Bob Sickle approached me at the gym to ask about a style of training he’d been experimenting with. He showed me an article from Frederick Hahn, who owns Slow Burn, a New York gym, and also co-authored The Slow Fitness Revolution.
The article he handed me was titled “A stronger body in only 30 minutes a week.” I was skeptical based on the title alone. In the opening paragraph, the article states “conventional strength training requires several hours a week and frequently causes injuries to muscles and joints.
Yes, strength training requires time. The Slow Burn method claims you can get a full workout in 15 minutes, twice a week is all you need, compared to at least three hours of conventional lifting. The article fails to mention how much time people spend watching Netflix and playing on social media. Is three hours that unreasonable? Three one hour workouts a week?
The other part of the sentence, “...frequently causes injuries.” is also questionable. Weight lifting is not the problem. Poor posture creating a lack of mobility, lack of knowledge of proper technique, letting ego determine the weight load being lifted, and a general “not knowing what you’re doing or acting stupid” are the cause of most injuries. If you don’t know how to properly move, your body will compensate to stop you from hurting yourself. The compensating muscles weren’t meant for it and will eventually give out.
We haven’t even explained what Slow Burn actually is. The method calls for performing three to six repetitions for one set. The catch is you’re supposed to perform each exercise for 10 seconds on the way down AND on the way up. What’s the point? According to the article:
•It’s safer - slow lifting reduces injury-causing stress on ligaments, tendons, and joints.
My thoughts: Sure, being in control of the weight is good. We’ll explore why 10 seconds is way too much later.
•It’s more effective - without the aid of momentum, more muscle fibers are exercised with each movement.
My thoughts: Misleading. Strength is the ability to generate force. We don’t have space to learn about muscle fiber recruitment, but a simple enough concept to understand is progressive overload. Over time, your body will get more efficient at whatever you challenge it with. This is called the SAID principle, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. Progressive overload means that you need to continually increase the challenge for your body to keep growing. If you keep using the same weight, your body gets more efficient and the workout becomes ineffective.
•The third reason listed is “it’s more efficient - you can get a complete workout in 30 minutes each week, compared to three hours of conventional lifting.”
My thoughts: You can really save time by not going to the gym at all. It’s become trendy to try to find “bio-hacks” to get the benefits of working out without, you know, all that work.
For myself and my clients, training is not the be-all end-all of life. 30-60 minutes, three to five days a week is plenty. You don’t need two hour long workouts six days a week. You just need to focus on doing what’s important when you are actually training. So why is 10 seconds too long?
To get stronger you need the right mix of frequency (so your muscles adapt), intensity (so your muscles are actually challenged), and volume (to tell your body this is going to keep happening so it better learn to adapt).
The article lists push ups as one of the exercises. We’ll use that as an example. Take a guy that can do 30 push ups. If he were to perform them with the Slow Burn 10 second tempo, I would bet he couldn’t even get to 5 repetitions.
Let’s say this guy does the 5 slow push ups twice a week, compared to the 30 he could do. The volume of work he’s doing goes in the toilet. 10 push ups vs 60. With exercises that require weights, the same problem happens. A person will not be able to handle anywhere near the same amount of weight compared to moving at a natural speed.
Multiply that by the 10 exercises recommended for a “complete workout” and it’s not hard to see how slow training doesn’t add up.