The How, What & Why of Slow Motion Strength Training

I have exercised on a regular, consistent basis. For pretty much all of my life. While I am not an athlete, trainer, or fitness buff, I just love the feeling of moving my body. It is not for my shape or my looks, but for me. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. I enjoy everything from yoga, running, and swimming, to interval workouts and strength training. While most of these forms of exercise are common, one isn’t. Slow motion strength training. A form of strength training that focuses on slow, steady, and controlled movements. Allowing you to use each and every muscle fiber, as opposed to just momentum.

I first learned about slow motion strength training a few years ago, when I got certified to work as a trainer at The Perfect Workout. A fitness studio that started in southern California, and focuses on 20-minute slow motion strength training sessions, that incorporate the whole body. While The Perfect Workout is targeted towards wealthy, busy professionals (which I don’t fit), I still continue to do it. Because it works. And strengthens your body in a way that regular strength training doesn’t.

Basic Breakdown of Slow Motion Strength Training
  • Go slow. Crazy, super slow, for every exercise you do.
  • Complete 6-10 different exercises in the 20-minute time period (biceps, hamstrings, back, abs, triceps- your choice).
  • Each exercise should last 1-2 minutes (depending on your strength and the weight you use).
  • One repetition of an exercise takes about 20 seconds (10 seconds up, 10 seconds down).
The Exercises

I am providing 10 exercises here, they are based off the machines often found at many gyms. But in reality, you can use any strength training exercise, and follow the same guidelines. I only use machines to maintain better posture, keep track of my settings, and focus on the specific area I am working. I typically alternate between upper and lower body to give my muscles a break. But do whatever works for you.

Here are 10 exercises, to be done in any order. But again, don’t feel like you need to use machines. Any strength training exercise is fine.

Leg press

workout

Overhead Press

chest press slow

Leg Curl

slow motion workout

Bicep Curl

strength train biceps

Row

slow motion strength training

Abductors/ Adductors

strength train

Tricep Extension

slow motion triceps

Abs

strength training

Lat Pull-Down

slow motion back

How It Works

The main thing that really matters is to, go slow. Each repetition of an exercise should last 10 seconds on the downward movement, and 10 seconds coming back up. With no rest. No break. No pause. Your muscles are continually working, with no momentum. So pace yourself, one full repetition, up and back down, takes about 20 seconds. Go slow, and keep going until you can no longer move the weight. Until your muscles are spent. Exhausted.

The goal is to last for 1-2 minutes for each exercise. So, if your muscles can no longer move the weight, and it hasn’t even been one minute, the weight is too heavy. Decrease. But if you can do the exercise for 2 minutes or more, the weight is too light. Increase. With 20 second repetitions, and a 2-minute maximum, you are really only doing about 4-7 repetitions for each exercise.

Slow, Steady, and Controlled

10 seconds is actually a long time, when you are continuously controlling a weight. When you don’t get a break at the top, or bottom of the exercise. And when you can’t rely on momentum. But still, make sure that you are lasting 10 seconds each direction. Focus on moving the weight little by little. Slow, steady, and controlled, not jerky or uncontrolled. When it starts to get hard, keep going, and continue to move the weight gradually. Try not to speed up, or pause. You want your muscles continually working. To help your mindset, here is a script I often tell myself. Or think in my head.

“Okay, get ready, go! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and back, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Go again, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Back down, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.”

I continue to prompt myself. I count to 10 on the way up, and 10 on the way down. It helps me keep my pace, while also giving me something to focus on. I also try to look at the weight stack that I am moving during the exercise. I want to make sure it is moving at a slow, steady, gradual pace. And that I don’t let the weights rest at the bottom, but I continually move them.

Change It Up

I have talked a lot about slow motion strength training with machines, but like I mentioned, it can be used with any strength exercise. Free weights or body weight. Try doing a push-up, 10 seconds down and 10 seconds back up. It’s hard. Difficult. Different. Try slowing down with squats, tricep dips, weighted bicep curls. Anything. Slow, steady, controlled movements will change up your training, and work your muscles differently. Here are some examples of other exercises to try with slow motion strength training:

  • squats
  • push-ups
  • tricep dips
  • lunges
  • leg lifts
  • sit-ups
The Benefits

Now that you have read a little about slow motion strength training, what are the benefits? Why incorporate this type of exercise into your life or routine?

  • It is something different. Going this slow and steady works your muscles in a completely different way.
  • It is safe. Because you’re going so slow with the weight, there is less chance of tears, strains, sprains, pulled muscles, or the like.
  • It works deeper into your muscles. When you can’t use speed or momentum, every muscle fiber is forced to work, and help control the weight.
  • It gives you a cardio boost. Since you are not resting the weight at all during each exercise, your heart and lungs get a workout too. You will probably feel out of breath, just like doing cardio.
  • Obviously, like all of strength training, you want to gain strength. Muscle. So, this workout is no different. You will get stronger, and strengthen your muscles each time you do it. Keep track of the weights you use, and see your progress over time.

With all of this information, I know slow motion strength training isn’t perfect. No workout is. It is just something different to try out. Something new. A change. And hopefully after reading this, you at least want to try it out. Would love to know what you think, and what your favorite exercises or workouts are.

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