Slow Burn Fitness for boomers

I read a timely article in the New York Times yesterday about how baby boomers are showing up in emergency rooms in record numbers for fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains, and all kinds of other trauma thanks to their efforts to get in shape and delay the aging process. Orthopedic surgeons are doing a land office business replacing knees, hips, and a host of other parts on amateur jocks who are getting up in years.

“Boomers are the first generation that grew up exercising, and the first that expects, indeed demands, that they be able to exercise into their 70’s,” said Dr. Nicholas A. DiNubile, a Philadelphia-area orthopedic surgeon, who coined and trademarked the term boomeritis.

“But evolution doesn’t work that quick. Physically, you can’t necessarily do at 50 what you did at 25. We’ve worn out the warranty on some body parts. That’s why so many boomers are breaking down. It ought to be called Generation Ouch.”

Led by baby boomers, loosely defined as the 78 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964, sports injuries have become the No. 2 reason for visits to a doctor’s office nationwide, behind the common cold, according to a 2003 survey by National Ambulatory Medical Care.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics study said infirmities associated with the athletic activities of middle-aged adults were the source of 488 million days of restricted work in 2002. When the Consumer Product Safety Commission examined emergency-room visits in 1998, it discovered that sports-related injuries to baby boomers had risen by 33 percent since 1991 and amounted to $18.7 billion in medical costs.

It appears from these statistics that you can’t have it all. You can’t stay in shape and keep your body from wearing out after you’ve put a few years on it, or so it seems. If slow-burn.jpgyou try to take it easy to spare your joints, you end up with a spare tire around your middle. What a choice to have to make.

But we really don’t have to make that choice. We can both stay slim and fit and protect our joints, tendons and ligaments. How? By pursuing a type of exercise MD and I wrote about in the book Slow Burn.

Let me tell you how we came to write this book.

Several years back an article appeared in Newsweek that our agent, Channa Taub, saw about a type of exercise that paid huge benefits but only required a few minutes per week. Channa, being totally exercise averse, figured that even she could endure 15-20 minutes per week, so she went to see visit the trainer who was the subject of the Newsweek piece and whose facility was in Manhattan. When she got there, she listened to the pitch from the trainer then asked if there was anyone closer to her home who did the same program. She was directed to a trainer named Fred Hahn, who had actually trained the trainers in the Newsweek article and who had a facility on the upper West side, much closer to where Channa lived.

Channa went to Fred’s place on 78th Street, did a workout, and somewhere along the process she mentioned that she was a literary agent. Fred told Channa that he had been wanting to write a book about his methods. Channa told Fred that she represented a number of authors who wrote on health topics and mentioned MD and me. Fred was excited because he had been using our book Protein Power as the nutritional primer for all his clients and had been trying to arrange for us to come to New York and do a talk on low-carb dieting. Synchronicity again.

Channa called and told me about Fred and his methods and sent me a copy of the Newsweek article. She said that Fred was open to the idea of a collaboration with MD and me on a book about the subject. I read the Newsweek piece and thought it was okay, but nothing earth shattering. I told Channa that on our next trip to New York we would go with her to meet Fred and talk about his program.

Let me digress here to tell you that in both Protein Power and The Protein Power LifePlan we wrote exercise chapters, mainly because a chapter on exercise is expected in such books. We never held ourselves out as exercise gurus, but we knew that strength training was the best way to build lean body mass, so we primarily focused on that.

In due course we went to New York and found ourselves in Fred’s facility. We all went to lunch and we spent the afternoon talking about Fred’s program. Frankly, I took it all with more than a grain of salt.

Fred claimed that 15-20 minutes or so spent doing his program would increase muscle mass at anywhere from 100 to 150 percent faster than traditional strength training, that it would improve cardiovascular fitness (or what people think of as cardiovascular fitness) more than aerobic exercise, enhance flexibility, and increase bone density–all without risk to the joints, tendons, and ligaments. In other words, so Fred said, people could get more strength benefit from his method of training than they could from the three-times-per-week-in-the-gym pumping-iron workouts they were used to, more cardiovascular benefit than jogging or bouncing around in an aerobics class, more healthful joint flexibility than they could obtain from practicing yoga or Pilates, and strengthen their bones, all in 15-20 minutes per week. You can see why I was sceptical.

We told Fred we would think about the book project and left with a number of medical references he gave us. I was eager to get into the literature and see if there was anything to all the information he had given us.

I spent about two weeks poring over all the medical papers I could find, and it turned out that Fred was right. His method of slow training, which replaces quantity of exercise with quality, does tremendously reduce the risk for injury, increases strength and muscle mass faster than traditional weight training, improves flexibility and lives up to all the rest of his claims. I found it to be much like the low-carbohydrate diet–those who have done it swear by it; those who haven’t poo poo it. And like the low-carbohydrate diet, there is a wealth of medical literature that supports all the claims.

I called Channa and told her to tell Fred we would co-author the book with him.

This post probably sounds like a Blogfomercial for Slow Burn, but it really isn’t. I only wrote it because I read the piece in the New York Times and realized how many people were getting injured unnecessarily simply by following doctors’ orders to exercise more. If you’re one of those people, you can benefit from Slow Burn style training.

