of performing three sets of 8-12 reps, you will do one AGONIZING set of  ten reps.

Each rep on this slow-movement set you will count to ten on the push (concentric) movement, and count ten on the (eccentric) return to the starting position.  The first two reps are easy, then on number three you start to burn a little.  By the fifth you wonder if you can POSSIBLY make it to ten.  Just keep breathing, keep the movement slow and deliberate, and don't allow any jerks or cheats.  By seven and eight you're just about numb, but keep going, and after the tenth rep you get the same feeling as though you just performed four sets with a HEAVY weight.  You'll feel that muscle for the rest of the day, for SURE...

The SUPERSLOW people specify ten seconds going up, five seconds going down, with the trainer using a click counter to tick off only the perfect reps you perform.  They also require that the exerciser do  ONE full-body regimen of nothing but SUPERSLOW movements ONCE a week, and no other exercise sessions allowed.  I'm not ready to make that commitment, based on the experience I've had with my clients' workouts and my own.

I tried doing nothing but SUPERSLOW movements, and also allowed some of my clients this way.  You get through a full workout quickly, and feel tired to the BONE at the end.  You actually do grow and get stronger, but eventually boredom does rear its ugly head.  The SUPERSLOW guru, Ken Hutchins, says that thinking that exercise should be fun is as erroneious as thinking that breathing, brushing your teeth, or any other necessary habit has to be enjoyable.

Anyway, the clients I have gone full-on SUPERSLOW with have all eventually  wanted to return to a routine with more variety.  I have a couple of ways of combining some slow movement sets to keep the workouts challenging yet varied.

The suggestion I made above is one, finishing each body part with one slow set to drain the muscle to the absolute DEPTHS.  You can switch which one of the exercises you normally perform for that bodypart is the slow movement.  (Next time, do a slow dumbbell press, or even a set of slow, torturous pushups.)

Another approach that clients like is to set one workout a week aside as the slow day.  That day shift the whole workout over to slow exercises, one set of ten reps on each.  You'll feel pretty drained, and you'll both look forward to that slow day, and DREAD it.

The biggest benefit of doing at least some slow movements is that you minimize momentum and cheating.  If you shoot through a fast set of biceps curls with a bar, and heave your back and hips forward to kick the bar up when your arms start to tire, you don't always notice the cheat.  But slow things down two or threefold, and that cheat becomes SOOO magnified that you can cut it out.

With THAT in mind, another GREAT way to incorporate some slow movements into your workout routine is to perform a slow set FIRST exercise of each bodypart.  Then use that feeling and muscle memory of doing each rep slowly and perfectly.  Slow the rest of your exercises down a bit, and be twice as conscious of eliminating cheats and jerky movements.

Do that and your slow workouts can help build your better body FAST!...



  What is AAARRGH!!? Your state of fitness Training Exercise of the month Who is AAARRGH!!? The AAARRGH!! gallery Choosing a trainer  email