Lifting Weights the Super-Slow Way
Workout Technique May Bring Desired Results
Dominique Walton, MD
May 14, 2001 -- For the better part of 20 years, Philip
Alexander, MD, was a dedicated runner. By some measures he was a fanatic. The
Texas native pounded out an average of 60 miles a week.
And if that weren't obsessive enough, he would add another 35
miles riding his bicycle.
"I was nuts," says Alexander, 57, an internist who
practices medicine in College Station, Texas. "I would do 50 full runs up
and down the football stands. Every joint hurt. The next day I felt like I had
been run over by a truck."
The worst part about it, Alexander says, is that his grueling
workout not only left him feeling physically beat but he also wasn't seeing any
improvement in his cardiac results. His "good" cholesterol -- the HDL--
wouldn't move above a 42 reading.
"I didn't know how to get a more cardiovascular
workout," he says. "I knew what I was doing wasn't working, and it was
tearing my body apart."
Then five years ago, Alexander came across a new workout called
super-slow weightlifting. It was developed by Ken Hutchins, who happened to
grow up in the same small Texas town as Alexander. So the physician called the
trainer. It was the beginning of a beautiful and healthy relationship.
Slow Movements, Quick Results
Alexander still occasionally runs with his dog. But the days of
20-mile runs are long gone. He gets all the cardiovascular and strength
training he needs with a couple of super-slow sessions each week.
"I have yet to see a downside in it," says Alexander,
who has seen his HDL shoot up to 62. "The thing that hooks everybody by the
neck are the results."
Hutchins developed the super-slow method in 1982. He was
working with a group of elderly women who were part of an osteoporosis study
being conducted at the University of Florida. As Hutchins describes it, the
women were delicate and he was worried about someone getting hurt. The protocol
he was using had the women lifting their weights in two seconds and lowering
them in four seconds. But their unsteady and erratic form concerned the
"Rather than get someone hurt I went back to the drawing
board," says Hutchins, who holds four American patents on exercise
Off the drawing board came the first draft of what would
eventually become the super-slow workout. Hutchins knew from experience that
there were benefits to the slow, methodical lifting and lowering of weights.
But the common belief was that slow lifting could only be applied to rotary
movements. That meant it couldn't be used for things like leg or chest presses
Hutchins circumvented that problem by designing a turn-around
technique. Instead of stopping just before the movement got easy, he kept going
and slowly changed the direction.
"The women got incredible results," he says.
"Super-slow developed into full blossom from that one study."