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell in my medical research on Slow Burn:

The single best way to increase strength and muscle mass is to strength train.
The best way to strength train is to do resistance exercise, i.e., weight lifting.
The optimal way to lift weight–that which gives you the best result per time spent–is Slow Burn.

When I give talks on this subject almost everyone asks how Slow Burn training can increase cardio-pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness. That’s the one idea that people have the most difficulty grasping. Let me tell you how it works.

When you run a few hundred yards (assuming you’re out of shape) you end up puffing and panting and with your heart pounding. You assume that your heart and lungs aren’t in good working order, and you assume that if you start a regimen of regular jogging or other aerobic exercise that in due course your heart and lungs will get in better shape. If you do pursue such a course, you will find that indeed you do breathe less hard and your heart doesn’t pound, so you assume that both your heart and lungs are in better condition. The truth of the matter is that your heart and lungs are about the same as they were when you started–what has improved is your muscular fitness. Let me explain.

In the conditioning process the place where the rubber meets the road so to speak is at the level of oxygen entry into the muscle cells. As muscle cells work, they need oxygen. In an unconditioned muscle oxygen doesn’t get into the cell particularly efficiently. Consequently, your body, in an effort to get more oxygen to the working muscle cells, pumps more blood (your heart pounds) that contains more oxygen (thanks to your huffing and puffing). As your muscles become more conditioned, what happens is that the body’s ability to get oxygen into the muscle cells becomes much more efficient. After your muscles are conditioned and you run a few hundred yards, your heart doesn’t pound and you don’t pant because your muscles are getting plenty of oxygen because of the conditioning effect in the muscles themselves. It has nothing to do with your heart or lungs.

Much is made of the great bicyclist Lance Armstrongs cardio-pulmonary fitness, but let me ask you this: if I could transplant Lance Armstrong’s heart and lungs into you, do you think you could win the Tour de France? It is doubtful. Lance Armstrong was born with an enormous heart and lung capacity that he uses to full advantage because of the conditioning of his muscles. If he let his muscles decondition, he would puff and pant after a short run just like we would.

If you enjoy exercise and are willing to pay the price for your enjoyment in the potential for bunged up hips, knees, and ankles, then by all means do it. If you are exercising because you want to stay fit and you do it grudgingly just because you think you ought to and figure that soreness and injury are part of the price you have to pay to stay fit as you age, then pick up a copy of Slow Burn (get it at the library if you don’t want to buy it). You’ll learn how in less than half an hour per week you can stay fit and spend the rest of the time that your now spending on exercise doing something you really enjoy including just taking a long nap.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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41 thoughts on “Slow Burn Fitness for boomers

  1. I just checked my local library (I can do so online) and they do have a copy of the Eades’ Slow Burn, along with 7 other books named Slow Burn. The Eades’ book is checked out, so I will put a hold on it so that when it returns, I will be notified.

    What I have found to be the best exercise for me is bicycling. It’s non-impact, so I don’t stress the joints. Hills are great for intervals and getting the heart rate high. It also is good for building the additional capillaries that bring the extra oxygen and energy source into the muscles.

  2. I am 50 years old and I plan to do some triathlons in the future and also I want to learn how to surf… i really find it hard to believe that one short workout per week will give me the full range of benefits I get from my version of slow burn- (long, slow, steady workouts on land and in the pool, mixed with strength training and intervals). How could that possibly and prepare me adequately for these activities?

    just don’t buy it.

  3. This looks really interesting! I’m definitely going to check it out.

    One question though. You note that apparent CV “fitness” results primarily from the muscles ability to better utilize oxygen, etc. Are there no effective ways to “exercise” the heart and lungs? Or is there little need for this?

    Wouldn’t interval training (e.g., wind sprints) be a useful complement to slow burn training?

  4. Skeptical-

    I am skeptical too, but I read Protein Power, it was 100% against what I believed as a 25 year vegetarian. But, I was sick, in big trouble, and PP worked. I have had 6 years of success on PP. Based on my success on PP, I am confident betting that Slow Burn is also a winner. Mr Skeptical, when the Eades say they have the research to back them up, you should have a mountain of research that you understand intimately before you decide to discard their advice.

    My ski club has a wide age range of members, from young to very active 80+ year olds. Injuries to joints are frequent obstacles to continuing activity. One member, a physical thereapist, says that repairing old shoulders is very much like trying to patch old levi’s. The ligaments are thin and weak, repairs are difficult. So injury is not surprising and often happens with minor falls. Like the Times articles reports, being active doesnt prevent injuries.

    I am 67 years old, and Fred Hahn’s web site predicts I wont get as good a benefit as a 40 year old. I think Fred Hahn might be wrong because Dr Eades protocol for maximizing growth hormone release works great for me. I have more muscle now than any time in my life-and I spend only 20 min 3 times a week on strength training.

    So making sure that my ligaments are as strong as possible is my goal. And I am taking Fred Hahn and Dr Eades up on their promise Staying Power training will result in strong ligaments. Growth hormone release plus proper exercise should do the job.

