Jackie Wright: Slow down to stay safe, get results
July 22, 2011
The tempo of movement during muscular strength training generally should be slow. But, what does slow mean? And, why do we need to perform our repetitions slowly?
To answer the first question, slow generally means two counts to eight counts each direction (i.e. concentric and eccentric phases of the contraction). Yes, there are times that we train for power, which is a combination of strength and speed, and if the client is capable of controlling the movement and, if applicable, the external resistance, then the tempo may be quicker and more explosive.
However, when we are discussing traditional muscular strength training, the slower tempo tends to be safer and more effective. Follow the guidelines and explanations cited below when training to stay safe and produce the results you are seeking. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Safety – It is generally easier to control the repetitions when moving slowly, and this tends to create a safer environment for the joints, muscle and other connective tissue. Every day in unsupervised exercise settings, we see the result of fast tempo muscular strength training, which tends to yield out of control, unsafe repetitions. Even if the exerciser does not experience an injury while performing repetitions that are too fast and out of control, over time, they may very well experience an overuse injury that may have been prevented had their performance been slower and in control.
In general, if the load being placed on the body part, whether from body weight or from external resistance, is quite high and very challenging, this is a good time to slow way down and concentrate on quality repetitions over quantity. It is rare that a client is moving too slow; therefore, we spend a significant amount of our training time coaching our clients to slow down and strive for control.
Results – Where results are concerned, these are generally more achievable when we are uninjured and healthy. Therefore, staying safe first, by controlling movement tempo, helps to prevent injury and ensure results. Additionally, the neuromuscular system needs “time” to communicate the movement messages and if the movement tempo is too fast for adequate communication, then the messages may not be accurate and the results may be negatively impacted (i.e. GIGO-garbage in/garbage out).
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Muscular strength training tips
• Perform fewer repetitions and fewer exercises per session, striving for quality, as mentioned above, over quantity. If you are pressed for time, then divide your muscular strength training sessions into upper and lower body days, making certain that you are not working the same muscle group in consecutive sessions.
• Concentrate on a stable, braced body via engagement of the core first, and then perform slow, controlled repetitions. You may find it surprising that the slower repetitions are actually far more challenging, due to the physiological and psychological exertion that proper training requires. Never break form and listen carefully to your body to avoid any break. This laser focus may help you “feel” the muscular engagement like you never have before and that yields results.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at http://www.neversummerfitness.com, her email at NSFGL@comcast.net , her blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.