The thing I love most about teaching group fitness classes is being able to regulate the tempo at which my participants exercise. (Clearly, I’m a bit of a control freak). Not too fast, not too slow, just the right speed to maximize the benefits of weight lifting.
I typically choose music in the 120-128 bpm range to allow for adequate time to complete each movement in good form and over the desired range of motion.
Despite my best intentions and cueing, there are always those participants that feel the need to move more quickly than the rest of the class. Perhaps they can’t find the beat or understand my instructions. Perhaps they just don’t understand the benefits of lifting weights slowly.
5 Benefits of Lifting Weights Slowly
- Greater range of motion. When lifting weights I encourage my clients to aim for the greatest range of motion they’re capable of moving through without sacrificing form. Why? The greater the range of motion, the more muscle fibres you recruit. Recruiting more muscle fibres not only leads to faster strength gains, it also burns more calories. Plus, you’ll only get stronger within the range of motion you work. That’s the ‘specificity of training’ principle, otherwise known as ‘use it or lose it’.
- Better neuromuscular control. Lifting slowly requires intense concentration and focus on the muscles doing the work. Studies have shown that just thinking about performing a bicep curl can lead to (modest) improvements in bicep strength. Combine the power of your brain with the power of your body and the sky’s the limit!
- Reduced momentum. When you lift weights rapidly, you harness the energy of the movement you’ve just finished and transfer it to the movement you’re about to initiate. This transfer of energy is called ‘momentum’ and it requires substantially less muscular effort to utilize than initiating each movement from a dead stop. Slow down to use muscle, rather than momentum.
- Lower risk of injury. Rapid movements with heavy weights increase your risk of strains, sprains and muscle pulls. They also place your fellow gym goers at risk. Have you ever had to dodge a rapidly moving dumbbell in the gym?
- Better strength gains. Muscles get bigger and stronger with increasing time under tension. The slower you perform each movement, the more time your muscles will remain contracted and under tension. In particular, slowing down the eccentric (the non-working, or easier part of each movement) phase of an exercise can dramatically improve muscle strength by simply increasing the length of time the muscle remains under tension.
Just for fun, I like to try and take at least twice as long to return the weight to it’s starting point as it took me to perform the working phase of the exercise. For example, on a bicep curl, I’ll curl up for 2 counts and down for 4 (or 6 or 8!).
Can’t wait to give it a try? Check out my #FatblasterFriday playlist on YouTube for tons of free, real time strength training workouts!
Try it next time you’re in the gym and tell me whether you could feel the benefits of lifting weights slowly!
Do you have any tricks for getting more out of your strength training?