    I just bought Staying Power from Amazon. I am looking forward to learning how to benefit from the knowledge that the most flexible athletes are gymnasts and weight lifters. At the gym, I see one person doing gymnast training workouts. I am very impressed by his power, speed, and flexibility. Many of the weight lifters I see are not impressive, many of them are injury prone and have unbalanced muscle development. Some are not flexible, but others are surprisingly flexible. I see a chance for me to learn a lot more about strength training and flexibility.

    I am having little success and satisfaction with the stretching movements I am now doing. Staying Powers promise to improve flexibility is very enticing.

  5. I’m glad to see another discussion about the heart and lung benefits of slow burn exercise. This is the hardest part of the program to understand/accept. My husband has been a runner for many years, and he is convinced his heart is much stronger than the average person because of all his running. His resting heart rate is so low that it scares nurses when he goes in for a physical and they take his pulse. Doesn’t his slow resting heart rate indicate a strong heart? BTW, I had him read this part of Slow Burn, which sounds logical to me, and he just can’t believe it.

  6. Thanks, Dr. E., for your clarification on this… I’ve always been skeptical and a bit turned off by the whole slow burn concept (i.e., it’s harder to lift weights using that method). Never really gave it a good chance to work with me. After reading the above, however, it’s definitely worth a re-visit.

  7. I read “Slow Burn” back when I first started PP and although it sounded interesting, I had a hard time trying to follow an exercise program from a book. However, maybe it’s time I give it another look. Right now, at age 43, I’m trying to find an exercise program that will keep me in reasonable shape without stressing out my already crummy knees that I inherited from my mom because I do not ever want to have replacement surgery. Both she and her sister have had bi-lateral knee replacements done (in fact, my mom’s first replacement which was done over 12 years ago is now wearing out and she has to get a new one.) My aunt’s doctor told her when she had hers done that she wouldn’t even be on his operating table if she hadn’t started to run and then do marathons when she was in her 60’s. Currently I do a lot of walking, being fortunate to live close by the Cherry Creek path here in Denver. It’s good for the soul, too, as I can listen to the running water, enjoy the ducks and watch the seasons change as I walk. Now it’s time to get serious about strength training again. I used to do that at the gym but in all honesty, I hated the gym environment and the “hamster in a treadmill” effect was depressing. Thanks for mentioning “Slow Burn” which I had forgotten all about! It’s definitely time to give it a second go.

  8. My mom is 70 years old, lost 70 pounds on Weight Watchers (and has kept it off) and goes to the gym almost every day. Sure she can’t do at 70 what I can do at 35, but she is in a seniors water fitness class and actually goes. And she’s never hurt herself.

    So it is possible to exercise, but no – you can’t do at 50 (or 70) what you did at 25. It won’t work.

    I often see an elderly Chinese couple at my gym and they use the treadmills, but they walk very slowly. People need to go at the level that will work for their age and fitness level. I certainly hope to be around at 70 years old and I want to still be active then, but I’m not going to be able to do an hour of hard cardio then like I do now.

  9. Skeptical: Slow burn is a structured approach to strength training which is time-efficient–leaving more time and recovery ability for you to enjoy THE SPORT OF TRIATHOLON. You do not need to do strength training–Slow Burn version or otherwise–anymore than you need to do triatholons…or brush your teeth for that matter–but it could help….

    Just make sure your concept of strength training is based upon Progressive Overload Principles–i.e.: GET STRONGER (measureably) over some time frame–vs. the “I do weights” mentality, which is what many people do. Further keep the pace between sets short enough while working hard enough to effect muscle AND heart.

  10. I actually DO like working out – go figure. I do 30 minutes of weight followed by 40-60 minutes of cardio. I keep having to ramp up the time and difficulty because eventually the challenging exercise gets too easy. I think I’m addicted to the endorphine rush. Ok, I *know* I’m addicted to it. I actually look forward to my gym days now. Me – the woman who at 206 pounds never did any more exercise than she had to.

    I love running, and look forward to the annual 12k race in this area (only a month away now!). I also anjoy short treadmill runs and long walks. On days I can’t get to the gym (and if it’s not raining), I walk the last leg to work (about a 25-30 minute walk from the train station).

  11. As a personal trainer, I often tell the story to clients of “cardio cats” I have taken through a STRENGTH TRAINING workout (though not classic slow burn–pretty close….) and blow their heart rate AND venelation rates through the roof. Some have actually gotten upset as the truth unfolds: Strength training CAN be structured to elicit a number of adaptive responses, depending on the goals at hand–EVEN cardiovascular.

    In the old days befor e the running craze and treadmills/stairsteppers, body pump, step class, blah, blah, blah,… it was called PHYSICAL CONDITIONING. Period.

    Virtually every sport we saw in the past olympics used–or can benefit from some intensive strength training to improve performance, guard against injury and prolong competitve careers. For regular folks it can result in better, faster changes in body composition, improvements in RATIONAL (who the heck NEEDS to run 26 miles–use your cell phone and call a wrecker!–or change the darn flat YOURSELF because you CAN get the lug nuts off AND lift the spare tire to your SUV onto the rim) and practical functionality.

