A few months ago, I spoke with Rick Berman, a certified personal trainer and owner of Studio 2020 Fitness. Rick uses a weight training technique that was originally researched for building bone — a slow-motion, high-intensity training program. While this strength training program might not suit everyone, I like it because you can see benefits working out only once or twice a week for 15 to 20 minutes!
If that sounds too good to be true, for once, it’s not — because this workout is not light duty. The whole point, Rick tells me, is that you have to work the muscles to great intensity in order to stimulate the muscle cells to build more muscle (which, as you know if you’ve read my blog, goes hand-in-hand with building bone. That means working the muscles to the point of complete fatigue — that “just can’t do even one more rep” point. This is accomplished by slowing the workout down considerably so that you aren’t using momentum to provide energy for the next rep; it forces your muscles to provide all the force needed to raise the weight. Getting to complete fatigue doesn’t actually take long, when you’re doing that much more work with slow movements (and that’s why the workouts are fairly short).
This program takes advantage of the body’s ability to adapt to the stresses we place on it — the more work we do, the more the muscles and cardiovascular system adjust to meet those strains. And it doesn’t matter how young or old you are: Rick says that “a number of my clients are 60, 70 years old — I have some in their 80s — and I see people that come in the door that can barely lift, sometimes, 20, or 30, or 40 pounds. I’ve had clients that have started at 20 pounds, and within … maybe 8 weeks, they’re doing 40 or 60 pounds. We see very rapid increases in muscular strength.”
It should be no surprise that this method is good for developing bone as well as muscle. As Rick pointed out, the original exercise protocol was developed for an osteoporosis study some 33 years ago at the University of Florida Hospital. The slow speed was initially used because of fears that the research subjects — women 60 and older with osteoporosis — might injure themselves, but the serendipitous finding was that this slower training safely created more muscle mass, even with less-frequent workouts!
For more, watch my full discussion with Rick Berman. You will learn a lot!
Important PS: Always check with your doctor before starting any new form of exercise. There is no “one size fits” all strength training program and this intense slow-motion workout is not for everyone. If you’re new to weight training, I encourage you to work with a professional trainer who can teach you correct technique to avoid injuries and help you get the most out of your workouts. Best would be to find a trainer like Rick who specializes on slow-motion, high intensity training if you chose to give this system a try.