Make the most of your workout!
Weight training done at a very slow pace requires more intensity than when done at a faster pace. That’s what Ken Hutchins proved when he coined the term “superslow” training. Hutchins suggests that – when weight lifting – a 10 second concentric contraction and 4-5 second eccentric contraction (15 seconds per rep) results in more fat burn and more muscle mass gain, than when lifting at half that pace.
I too am a big fan of slow REP contractions during weight training, coupled with a low volume SET approach. Low volume simply means rather than the more typical 3-4 SETS, you would only do one true set, after a warm up set. These two methods combined have a net effect of spending less time in the gym, with better results. Bonus!
The real key to slow paced reps and low volume training is the INTENSITY. Just like in HIIT cardio training, intensity is the real determiner of success; this is due to the effects of anaerobic training. Yes, aerobic training is good for your heart, but anaerobic training will burn more calories (and a higher % of fat).
For weight training, I think of INTENSITY of the contraction. Unlike with HIIT cardio training where intensity is how fast you are moving, with weight training the intensity of the contraction is how hard you are squeezing (contracting) the muscle – both in the concentric and eccentric lift. This requires great mind concentration as well as muscle connection. The beauty of slow paced reps allows you to really focus on these, and get a great contraction in the muscle you want to be working.
Let’s take a traditional exercise like the biceps curl. In your normal routine you might walk up to your standard 10 or 15 lb dumbbells, get in good standing form, and begin “lifting” (probably throwing) the weight upward. Without thinking about it, what you are likely doing is merely moving the weight in your hand up to your chest. The weight is really being moved by your joint, ligaments, forearm, wrist, and yes the bicep and shoulder muscles.
Try slowing down the movement – and really building a mind-muscle connection with your bicep. Before you start – think “biceps”. With your arms at your sides, squeeze your biceps without the weight moving (sometimes, it is a great warm up to do this without a weight in your hand). Now, let the weight “float” and be lifted solely with the contraction of your biceps muscles. You have to squeeze HARD to make this happen. Continue that squeeze for 10 whole seconds and by then the weight should be at your chest. Maintaining the contraction, slowly begin to ease off the squeeze so your weight is lowered – taking 5 whole seconds to do so. Think about fighting against that weight, as if you do not want it to be lowered. Until finally you can’t fight anymore and your arm comes to your side.
Repeat 6-8 times (only). By then, your arm (bicep) should be absolutely exhausted – and that is exactly what you want. If you can do another set after a 1-2 minute rest – great. If not – great! Remember the idea of weight training is to bring the muscle to fatigue. If you can do that in one set, you’ve just saved a bunch of time.
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