    For most people, every kind of other conditioning or sport should spin off of strength training–with some tailoring to the persons individual needs and desires.

    If something else worked better, I’d be coaching THAT–but nothing else can provide the breadth and depth of benefits with so little risk to the body than properly conducted strength training. You don’t have to love it–just do it!

  12. TTraynor,

    I never liked strength training until I ramped it up and started seeing results. Not that I can lift a whole lot more, but at my last body comp test the trainer ran the numbers and told me I has slightly increased my muscle mass (1.8 pounds). That gave me the incentive I needed to keep doing it and pushing myself and I hope the news will be even better next time. :)

    Seeing the cold hard numbers of fat mass and lean mass was what did it for me. I started liking weight training a whole lot better after that. Now if I just had a little more testosterone so the buff guys around me wouldn’t make me look like a weakling…

  13. I do a cardio workout sixty to 90 minutes per day, six days a week, without fail (unless something really unusual comes up) I avoid injury by keeping my heart rate low-around 125, based on the maffetone method (180-your age and adjusted for your fitness level), and also by starting out slow and easy and only very gradually increasing my workout times and pace.

    why do I do this?
    1) I love the endorphin rush, makes me feel better almost all day long.
    2) I am building a base. In the near future, I’ll be adding intervals, and strenght training.
    3) according to the folks who wrote the book “Younger Next Year”, your body responds to exercise at this level by creating anti-inflammatory chemicals that counter your bodies natural and steady production of the opposite. In other words, your body’s natural thing is to slowy decay. That is the default mode. You can counter that only by daily exercise.

    I find it very hard to believe that one work out session per week would provide the same benefits. I think there is a lot more going on when you work out than just strengthening your muscles and ligaments. but hey, I could be wrong!

  14. “We told Fred we would think about the book project and left with a number of medical references he gave us.”

    I don’t suppose anyone (Fred included) could list the references he provided. Specifically those on slow speed training.

  15. yeah, I’d love to see references and actual evidence that this method works as described. I am sure it is a good method for strength training, but it’s the skip the cardio workouts that I find hard to swallow. Someone running marathon using this method alone would convince me!

  16. “I don’t suppose anyone (Fred included) could list the references he provided. Specifically those on slow speed training.”

    Viking Dan and others……Fred has additional information and articles posted on his website –
    http://www.seriousstrength.com

    Also some interesting articles at http://www.ultimate-exercise.com/

    Skeptical…..there are many ways to do strength training and achieve goods results. IMHO using a 10/10 (a.k.a. SlowBurn,SuperSlow,Power of 10) exercise protocol is the most ‘time efficient’ method to strengthen/build muscle and achieve an optimum level of fitness. The only way you’re going to find out is to give it a try. You’ll either love it or hate it!

  17. alpdiver,

    I’m not skeptical about the effectiveness of slow burn as a strength training protocol, I actually dont know enough about that to have an opinion. Sounds like it could work, tho some reviews I’ve read suggest it might not be practical because it is very hard to do correctly on your own.

    But anyway, it’s the “you dont need to do cardio exercise” part of the story that I have trouble buying into. It could be true, but I need convincing.

  18. As I read the skeptics comments, I too found it hard to believe; until I tried a super slow workout. Try a set of squats (I use racks to catch the weights, safety at all times)moving ultra slow, you will be breathing hard and shaking. It’s like doing sprints, and it will build you aerobically. I do want to point out that you CAN weight train and do a triathlon, if you like that kind of sport. Mark Allen, 6 time winner of the Ironman Championship in Hawaii started weight training and eating steak after his 3rd win, and IMPROVED his time, and became the oldest man to win the event. He did a whole body workout twice a week and had meat a couple of times per week. I understand he is retired from racing, but still lifts. I was a runner, then started lifting 20 years ago. On occasion, I do like to ride my mountain bike, hike, play hockey and softball, but I do those for fun. My endurance for those sports has been improved through weight training. I don’t do the super slow all of the time, I do rotate a variety of routines. Weight training along with the high protein diet works.

  19. This has ben a great series of comments and I’ve learned a lot!

    Anyone who wants to see the research Dr. Eades mentioned in the Slow Burn post send me an email.

    On flexibility: Flexibility has a huge genetic componant to it. AS I sit here and write this I can drop into a full split at 44 years old and I do not stretch at all, ever. Some people stretch day in and day out and never come close to what I can do with ease and without a warm up of any kind. Why is this so? GENETICS. Same goes for big muscles. How flexible are you supposed to be anyway? Did you know that the term ‘muscular flexibility’ is a misnomer?

    As for the cardio issue, here’s the deal:

    If you want to become conditioned for a specific sport or endeavor, you must practice that sport or endeavor as perfectly as you can (just be careful and don’t overdo it – rest and recovery are vital to best results). To put it bluntly, if you want to be a competitive triathlete, you bet your Buster Brown’s you’ll have to run, cycle and swim. Strength training is not enough. You can’t get good at Golf either if all you do is strength train – capeesh? YES, it’s the SAME thing.

    BUT strength training will GREATLY aid you in your chosen endeavors. Moreso than most people have any idea.

