We all know that exercise in general brings significant rewards to our lives. Increases in strength, flexibility and functionality are only a few of the advantages we experience when we partake in a regular fitness regimen, but often enough I have found people to be a bit confused about which way was the best way to exercise.
While all forms of fitness offer their advantages, what I will focus on today is why it is effective to slow down your movements during your workout.
The effects of slow and controlled movements
Speed in fitness certainly has its uses. Circuit classes, boot camps or sport specific training designed to increase quickness and agility all benefit from focusing on speed during exercise.
Interval training often implements short bursts of increased speed to confuse the body since this provides improvements in cardiovascular function as well as promotes fat loss.
On the other hand, slowing down movements also has a lot to offer. Tai chi and yoga are a couple of popular exercise methods that involve slow and controlled movements yet they offer immense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.
Strength training can also be done at a much slower pace and the effects are interesting to say the least. Here’s why:
Greater focus on mind/body connection
Often enough, when we hurry along an activity, we don’t take the time to pay attention nor connect to what we are doing. Given that society has increased in speed as it is, the one gift we can give ourselves is the attention we deserve when it comes to our workouts.
By slowing down the movements, you get to really feel what muscles are working during a specific exercise as opposed to simply doing your reps and moving on. This helps you gain an understanding of which muscles tend to work in groups or in opposition of one another and can be extremely helpful when designing your own fitness program.
Another added benefit is being able to focus on your breathing and since many people have a tendency to hold their breath while performing a challenging exercise, this will come in handy.
Proper form is one of the most important factors in any exercise program. It can create excellent results in your workouts while improper form can cause injuries.
When exercise is done slowly, your mind can focus in on what you are attempting to do rather than having to concentrate on external resistance, form, repetitions and movement all at once.
The benefits of eccentric contractions
When you work a muscle eccentrically (or negatively), you are lengthening it. An example would be if you were doing a bicep curl, this is where you straighten out your arm back to the starting position. An eccentric contraction, especially when done slowly, has its benefits.
For starters, this type of muscular contraction controls deceleration and this is important because it enables you to learn to safely manage the effect of gravity and/or momentum when working with resistance of any kind, including your body weight and therefore, helps prevent injury.
Also, since you are constantly under tension while controlling the movement, you may find that you will be able to do fewer repetitions or work with lighter weights and still get an extremely effective workout while working to fatigue.
The next time you do a bicep curl, try this:
Using the same weight you currently use, count to two while doing the curl, hold it for one full second and count to four while going back to starting position. Do the same number of repetitions you usually do and see if you can feel the difference. You may also experience increased muscle soreness the following day.
I don’t suggest using slow movements to replace your current workout method, but rather to add some variety. There is something useful to be learned from many different styles of exercise and this is what makes a well-rounded program.