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Lift Slow to Get Fit Fast?

Can you get results in 20 minutes a week? Here's what the experts say.

Is It Enough?

Slow-motion programs are "tough mentally because they don't feel very good," says exercise physiologist Dan Agresti, owner of ProActive Health and Fitness, based in Denver. "It's difficult to sustain that for any period of time. The dropout rate is quite high."

And consistency is all-important in an exercise program, he says. "It's not magic," he says. "All it is, is a consistent change in lifestyle.

Very slow weight workouts also carry a risk of injury, he says.

For one thing, he says, beginning exercisers may be likely to hold their breath when working that hard. That can be dangerous, particularly for someone with high blood pressure.

Further, "the soreness factor is going to be very high," Agresti says. "When you're dealing with large eccentric contractions, the results are a lot of soreness."

Not only that, Westcott says, strength training by itself leaves out a very important part of overall fitness -- aerobic exercise.

"There no research of any kind that says one strength training workout a week will increase cardiovascular strength," says Westcott. And since heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability in this country, he says, "it behooves all Americans to have cardiovascular strength."

Not Anti-Cardio

Zickerman, who was a swimmer and baseball player in college, insists he's not anti-cardio. His premise is that many people overtrain with cardio exercise. When that happens, he says, the body goes into energy conservation mode -- storing fat and calories and breaking down muscle.

"Your body doesn't understand exercise to be exercise, it understands it to be a threat to its survival," Zickerman says. "With a small dose like Power of 10, the reaction is to build up.

"Sometimes (the Power of 10) sounds too good to be true because people think of exercise as a way of burning calories," he says. "They shouldn't look at exercise as a way of burning calories because with cardio, when it's over, that's when the calorie burning stops."

But strength training builds muscles, and muscle burns more calories all the time, says Zickerman: "You're raising your metabolism, so the muscles burn the calories for you."

Zickerman is quick to point out that the slow weight-lifting technique is only one pillar of his total program. The other two are proper nutrition, and rest and recovery.

Other experts say that it's true that muscle burns more calories than fat, but that's not the whole picture.

"I always go back to the equation: calories in, calories out," says Agresti. People doing only the once-weekly workout would "never burn a sufficient number of calories to put them in a deficit fully.''

'The Most Efficient Workout'

Don't tell that to Amy Birnbaum, a mother of two from Long Island, N.Y., who says Zickerman's program has taken years off her looks.

"It's the most efficient workout you're ever going to do," says Birnbaum, who adds that she's never had a serious problem with soreness.

Birnbaum has always been into fitness. She's tried it all, from yoga and Pilates to running and aerobics. Her husband turned her on to the Power of 10 workout when she was looking for something new.

"I'm 44 and things are starting to hang a little," she says. "I wanted to tone up and not bulk up. This, muscularly, puts everything back where it was. "

Birnbaum, who has been working with Zickerman for a year, is happy not only with the way her body looks, but with how she feels after her sessions.

"I feel so relaxed afterwards," she says. "I've burnt off all that nervous energy. When you work hard, you expel that anxiety."

Perhaps that's why she's willing to drive the 50 minutes into Manhattan once a week for her lesson.

"For this program to be effective, I almost think you need to have a personal trainer to do it with," says Westcott. "It's just too difficult to work that hard on your own."

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Reviewed on January 04, 2005

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