    But this is separate from enhancing every aspect of your health. Lance Armstrong’s heart is NOT healtheir than my heart just because it beats slower. And his slow resting HR is due to shifts and specific adaptations in hormonal tone and the efficiency of his muscles (the amount of mitochondria specifically) to remove O2 not beacuse it is a stronger heart.

    IMHO, hearts like Lance’s are in worse shape – not better. But that is just my opinion. Forcing any internal organ to work extremely hard for long periods of time is never good for them. And yes, the heart is a muscle BUT even working your biceps very hard for long periods of time is not good. It will result in atrophy and inflammation. To my mind, the athlete’s heart is overworked and overtaxed. We see the runner and think “Wow she must have a healthy cardio system.” Think again.

    It’s the same when we (well, not US but the worldview) see people eat steak and eggs. We think “My god his heart is going to explode someday if he keeps eating all that fat.” ‘Course, nothing could be further from the truth.

    So, no, you do not NEED traditonal cardio for keeping your ticker healthy and strong if you strength train properly 1-2 (at most 3) times a week for 15 -20 minutes each time. The science exists. Even the AHA admitted, no, sent out a scientific advisory in May of 2000 stating that strength training does in fact improve cardiovascular health all on it’s own.

    It’s has been so hard for me over the years to explain to people the difference. Strength training, if you do it right, gives a person everything they need for health. Everything. Most people have been terribly brainwashed by the fitness industry – moreso than the diet industry I believe. Some people get so mad when I tell them they don’t need aerobics it’s like I said God doesn’t exist.

    BOTTOMLINE: Strength train properly to stay healthy and strong AND so that you can engage in your favorite pasttime activities (if that’s your chioce) with more vim and vigor and for many more years than you would have been able to.

  20. i have done slow burn in the past and enjoyed it alot i have a full gym in my garage almost but i liked the program it worked great for me and i am thinking of starting it up again real soon here i didn’t do the pp eating program but my wife was doing atkins at that point so that is how i ate most of the time i lost weight and built muscle and it made me feel very good i would reccommend the program to others and i need to get back in shape so i will be doing this program again and will check into some of the other books that are written about slow burn i thought i would offer my .02 cents

    Hi Terry–

    Thanks for the comment.

    Best–

    MRE

  21. It appears slowburn is a prescription to increase VO2 max?

    Hi busrider–

    Not exactly. The best explanation I’ve found on this subject is by Doug McGuff, M.D., a doc from my old alma mater. He is an ER doc and has a Super Slow training center in South Carolina (Super Slow is a brand name for a slow-training method similar to Slow Burn). He has some informative articles on his website.

    Click here for his website, then go to ‘Articles’ then read “The Relationship Between Muscular, Cardiovascular, and Metabolic Adaptations: An Opinion” and “Cardiovascular Adaptations.”

    Hope this helps.

    MRE 

  22. I live in the UK but visit my sister in Washington DC every year. She has been a fan of slow burn workouts for the last 8 years, seeing her through a wedding and having two kids, and she is incredibly fit with just 2 half hour sessions a week. The only thing I can see in London is called Keiser training, which appears to also have the adapted weights machines that prevent you from having a resting point. Does anyone know if Keiser training is the same thing?

    Hi Laura–

    Yes, Keiser training is pretty much the same as Slow Burn.

    Good luck.

    MRE

  23. I’ve just ordered the book, but I’d love some reassurance that this can really be done at home, rather than at a gym. I live in Manhattan and gym memberships (I recently let mine expire) cost a FORTUNE. Not to mention they include lots of things I never used, like classes, and that attending the gym was like going to a discotheque, even on the so-called ‘quiet floor’.

    However, my apartment is teensy weensy so no room for a piece of exercise equipment. Other than the normal daily walking Manhattanites do, I’m not getting any exercise, certainly no strength-building exercise. The idea of being able to work out in my living room with some small weights and a chair could spell the difference between working out or not for me.

    Yes, the book will show you how to do it in a teensy weensy apartment.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  24. I am in my fith month of this with a trainer and am about ready to give it up. I told myself I would give it six months but I do not see any significant improvement.

    Are you sure your trainer knows how to do it properly? It’s not as easy as it seems.

  25. Ken,

    Feel free to contact me at FHahn@seriousstrength.com. I’ll give you all the help you need.

    Ideas: Your trainer might be using a system called superslow which usually uses very light weights for very long set times. This will get you nowhere.

    If you are not feeling like a piece of flotsam after your workout you are not training intensely enough.

    Diet also affects results. If you are not eating enough protein or calories no strength training program will work.

    Lastly what sort of results are you expecting? After 5 months of twice weekly training you should have added 5-10 pounds of lean and, unless you are morbidly obese, lost most if not all of the fat you wanted to. If not you are simply not following the diet plan properly.

    Again, feel free to email me and we’ll get to the bottom of it!

  26. Fred,

    I have doing SuperSlow for 3 years. I can assure you that my program is neither light weights, high reps or repeated sets.

  27. Ideas: Your trainer might be using a system called superslow which usually uses very light weights for very long set times. This will get you nowhere.

