Rise for slow exercise
HIIT-ING it hard isn’t your only option. Sacrificing speed for form could put you on the fast track to lasting results
Add some slow, steady moves to your workout and get a sizzling bod, stat
AIt was the moment my instructor yelled “Smash it!” while cranking up the treadmill, I decided this wasn’t what I needed in my life right now. Don’t get me wrong – I love a tough workout. I want results in the smallest window; to go home and fall into one of those smug sleeps, knowing that
I’ll ache the next morning. But after a stressful day, is being told to smash things really best for my body and mind? HIIT has become our go-to exercise mode. It’s designed to stress and shock your body, so your muscles are forced to adapt and your metabolism goes into overdrive. Which is precisely why its fat-stripping, body-leaning credentials stack up. But how good is all that pressure? While HIIT’S proven to produce less of a cortisol spike than, say, long-distance running, it’s not exactly a spa day for your stress hormones. And, explains trainer Lee Mullins, if you’re already pushing yourself to breaking point, you may struggle to stick with it. “If you’ve had a tough day at the office, then try to get through a HIIT class, chances are you’ll end up relying on caffeine and sugary foods to push through. It can be counterproductive.”
SLOW WINS THE RACE?
The truth is a slower pace doesn’t necessarily mean slower results. First consider this: a study in the International Journal of Sports
Medicine showed that adding low-impact exercise to a routine a couple of times a week won’t jeopardise gains in strength or muscle size. “People associate hard work with results,” Mullins says. “It can be hard to convince them to scale back. But usually it’ll mean more compliance – and, ultimately, better results.”
Plus, besides dodging the injury risk of going fast and furious while neglecting your form, slower and more controlled movements can actually be more effective, its proponents argue. Much of Justin Gelband’s method – the man behind Modelfit, the New York gym where supermodel Karlie Kloss hones her long, lean physique – focuses on small, controlled isometric movements. “When exercises are done in very small movements – the smaller the better – you are forcing the brain and body to connect,” Gelband explains. “By going slow, you are using resistance the whole time to engage more of the muscle – rather than relying on momentum, which is cheating!”
In the UK, Rev5 gym is taking that principle and (not literally) running with it. Founder Angela Steel claims that 15 minutes of extremely slow weight training, once a week, is all you need to build strength. The movements are slowed to a snail’s pace, meaning everything you do is easier on the joints and heart – but tough, really tough. Without momentum or a few postural cheats to get you through
(there’s no throwing your back into it), 15 minutes can feel like a lifetime. But for many, this is the ultimate way to work out.
Rev5 is based on Superslow, a concept developed by US inventor Ken Hutchins in the ’80s. Before that, body builders had been using slow reps to push through plateaus since the 1940s. Hutchins refined the technique after discovering that slow, steady weight training helped women with osteoporosis to build muscle and increase bone density.
SPEED IT DOWN
Slow weight training isn’t for everyone – it can be challenging, and newbies can suffer from muscle soreness for days after. But fans enjoy the mental challenge as much as the physical. “Clients like seeing what you can achieve when you push yourself,” Steel says. “One man even told us that it helped his focus in presentations. Slowing your workout can feel like a moving meditation, bringing the focus inwards. In a way, it’s a really good mindfulness practice, and puts you back in tune with your body.”
And if you’re still craving the all-out, run-for-your-life sweat-fest, fear not. The official word is that a mix of styles will serve you best. A report by the American Council on Exercise found that HIIT just pips slow weight training in terms of kilojoules burned. But a Norwegian study released last year indicated that women who limited HIIT to three times per week saw better improvement in overall fitness than those who used it more frequently. “Every client is different, but in general I would advise to mix up high- and lowintensity days,” Mullins agrees.
On that note, turn the page to find Gelband’s exclusive seven-move slow workout, targeting every major muscle group in the body…