Thursday, August 25, 2011

Slo-Mo to Grow? : Slow-tempo training is hot, but will it make gains go to pot? by Jerry Brainum

In recent years many trainers have advocated a form of weight training called slow-mo reps, or superslow training (SST). It features a technique of slowly lifting and lowering weights, usually about 10 seconds to raise the weight (concentric contraction) and five seconds to lower it (eccentric). The theory is that you get a higher level of intensity for every rep you do, thereby enabling you to train less yet get bigger and stronger.

The popularity of SST is growing, as evidenced by the spate of recent books dealing with the topic. All of the books suggest short, hard workouts. Most go even further, saying that you can fine-tune every aspect of fitness with SST-based workouts that average 20 minutes. If that sounds familiar, it’s because people such as the late Mike Mentzer have recommended similar training styles for years.

While there’s merit in controlling both the raising and lowering of a weight, SST devotees make some statements not supported by research; for example, they claim that you can develop maximum levels of lean mass, or muscle, while also burning fat, with 20-minute workouts. Such training allegedly makes fat-burning-specific exercise superfluous.

But in research designed to directly compare SST and traditional weight training, the traditional style nearly always proved superior in every way. The latest study examined the metabolic and energy-expenditure aspects of both SST and traditional weight training.1 In seven healthy young men traditional training produced a higher maximum oxygen intake and a 45 percent greater energy expenditure than SST. The metabolic effect of the SST workout was comparable to walking three miles an hour—not very impressive and not enough to make a dent in achieving aerobic fitness.

The study also found that traditional training produced an exercise intensity level 2.6 times higher than the SST workout. The authors concluded by noting that a combination of traditional weight training and aerobics is more effective for increasing energy expenditure and promoting cardiovascular fitness. In other words, the usual style of training will lead to greater fat loss and more muscle than SST.

1 Hunter, G., et al. (2003). Comparison of metabolic and heart rate responses to superslow vs. traditional resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 17:76-81.

©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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