Strength training tips | the benefits of lifting weights slowly

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.

benefits of lifting weights slowly

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.

Do you?

5 Benefits of Lifting Weights Slowly

  1. 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’.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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?



  1. love Love LOVE me some slow strength training!
    Contemplative Fitness recently posted…On social cancers, building walls, and establising legitimacy…My Profile

    • Absolutely! My very favourite slow/isometric move is on the lat pulldown. Amazing how quickly you can fatigue your lats by holding the contraction at the bottom and releasing as slowly as possible! Don’t need to do very many reps like that!

  2. YUP!! Control the lift & the lifting! Love this Tamara! So important not to throw the weight around & also as we all like to say – get into the mind/muscle link! Such better results doing it this way!
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…My Simple Way of Eating… Plus Part of My Exciting NewsMy Profile

    • I know that you’re a slow, thoughtful lifted Jody! Can’t get those great muscles without a lot of mind-muscle connection!

  3. Great tips. I agree with slowing down when lifting. I also think there is definitely something to be said for the mind–body connection. THINK about using the muscles you’re training! Touch them when they should be engaged. I think it helps. 🙂
    Michelle @ Eat Move Balance recently posted…KISS: Baked Mahi MahiMy Profile

    • I think ‘muscle touching’ is a great idea; although there are some moves during which I wouldn’t advise it (think deadlifts and heavy squats! oy, disaster!)

  4. I like to shake things up with tempo – muscle confusion is a powerful thing!. Going slowly, I focus on squeezing the muscle and really focuing on form.
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…My Figure Delay + WIAWMy Profile

    • Laura, you’re right. Mixing it up is a great way to confuse muscles. Sometimes a metabolic workout, with lighter weights and more reps/more quickly is just the ticket. Depends on the exercise too, right?

  5. oooh … thanks for posting this. I have been a fan of turning my weight lifting into cardio for years (lower weight, higher reps) but I think I’ll slow it down a bit now.
    Calee Himes recently posted…WIAW: Juicy RecipesMy Profile

    • Calee, I read a great quote yesterday ‘things work for 6 weeks, then they stop’ (or something more profound than that). The idea being that whatever you’re doing, your body needs you to do something different after about 6 weeks. Slow for awhile, then maybe increase the tempo again!

  6. Twice as long on the eccentric side will give you nice DOMS.

    Last week I used super slow movement to break through a barrier. Did my bench with 20 count up and 20 count down. Both from a full stop. Sets of 1 or 2 with a shortish 1 minute rest inbetween. Talk about an eye opening workout!
    Deb recently posted…Prepping for the first spring Comp.My Profile

  7. QUILTY!! When it starts getting tough I often start racing for whatever number of reps I intend to complete. I have had to switch to timed sets and concentrating on working the muscles I am targeting as hard as possible.
    Also I am used to running on stress and anxiety and I have to break that comfort zone as it makes me race through everything. I have a really hard time listening to ballads or shutting down the brain to sleep.
    Cindy recently posted…Taking back the lunch hourMy Profile

    • Cindy, timed sets are a great idea, especially if you’re prone to rushing. Sounds like yoga or meditation might help too!

  8. I try to focus on slow lifting as often as I can. I also like to vary the speed when I’m doing high reps of the same move.
    Thanks for the reminder – always want to get the most out of every move!
    Kim recently posted…SLEEP – Why Can’t we be Friends???My Profile

    • Kim, you’re welcome! Of course, it does depend on your goals, so varying tempo is a great idea too!

  9. I always vote for good control and minimum momentum, with a special love of eccentric contractions. And the real key is variety (as you know). I hope loads of people read your post and lift successfully!
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Are Mud Runs for Baby Boomers?My Profile

    • Variety is queen! And specific goals do come into play as well. But regardless of speed, control and making that mind to muscle connection are crucial!

  10. I sometimes do super slow sets just to mix it up. Definitely works things a little differently. And like Kymberly said, variety is the key.
    Oh, the new header looks great!
    Gaye recently posted…Happiness: On OptimismMy Profile

    • Gaye,
      Check out Deb’s bench press suggestion above. Can’t wait to try it myself! Glad you like the new header!

  11. I did a Body Pump class yesterday and noticed the various speeds we lifted and also released. It really makes a workout intresting mentally too so I am glad it helps physically. I had heard, years ago, that taking twice as much time to release as lift was beneficial.
    Elle recently posted…Stretching Myself Beyond My Comfort ZoneMy Profile

    every…six months or so to shake things up.
    Miz recently posted…I am *not* a foodie.My Profile

  13. Love this! And completely agree. I definitely notice my form is much better when I just slow it down.
    Kerri O recently posted…Easy Paleo Tuna Salad RecipeMy Profile

  14. Great post Tamara! One of the things about the new DVD series I’m starting is the pace of the workouts for maximum benefit.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…Fitness Friday || I’m Challenging #Cathe To Motivate Me for 90 DaysMy Profile

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