Body & Sports

Speed up the effects of weight training by slowing down

Updated: 2011-03-08
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Taking your time during weight training can lead to increased benefits.


Speed up the effects of your weight training by slowing down. Most weight training is done at about five seconds per repetition but if you slow your pace and take up to 10 seconds each time, it can have a lot of benefits.

The most immediate difference you'll notice is that you lose the ability to use momentum to keep you going. Your muscles have to provide all the power. This may mean that you have to drop your weights slightly at first. Trainer Corinne Austin says the benefits are that you build more strength, improve the connection between your nervous system and your muscles, and expend more energy than if you were doing the training at normal or high speed.

Because you are moving more slowly, you have more time to work on your form. Muscles are brought to momentary failure in fewer reps and studies suggest that muscle mass can be built 50 per cent faster.

It works because you are keeping your muscles under tension for a longer period - it is this that promotes blood flow and microtrauma, the process that leads to them rebuilding and getting bigger after the workout.

What counts as slow? Corinne says it can vary. "A 'normal' tempo would be 2:1:2 (which, in a benchpress example for instance, would mean two seconds on the downward part of the movement, a pause for one second at the bottom, and then two seconds to push the bar back up again).


A fast tempo may be 1:0:1. A slow tempo could be anything from 6:0:6 to 4:3:4 or 4:2:8. There is a huge amount of variation that can occur in terms of tempo training, and it means there are so many variables to play with to keep the training interesting and also to see what works for each individual."

Start with compound exercises - ones that use more than one muscle group.

It can be hard to time slow reps if you are working on your own. The temptation is to speed up your counting of seconds as you get tired. Get someone to keep an eye on your form and pace. Corinne says it is always a good idea to work out with someone else when you are training at a slow tempo, anyway.

"When performing exercises with slow tempo people should always have a 'spotter' on hand - someone to give them a hand if they suddenly feel that they no longer have the strength to complete the movement. Performing exercises with slow tempo reduces a person's 'power' or 'explosive strength' and works more on 'definite strength'. So, they are more likely to suffer a more acute fatigue during an exercise than someone who is doing a higher speed tempo."

If you are thinking about making the switch to slow training, do it gradually. Start with one or two exercises. Take a break from slow training every few months - it can lead to over-training if done for too long without a break.


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