    Fred, my comment is intended to address this statement. SS protocol has no similarity to this description. I have had great results (58 years old) particularly the end of 30 years of terrible back pain. Due to the intense nature of SS protocol I have also realized significant strength gains. My comment only reflects my puzzlement at your statement about SS because I feel that SS and your methods are very similar.

    I am an avid reader of your website and feel very fortunate that because of you, I became aware of the Eades books. They have opened my eyes to a new way of eating.

    There is a similarity between high intensity training and low carb eating. Both regimes are counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom, but are based on sound science. This is an indictment of the so-called experts in these fields. I think the worst (best) example of this is the popularity of steady state aerobic exercise.

    Fred I am a huge fan of yours, but at the risk of incurring your wrath (just kidding) I disagree with your statement about a set lasting longer than 80 seconds will be using light weights. If one were lifting 6 reps with a 10 second positive and a 10 second negative the duration would be 120 seconds. Assuming muscle failure is reached I suggest even though it took 120 seconds this is well within the parameters of high intensity exercise. Of course if one lifts more weight at 4 reps and 80 seconds (again assuming muscle failure) it is even more intense but this requires an experienced lifter to safely maintain form. In my program I have at times performed only 3 reps to failure so I do have experience with short duration lifting.

    I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to SS (by chance), your website and the Drs. Eades. It has changed my life for the better.

  28. Ah – you are Gary now – you were Ken before. That’s why I got confused.

    Thanks for being a fan!!I’m very glad you’re feeling the positive effects of Slow Burn and PP. Just to clarify – I didn’t say you were using light weights – I said fairly light. I did not know your set times were at the 120 second mark. Research shows that this is at the very high end of beneficial; it is certainly not well withing the parameteters of HIT.

    But hey – if you are indeed getting benefits from such an approach, keep up the good work! Fell free to ask for any tips if need be.

    Cheers,
    Fred

  29. Sorry for the confusion Fred, but I was responding only to this portion of your opinion of SS expressed in your answer to Ken which I have pasted here:

    Ideas: Your trainer might be using a system called superslow which usually uses very light weights for very long set times. This will get you nowhere.

    It is the first time I have read anything by you that, in my opinion, is incorrect. (Maybe we just have a misunderstanding of the term superslow.) I do not consider my superslow workout to be very light or. for that matter even fairly light, plus I have had very good results.

    I do not have a set time of 120 seconds. Whenever I am able to do 6 reps of a given exercise more weight is added for the next session. I have at times been as low as 3 reps. As a matter of fact, as I’m sure you can attest to in your workout, there are times when I have doubts that I can get the weight started. That. in my mind indicates high intensity.

    As you know 6 reps of a given exercise to muscle failure, though less intense than 4 reps to failure produces greater muscle inroad and though less weight,it can knock you on your ass just as hard (sometimes harder?) because of added cardiovascular distress.

    If HIT advocates (I count myself as one) want to realize cardiovascular gains I think it is reasonable to go to 6 reps at times. After all there is a limit to how much weight one can lift. To achieve greater intensity in a workout one need only add weight. Logically one will soon enough reach weights that are difficult to improve upon. The next goal in a workout then becomes squeezing out one more rep.

    I am going to consider your statement that 6 reps are not well within the parameters of HIT and look forward to any further comments from you.

    The very best to you,

    Gary

  30. I am about to freak – who said this:

    “I am in my filth month of this with a trainer and am about ready to give it up. I told myself I would give it six months but I do not see any significant improvement.”

    THIS is who I was talking to.

    Not you Gary.

  31. Fred,

    Ken wrote:
    “I am in my fifth month of this with a trainer and am about ready to give it up. I told myself I would give it six months but I do not see any significant improvement.”

    You responded to Ken writing:
    “Ideas: Your trainer might be using a system called superslow which usually uses very light weights for very long set times. This will get you nowhere.”

    That’s when Gary chimed in, stating:
    “I have doing SuperSlow for 3 years. I can assure you that my program is neither light weights, high reps or repeated sets.”

    The issue is not who said what. The issue is what your critique of SuperSlow is.

    Both SS and SB have 10/10. That’s not the difference.

    SB uses 60-90 seconds. SS typically uses 80-120 seconds.
    You are claiming that >80 seconds does not provide adequate stimulation. Gary says that in his case, it does. I am just starting and have been doing 60-90. I would like to lift as heavily as I can without sacrificing safety.

    Fred, you have written recently that the SS concept of inroad is not sound. I would like to understand better why you believe that.

    Thanks,
    moises

  32. Moises,

    Although I have only 3 years experience with SS I have the advantage of access to proper equipment and one of the most experienced trainers around. From a safety standpoint I would suggest you perform a MINIMUM of 6 reps before adding weight (120 seconds at 10-10).

    I say this Moises because you are a beginner. Once you have developed better technique then you can lift greater weight with less time under load, and less chance of injury. If you do not have an experienced trainer and proper equipment even this protocol can be risky.

