Super Slow Training Protocol – An Advanced Training Technique
As long as you continue to challenge yourself in your workout, you’re growing and improving. Sometimes, the best way to get that extra challenge is to use an advanced training technique with the HIT strength training method to bring focus and discipline to your workout. The super slow training protocol can be a good way to overcome strength plateaus for advanced trainers who otherwise struggle to provide their muscles with the necessary overload.
Check out our master list to see all of the advanced techniques we recommend. This week, we’re going to take a look at the super slow training technique.
What is the Super Slow Training Protocol?
The regular HIT strength training protocol that we follow at Vertex Fitness is a high-effort and relatively low-rep method that provides you with more resistance in less time. While other strength training methods may require multiple sets that offer a rest in between, the HIT method uses only one set of each exercise with sufficient resistance to provide overload (or “failure“) in about 8-12 reps over roughly 50-70 seconds. Under the HIT protocol, you aim to always be working with about 75-80% of your one-rep maximum load. Lifting and lowering the weight under control and with excellent form should take a full repetition time of 6-7 seconds, leaving you with an ideal set length of about 50-70 seconds.
The super slow protocol involves expanding the rep time, so that you’re doing fewer reps over the same amount of time. Instead of taking 2-3 seconds to lift the weight and 3-4 seconds to lower it, you would instead lift the weight very slowly over 10 full seconds, and lower it again under control in 4 or 5. (The reason that you don’t make the negative contraction as slow as the positive is that you are stronger when lowering the weight than when lifting it. If you lower the weight too slowly, your muscles will effectively be given a rest, and you’ll lose some of the benefit of overloading them.)
Why Do Super Slow Reps?
You can only do about half as many repetitions (which includes both the negative and positive contraction) when you are working with 14-15 second reps rather than 6-7 second reps. This is because your muscle is under load for about the same amount of time. The difference is that when you do the reps at half the speed, you use less momentum, and your muscles work harder. This makes the workout more effective, and allows you to reach a deeper fatigue.
The entire goal of this and any other advanced technique is to reach, and exceed, the moment of muscular failure. Why? Because your muscles can adapt to the level of work that your mind tells it to perform. If your muscles fail to meet the load, a stimulus has been applied and the grow stronger in response.
As explained in the book “The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution” by Fredrick Hah, Michael Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D.,, “Your goal is to bring the muscle to utter fatigue–without letting momentum or gravity do any of the work for you–in good, slow form, not to lift a particular amount of weight. Despite its terminal sound, “failure” isn’t some catastrophic event during which the muscle collapses, but merely the point of deep, total fatigue at which no matter how hard you try you can non longer lift the weight and still maintain perfect, relaxed form. No twisting or arching your back, assisting with other body parts, grimacing, jerking the weight, or letting it fall with gravity. These maneuvers, so commonly seen in traditional gym settings, only invite injury and rob you of part of the benefit you would otherwise derive from your workout. Welcome failure–it is your sign of success and the targeted endpoint for each exercise.”
Proper Form on a Super Slow Set
In a typical super slow workout, you will spend the entire set of about 50-70 seconds perfectly performing just three to six total repetitions precisely and slowly. Selecting the correct weight to provide the proper resistance is important, here. If you can lift the weight slowly and with good form for at least 60 seconds, it’s about right. If you reach failure before about 50 seconds, you should remove some weight. If you can keep going with perfect form for longer than 70 seconds, you should add some weight.
Read more about the other Advanced Training Techniques: