One of the claims of “super slow” training is that it requires more energy than traditional weight training. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently decided to test this claim.
Seven male subjects with at least one year of previous resistance training experience participated in this study. The subjects’ resting energy expenditure and one repetition maximum were determined after two days of abstinence from exercise. Five to six days after the pretest, randomly assigned subjects performed either a super slow training program or a traditional program. After three days of rest, the subjects switched and performed the other program.
The exercise performed for both the super slow program and the traditional resistance training program included: leg extension, bench press, biceps curl, leg curl, behind the head triceps extension, bent over row, reverse curl, shoulder press, upright row, and barbell squats. The super slow program consisted of eight repetitions with a 10 second concentric phase, and a 5 second eccentric phase at 25% of one repetition maximum. The traditional program consisted of two sets at 65% of one repetition maximum. No time constraints were set on concentric or eccentric action. Both workouts took 29 minutes to perform.
The results (published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17(1):76-81. 2003) showed the traditional resistance training program had a higher energy cost than the super slow training program. The super slow program was significantly lower in total work and relative exercise intensity when compared to the traditional resistance training program. Intensity was 2.6 times greater, and over four times more work was performed with the traditional resistance training program.
Intensity and overload are the key elements of effective resistance training. The super slow just doesn’t have these. As this study showed, the super slow method of training is not a superior form of weight lifting exercise because of its lower intensity and consequently, lower energy expenditure.
As I have pointed out many times before, when it comes to building muscle understanding the difference between fatigue and overload is very important. Many athletes, even the very experienced still confuse these two. Training with techniques that produce greater fatigue at the expense of overload is far less effective.