    There is absolutely no limiting factor with this protocol as long as you keep progressing in your program (moving up in weights). In my case I am still getting stronger, even at 58 years of age. If one is lucky enough to continue getting stronger (safely) that should be proof a program is working well. Keep in mind every person will have a different response (genetics) to a given training regime.

    Even with this conservative approach you will soon enough reach the upper limits of your potential and then its a matter of gutting out smaller increments of strength gains. The intensity will come faster than you can believe.

    I was lucky to meet the right trainer. I think this is the most important factor and it is probably the most difficult part.

    Good Luck,

    Gary

  33. Gary and Moises,

    Careful not to fall into what I call the ‘rep trap.’ Many HIT/Superslow trainees spend far to much time using weights that are far too light and wait far too long to get a certain rep number before adding weight. EX: If you are doing the leg press exercise for 2 minute sets using 300 pounds I put to you that you could use 400 pounds right now. Going from 300 pounds to 302, 304, etc. will do you little good if you are already capable of 400. In fact, you will give yourself a false sense of progress.

    I also do not agree that you should lift 10/10 strictly (depedns on the exercise) nor do I think that 2 minute sets will do you much good.

  34. Gary,

    I am glad SS has worked so well for you and I appreciate your concern for my well-being.

    I always approach any new exercise and any new routine with caution. I have been lifting for years, despite being a beginner with SS-SB. What attracts me to the slow approach is the unwavering commitment to good form above all.

  35. Fred:

    This is Marc Noel, Master SuperSlow Instructor, who is Gary’s instructor. You commented about the 400 lbs. vs. 300 notion years ago, but I replied at that time that the issue wasn’t whether the person could lift 400. It was whether they could lift it for two minutes. Yes, Gary might be able to use more weight for a shorter time, but that’s not the point. It is to get him to the point where he can lift it for the same amount of time. Just like with McGuff’s Signature Time Under Load, if a subject stagnates at a certain rep count/time, they are progressed in weight. This occurs with Gary in some exercises. If a person is able to show progress, then there must be productivity. Sometime in the past, someone put forth the notion that a person would be stronger/bigger doing four reps with heavier weights, and continuing in that fashion, instead of eventually being able to use those same weights for eight reps. I said “Do you mean to tell me that I will be stronger/bigger if I can do four reps with a given weight than if I can do eight reps with it? This means that the more I can do, the smaller I get, even though the weight remains the same.” Moving along, I have experimented with lower TULs, but have found them to be excessively heavy, thereby encroaching on safety, and also dramatically intimidating for some people, so much so, that, sometimes, an individual can’t even start the movement. I will progress someone if they are stagnant, but I’ve yet to encounter someone who hasn’t been able to progress beyond four reps or 80 seconds. Also, you might remember in some dialogues along the way, that I’ve had to remind some associates that we are trying to address all aspects of fitness simultaneously, not just strength, so I prefer to keep rep count higher for the conditioning aspect. Once again, if a person can’t get there, I’ll put them up in weight, but I prefer to look at the entire picture, for example, taking into account what the person did on the first three exercises before assessing the last three, meaning, if he did two more reps on leg press, then matched on pull-down, it’s probably because he started pull-down extra-tired. I’ll wait to observe a pattern before making a change.

    As an example of how heavy the weights used here are, I’ve had the Kevlar belt break on my vintage Nautilus Compound Leg Press (modified for belt/pulleys) twice. The belt is rated at 4,400 lbs.

    Something else to consider is: if a person is doing eight reps, it might be that they have stimulated an improvement by rep six, and the rest is superfluous. However, if they come in the door not feeling up to speed, then, if they are trying to beat last time’s seven reps, yet stall out at six, they’ve accomplished something. But if the recommended rep count/TUL is extremely low, they might not even meet the minimum. Besides, it appears that numerous individuals can still fall apart under sufficient duress, meaning that if the load is sufficiently ponderous, they might end up invoking discrepancies and hurt themselves. In comparison, a bit lighter (not light) weight might enable them to go far enough to stimulate an improvement, but not with so much duress as to fall apart.

    For me, I cut myself off at ten reps (either 10/5 or 10/10, as per the Second Edition of the SS Technical Manual; haven’t seen a justification for 10/10 on leg press or chest press), using a metronome to enforce proper form and consistency. I used to cut off at six, then got to a point where I felt like I was being crushed in the equipment. The target musculatures could handle the load, but the rest of me didn’t like it. So I cut off at eight, then encountered the same thing. Now I’m cutting off at ten, but am concerned about what will happen when/if I get to ten with my previous high weights.

  36. Hi Marc – your post is very long so I’ll just hit the highlights as best I can. And let’s assume the client is training using good form, is in good spirits, ate well, slept well, etc.

    There are perhaps 3 dozen theorized mechanisms for muscle failure only one of which is total fiber recruitment. Just because you fail in an exercise does not mean you have called all of the fibers into play.

    What do you think is lifting the 400 pounds as opposed to the 300? You guessed it.

    What I neglected to mention was that I have found very similar TCF’s using very different weight loads. EX: If I use 270# in pullover I fail in 50 seconds. If I use 220 I fail in 60. Not much different TCF’s for vastly different loads. But If I try 275# I can barely eek out a rep.

