As more Americans struggle with the increasing cost of health care, some are taking their health into their own hands. Health professionals agree that practicing a healthy lifestyle is the single most effective way to reduce your reliance on expensive medical treatments. One of the most promising advances in the field of lifestyle medicine is the development of strength training programs. Numerous health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend strength training as part of a healthy lifestyle. Despite the growing interest in strength training, the average strength workout leaves a lot to be desired. Many things can and do go wrong along the way. However, there is an easy way to instantly improve the safety and effectiveness of your next workout! Decreasing your repetition speed (the rate at which you lift and lower the weight) is a simple and effective way to improve your workouts. Here’s what you need to know to benefit from slow strength training no matter where you train. In the early 40’s, when modern strength training was in its infancy, no one was talking about repetition speed - getting health professionals to recognize the benefits of strength training was the first order of business. As acceptance of strength training grew, scientists began testing different training methods by experimenting with various programs. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that repetition speed gained the attention of fitness professionals; the late Arthur Jones, founder of Nautilus Sports Medical Industries, is credited with advancing this movement. In the early 80’s a research project at the University of Florida Medical School further advanced the growing interest in repetition speed. The Nautilus Osteoporosis Project led to the development of the first standardized training protocol addressing repetition speed (Protocol for Super Slow Training). Today thousands of fitness professionals and millions of Americans use this training protocol or a version of it to achieve their fitness goals. Slow strength training works because it safely overloads your muscular system, which is the only way to build stronger, healthier muscles. Overloading your muscular system involves exposing your muscles to a stimulus greater than they are accustomed to, such as lifting a heavy weight. A review of 47 studies in the journal Aging Research Reviews found that programs utilizing a progressive overload approach produced the greatest benefits. Sports medicine organizations including the American College of Sports Medicine also recommend progressive overload programs to optimize improvements in health and fitness. The secret ingredient in slow strength training is the absence of momentum. Decreasing momentum, increases muscle tension and exercise intensity. Increased intensity is important because it activates more muscle fibers, which leads to greater improvements in muscular fitness. According to renowned exercise scientist, Dr. William Evans at Duke University, the intensity of the exercise is the single most important factor influencing results. In other words, the harder you work the greater the results – as in most aspects of life. The other major benefit of slow strength training is that it’s much less likely to cause an injury. Decreasing momentum allows you to overload your muscles with a lighter weight, thereby reducing the risk of injury. Slow strength training also reduces the force applied to tendons and ligaments, further decreasing the risk of injury. A less-recognized way that slow strength training keeps your workouts safe is by reducing training frequency. Because slow strength training is efficient at overloading your muscles, fewer workouts are needed, thus decreasing exposure to the training stimulus and lowering your risk of overuse injuries. These are important benefits given the incidence of weight training injuries continues to climb. Most people who hurt themselves strength training never return to the activity; this is unfortunate given the enormous health benefits strength training has to offer. With the proven safety and effectiveness of slow strength training, numerous health agencies are recommending it as an efficient way to improve fitness. In their most current guidelines for exercise testing and prescription the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the lifting and lowering portion of each exercise be performed in a controlled manner. The National Institutes on Aging, with the National Institutes of Health also make specific recommendations for strength training that includes slow, controlled repetitions. Slow strength training is effective, efficient and incredibly safe, so why not give it a try? Any decrease in repetition speed will improve your workout! When training on conventional exercise machines and or with free weights a five by five speed works well: lifting the weight in five seconds, and lowering the weigh in five seconds. If you have access to specialized equipment, such as MEDX Rehabilitative Exercise Machines, going slower than five by five will produce even better results. At MEDFITNESS our Strength Imperatives utilize a slower ten by ten speed to maximize improvements in fitness while keeping the workout safe!