Is super slow training effective? I saw an interview online with a trainer who claimed it was the best way to lift weights.
I’ve been asked the same question a lot recently. Super slow seems to be an “exercise du jour” that has attracted a fair number of disciples. Unfortunately, as with most fads, this one has been largely overhyped.
According to super slow proponents, the biggest attribute of the technique is that it reduces momentum during training, thereby increasing force to the target muscle. In addition, by reducing momentum, the potential for injury is supposedly decreased. Sounds logical, right? Well, not exactly …
The effects of momentum on training are wildly overstated. Provided that weights are lifted in a controlled fashion, the target muscles are performing the majority of work and momentum is a non-factor. What’s more, assuming proper technique is utilized, simply slowing down the speed of repetitions will have no effect on reducing injuries. In fact, the injury rate for those who train with proper form in a traditional protocol is extremely low. Thus, the science behind the super slow claims simply doesn’t add up.
All things considered, super slow training is suboptimal for achieving maximal muscular development. You see, the weights used during super slow training must be extremely light to compensate for the slow speed of the lift. While this allows the concentric (i.e., positive) portion of the rep to be executed in the desired fashion, it takes away most of the muscular stress on the eccentric (i.e., negative) portion. (Muscles can handle significantly more weight on eccentric actions than on concentric actions). And since the eccentric component is perhaps the most important aspect in promoting muscular development, results from super slow simply can’t compare to performing reps at a traditional cadence.
What’s more, super slow training is extremely tedious. The excruciatingly slow tempo causes most people to become bored with the routine in a relatively short period of time. This ultimately reduces exercise adherence – and if you don’t train, you don’t get results!
The bottom line with respect to rep speed is to follow the ABCs of lifting: Always Be in Control. As long as you lift weights in a controlled fashion, the effects of momentum are negligible. This is not to say that super slow has no place in a routine. It can serve as a good “change of pace” and when used occasionally, might help to overcome a training plateau. But for the majority of your workouts, a traditional lifting regimen is the best way to go.