Can’t wait to hit the gym? Whoa! the fastest way to build strength may be to slow down.
YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT WEIGHT TRAINING will make you a more powerful player. But, how can you add more muscle without spending extra time in the weight room? It’s simple: slow down.
A weight-lifting technique called SuperSlow training may be the fastest way to increase strength, according to several fitness experts. Though there’s conflicting evidence on the benefits of slow training, one recent study found that men and women who decreased the speed of each repetition (so it took approximately 14 seconds to lift and lower weight) gained strength 50 percent faster than those who did reps of 7 seconds, even though both groups lifted for a total of 20 seconds per set.
“When you slow down, you put more stress on the muscle, especially in the lifting phase,” says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist who directed the study at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass. Normally, weight is lifted on a 2-second count and lowered in 4 seconds. Participants in Westcott’s research took 10 seconds to lift a weight and still used 4 seconds to lower it. By putting more time into the actual lifting, the muscles are forced to work so hard that the lowering phase is almost treated as a rest period.
Take It to the Gym
You can increase the length of reps of any strength-training exercise, but start off with machines rather than free weights. Machines offer a safer, delimited range of motion and are less likely to fatigue smaller stabilizing muscles like the forearm. And don’t be macho—drop your weight load by about 15 percent. “Since you’re eliminating momentum, it’s harder to lift the same load,” Westcott says. “Plus, you have to give your body a chance to adapt.” It’s also a good idea to get a friend to help you keep track of the time for each rep: Lift the weight fully through a count of 10; pause for a moment, then lower it for 4. As for sets and reps, cut your normal numbers in half. And you need to work on each body part just twice a week. Good thing, too, because the biggest challenge of going slow is the boredom factor. Lifting like this can make you feel like a tortoise.
“It’s easy to burn out,” says Westcott. “A lot of people give up because they feel it’s just too tedious.” Still, if it increases your power on the court, SuperSlow may be the best way to get you in and out of the gym with time to spare.