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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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'Super Slow,' high-intensity training an intriguing approach to conditioning

Despite the fact it's now possible to find a book, online promotion or latest expert touting the value of virtually every form of exercise or workout regimen, the routine known as "super slow" has stood the test of time, gathering evangelical adherents across the country though being only vaguely familiar to many people.

Ann-Marie Garrett-Anderson chuckles at that reality as she talks about her quarter century ann marieexperience guiding clients through the few-minutes-a-week routine called High Intensity Training that is taken from the "SuperSlow" process devised more than 40-plus years ago by high-intensity guru Ken Hutchins.

Hutchins defined and popularized his trademarked SuperSlow form of resistance training exercise and developed methodology, trainer certifications and exercise equipment working specifically with Nautilus, the exercise-equipment manufacturer that had developed :"strength training principles."

The bible of the high-intensity disciples is Body by Science, co-authored by Doug McGuff, M.D., who throughout his medical career has maintained a focus on high-intensity exercises culminating in the late '90s with his opening Ultimate Exercise, his own high-intensity gym.

Ann-Marie's late husband, Greg, was in the forefront of the nationally recognized evangelists of the high-intensity regimen and she is now on the list of most recognized practitioners.

It was with the guidance of friends that I discovered Ann-Marie, and her Ideal Exercise gym, first facility west of the Mississippi to employ the SuperSlow approach, as I sought ways to treat my body in a manner that hopefully maintains its performance despite advancing age.

But as I came to learn about SuperSlow, I have been surprised that it has gained so little visibility if for no other reason than its role as a process proven to combat osteoporosis in the elderly.

A key challenge for higher visibility for Super Slow, the High Intensity Training routine as applied in the Seattle and Bellevue gyms that Anderson and her late husband Greg founded 23 years ago, is that the 10- to 12-minutes a week approach isn't likely to be promoted by conventional gyms or fitness clubs. The goal of such facilities, obviously, is to build clientele who maximize rather than minimize use.

Another is the challenge of a counterintuitive idea that a few minutes a week can keep the body highly fit.

"When a wife or husband comes in, the spouse almost routinely teases about 'you can't do anything in 10 minutes a week," Anderson says with a laugh. "But eventually the spouse sees the results and comes in themselves."

But once attracted, the staying power of the workout routine on the array of Nautilus devices is dramatic.

"I have eight clients who've done the whole 23 years and most clients have been with us for more than 10 years," Anderson says. "For some families, where children as young as 12 and the parents train with us, we're kind of their primary health care."

SuperSlow workouts, which are actually high-intensity, slow-motion strength training, typically consist of one set on each of five or six Nautilus units, each set carried out to complete muscle fatigue. Hutchins recommends performing each set for between 100 and 240 seconds, depending on the exercise and the subject's capability.

Obviously, the weight on my sets is well below the weight on the units for the high school and college athletes training there.

Interestingly, It's probably the only activity where the point is to fail, no matter what your performance capabilities.

Take the example of the leg press, doing six to nine repetitions over a couple of minutes, until your leg muscles are burning and you want to quit, but you have to continue until you physically can't complete another, and that's the point where you fail. Your legs feel like noodles. Then on to the next machine, until a full body workout of repeated "failures" is achieved.

As Anderson explained to me prior on my first visit: since the body is being stressed to the max, rest and recovery are essential. She recommends almost a week for recovery, explaining that when the body is rested, it adapts to the overload and is able to do more the next time. Thus a few more pounds for each machine and an additional repetition await on the next visit to her gym.

The way osteoporosis came into the equation is when Hutchins and his wife, in 1982, conducted the "Nautilus osteoporosis study" at the University of Florida Medical School and found that the slow-moving, controlled-exercise approach was effective in building bone density in elderly women with osteoporosis.

Entrepreneur Sandy Wheeler, the founder of equipment maker BowFlex, which owned Nautilus for a number of years, recalled in a telephone conversation that the company did a project with Tufts University to measure how use of the equipment improved the bone density of people in their 80s and 90s.

As I was researching the whole high-intensity thing, I ran across an interesting explanation from one expert: "there's an inverse relationship between exercise duration and intensity. Meaning, if you run for a long time, it must be low intensity--you can't sprint for miles. If you do sprint--which is high intensity--it must be a short distance. It's the same with high-intensity strength training."

Or as Anderson put it:" You can train hard or you can train long. It's physically impossible to do both. When you move slowly, your muscles can't rely on momentum, so they are forced to work harder through the entire range of motion."

Early on, I questioned Anderson about how focus on muscle-strengthening exercises benefitted cardio maintenance, to which she replied: "the muscular system is the only path into all the other systems from respiratory to cardio-vascular to endocrine and skeletal.

"When you work the muscular system to capacity and get as strong as you can, all the other systems up-regulate to support that muscular system," she added.

There has apparently been a resurgence of interest in the "SuperSlow" approach, not surprising with people facing busier schedules and retirees living longer and seeking to stay fit into older age.

Normal 0 false false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE As a result, Anderson is creating a certification program for employees that could allow her to expand beyond her two Seattle-area gyms as well as focus on outreach to specific audiences and age groups.

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