    I have honed in on the target. TCF’s of 90 seconds plus miss the target entirely.

    And the bottom line is not if Gary is getting stronger it is if he is getting more muscular. Is he? How do you know? Before we got our Bioanalogics device over two years ago we assumed that if a person got stronger they added muscle and would lose some fat. Nope. Some clients insist on light weights for long set times because they have difficulty with the feeling of a heavier weight or cannot for other reasons. These folks when tested on the machine sometimes showed a loss of lean tissue. Not much, but some. ALL of the clients that were in the TCF range of 40-80 gained.

    Personally I have added 12 pounds of lean tissue in 2 years. My TCF’s range from 40-70.

    Here’s a free tip for what it’s worth – if a client CAN move a weight fast say in a 1-2 second positive, the weight is far too light. The weight should be heavy enough that a 1 second positive is impossible right from the first rep.

    Rep tempo should be dictated more by the weight rather than imposed upon by the trainee.

    The SS tech manual is fraught with mistakes. The concept of thorough inroad is faulty. The idea of a perfect rep speed is nonsense.

    If the weight feels as if it can’t be moved by the client, as I mention in Slow Burn, then you are on the right track for weight load.

    Speaking of weight load, here’s another tip for what it’s worth – when a client feels they can’t start the exercise, help the client and start the client in the negative. Have them hold the most contracted position for 5 seconds or so, then allow them to descend slowly and you will see them perform the positive with little trouble.

    Marc, I have been training folks like this for years and we never have a safety problem. Never. We are putting slabs of muscle on folks and clients are quite happy.

    You mentioned high reps for conditioning – like Adam Zickerman you misunderstand the cardio aspect of strength training. Strength training should not be used to mimic aerobics by elongating sets out of the anaerobic range. You don’t need to do this for strength training to improve total mitochondria. As long as you are causing hypertrophy and working the muscles anaerobically, mitochondria will proliferate. Eating a diet high in good fats will further improve mitochondria.

    Again the bottom line is: Are our clients adding muscle tissue. Using strength gains as the only measure of progress is insufficient. It can lead one far astray. If set times drag on past 100 seconds, there are diminishing returns.

    Load dictates fiber recruitment. If the muscles perceive a light load it is my opinion that even if you reach failure you will not have recruited all of the fibers. My experiments with vastly different weights for very similar TCF’s indicate this may be true. I can remember doing strict super slow (remember I was one of the original 10 master SS instructors) for 2 years and thinking “Where is my added muscle?” My body didn’t change a jot.

  37. Fred:

    Great stuff! Holy Smokes! 12 pounds in 2 years? That’s fantastic! How does your physique compare now with what we see on the cover of your Slow Burn book? Wonderful, wonderful. I’ve wondered about the size vs. strength bit myself, because I’ve found it so hard to believe that training in an inefficiently loaded manner is better than in an efficient one. All right; I’ll try it again with myself, to see what’s possibly going on.

    How are you dealing with the possibility of some people feeling that the weight’s so heavy they’re feeling crushed? Also, I wasn’t meaning that the heavier weight was GOING to injure people; rather, that it just increased injury potential.

    By the way, Drew Baye has commented about needing more negative excursions to promote better mass gains. Have you incorporated something to accommodate that?

    Marc

  38. Fred:

    I forgot to ask. Please confirm the following scenario: A person is doing, say, 400 lbs. for 80 seconds, and they’ve acquired a certain amount of muscle mass by that point. Are you saying that if they were to stay at that weight, to see if they could increase their time with it (say, to 180 seconds), they would start getting smaller, even though their strength is going up? Strength would have to go up, because one must be stronger to go twice as long with a given weight. Otherwise, no matter how long they could go with 400 lbs., they wouldn’t be able to lift 401 once. And, as you stated, instead of using 300 for 120 seconds, one might be able to use 400 for 80, so they are related to each other. Use less for longer; more for shorter.

    Marc

  39. Drew is a smart guy but until anyone can produce standardized pix and research which indicate that more lighter negs are better than fewer heavier ones, I’m sticking to heavIER weight loads.

    As for you 400 pound scenario, would they get smaller? Well, we know that 180 seconds is a poor stimulus for building mass. We know that if we are not getting larger or maintaining mass we are getting smaller.

    I do not think you will ever see a person go from 80 seconds to 180 by using the same weight load to get there. If it was to happen, it would have more to do with neurological factors than actual muscle mass. The only way to go from 400 for 80 secs to 400 for 180 secs is to increase the load every time you train until you are using a good deal more weight for the same 80 secs. Once at 600 for 80 secs I can see the person doing 400 for 180.

    As for your idea of not being able to do 401 once – um – I don’t follow.

    Marc for years I used strict superslow and while it burned and was hard I built very little muscle – none in fact really. Once I realized that to fail in the same time frame using 2/4 Nautilus tempo you needed a heavier weight – not a lighter one as SS suggests, it struck me light a bolt of lightening. Slow Burn was born and I started gaining more mass. Too bad I realized this at 43.

    I welcome you to join in on our discussion forum. Go to http://www.seriousstrength.yuku.com We really hash it out there!!