Superslow Strength Training

Superslow strength training is defined as doing a complete repetition in slow motion. A typical speed for traditional strength training is 1-2 seconds on the concentric (shortening) phase and 2-4 seconds on the eccentric (lengthening) phase. Superslow strength training is 10 seconds on the concentric and 4-5 seconds on the eccentric.

Let’s take a bicep curl for our superslow example. When we lift the dumbbell up to our shoulder (concentric), it would take us 10 seconds to complete. We would make a smooth transition into the eccentric phase- lowering the weight back down to its starting point. That would take us an additional 4-5 seconds.

So where does the superslow training method come from and are there any benefits to it? The super slow technique was originally introduced in 1982 at the University of Florida by a researcher named Ken Hutchins. Ken Hutchins has been pushing super slow strength training ever since he concluded that significant gains in strength were obtained by his test participants.

As you can imagine, this radically different form of strength training caught my attention. The claims were pretty lofty:

superslow strength training burns fat better

superslow strength training only needs to be done once a week

… and so on.

Let me give you some helpful information to help you on your quest for strength training bliss. This information is taken from studies conducted by the University Of Alabama at Birmingham and from industry journals such as the ‘Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research’, ‘Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness’, ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’ and a book called Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (2nd Edition).

The University of Alabama at Birmingham took 7 healthy 20-something male subjects. Each male had at least one year of previous traditional strength training experience. The average weight of the male subjects was 173.8 pounds.

Here’s the exact study- the men did either superslow strength training, followed by a three day rest, followed by traditional strength training -OR- they did traditional strength training, followed by three days of rest, followed by superslow strength training.

The superslow and traditional strength training routines each covered the exact same exercises (leg extensions, bench presses, bicep curls, leg curls, bent rows, etc), and took the exact same amount of time- 29 minutes.

The difference was speed and sets. Superslow strength training says that you have to do one 8 repetition set of each exercise and do a 10 second concentric movement and a 5 second eccentric movement. Participants were allowed a one-minute rest between exercises.

This is allowed in super slow strength training according to its founder- Ken Hutchins. When it was time to do the traditional strength training routine each participant did 2 sets of 8 repetitions for each muscle group.

Here Are The Superslow Strength Training Results

  • total energy expenditure was 45% higher for the traditional training, 155 kcal (calories) vs. 107 kcal (calories) for the superslow regimen.
  • the average heart rate during the traditional workout was 143 beats per minute, compared with just 113 beats per minute during superslow activity
  • average recovery heart rate with traditional training (recorded during the 15 minutes after the workout ended) was 119 beats per minute, compared with just 95 beats per minute with superslow
  • four times as much muscular work was performed during the traditional session than during the superslow workout
  • the morning after measurements of energy expenditure revealed that superslow participants did not enjoy higher metabolic rates than those who did the traditional routine.


As I see It:

Superslow strength training is yet another way to spice up your fitness routine. While I don’t believe everyone should stop regular strength training and rush to a SuperSlow program… many people I know have experienced results by switching to SuperSlow Strength Training.

As you can see from the above results, traditional strength training burned more calories and kept the heart pumping harder and longer! That means a better aerobic workout. Oxygen consumption was increased and metabolism was higher the morning after the traditional program!

If you are stuck at a weightloss plateau or looking for something different, I believe you would benefit from using super slow strength training.


The Bottom Line

I want you to do the best workout for your goals and fitness level. For most people that means basic strength training. But if you have experience with SuperSlow or are stuck at a weightloss plateau… give the SuperSlow technique a try.

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Comments

  1. Soooooo….it doesn’t burn more calories, doesn’t increase metabolic rate, doesn’t increase rate of strength gain, doesn’t give as good an aerobic workout, and can’t prove a single claim Hutchens has made. But you recommend it anyway? Riiiiight.

    • Hi, Agdoc.

      I don’t recommend it as the one and only way to lose fat. But as I said in the article above, it’s one variation that if you’re stuck at a plateau or just tired of doing the same ol, same ol… well it could be enough difference to bust through that.

      Everyone has an opinion. And everyone can agree or disagree with me. But I work with and mingle with some of the top fitness and health professionals in the world and some of them exclusively do super-slow strength training and have had tremendous results from it for themselves and with their clients.

      So while the few studies that have been done on this method do not show it to be a cure-all… it does offer another valid method of working out for a lot of people.

  2. Theresa says:

    I have been doing Superslow strength training for 2 years now. What I find interesting is that superslow strength training is hardly every communicated properly. The idea of superslow is not just to lift weights very slowly, that is only one aspect of it. The main aspect is that you lift heavy weight, with the idea of taking your muscles to failure, as it is when the muscle reaches failure that you start the rebuilding process. I have increased my overall body strength by 60% in the last 2 years strickly by working our just 15 minutes a week. Yes this does work, and I challenge anyone to give it a try.

    • Thanks for chiming in Theresa. As you stated… many, many people have had tremendous results with super slow. That;s why I will never say do it exclusively or never do it at all. Different strokes for different folks :)

  3. Every person does require a different because we are in total all different people. I use a different method similar to Super Slow called Introversion® strength training that creates a meditative approach which increases results in its own way, each person needs to decides what works for them. More info can be found here Introversion®

  4. Great article, i always adopt a 402 tempo and find this the best for muscle growth

  5. Lynn,

    re: “results” of super slow. It seems you should focus on results in body and health change as opposed to “process”, (i.e., calories expended, higher heart rate, etc.) The questions should be: which exercise resulted in more growth of muscle, body fat reduction, better blood lab numbers, etc.

    • Agreed Hector. But that study didn’t go into those particular areas. I know lots of people that love this method and others who don’t. I think one of the main reasons why this study didn’t go into those areas was because so much of what you mentioned is coupled with cardio and nutrition.

      So the study would had to include those reference points whereas simply testing the things they did isolates that actual methodology.

  6. Ron Van Woesik says:

    Agree with Theresa but would add, 5-7 reps with maximum weight, no rest between exercises and 2 days rest between workouts.

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