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Super Slow Resistance Training

Today I wrap up my series on exercise with the actual routine that I’m using.

My Definition of The Ideal Exercise Routine

Let’s recap the key attributes of the routine I was searching for.

  • Increase the metabolic efficiency of my muscles (i.e. the endurance)
  • Increase strength so that I can do more with less effort
  • Reduce percentage of body fat (Of course diet is more important than exercise in this regard.)
  • I want a whole body workout - Research shows that metabolic improvements are muscle site specific. That is, running, for example, won’t make you aerobically fit for rowing because the muscles used are different.
  • Be safe and unlikely to cause injury - A recent study found that 60% of runners and practitioners of aerobics will have an injury in any given year. That means a better than 50/50 chance of injury!
  • Avoid repetitive movements - Our joints are mechanical structures and there is just no way to avoid wear and tear from repetitive motions. We get enough from day to day activities. No need to deliberately add more as part of our exercise routine.
  • Be time efficient

    Exercise IS Medicine

    In the first post in this series I mentioned the ideas of intensity, dosage and frequency with regard to exercise. Here’s mine.

    Intensity – To failure on each exercise with resistance sufficient to induce failure in about 2 min.
    Dosage – One set of 6 repetitions each of 5 different multi-muscle group resistance exercises

    Frequency – Once per week.

     Total time in the gym from in-the-door to out-the-door about 30 minutes, once per week. Actual time spent exercising per week, 15 min, including time to set up each exercise.

    The Basic Big-5 Routine

    I do these exercises in a gym using nautilus-style resistance machines. But, if that is not practical, you could just as well use resistance bands or even body-weight exercises. I recommend against using free-weights because it increases the chance of injury and requires a partner to be done safely.

    The routine I use is a variation of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This style of exercise is increasing in popularity and is recommended by many top health experts. But, most do this on a treadmill or elliptical machine. That’s a valid option but it introduces repetitive motions into the mix and I want to avoid those.

    The variation of HIIT I use is called Super Slow Resistance Training (SSRT). This routine was developed by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little.

    Here’s the routine;

    First, for each exercise you need to find your optimal resistance. I explained how to do this in my previous post. You’ll need a “throw-away” session in the gym finding the proper resistance. Take the time to do that or your first few sessions will be an exercise in frustration. Once you’ve found the correct resistance;

  • Chest press machine – 6 repetitions (or until failure) performed 10 seconds pushing and 10 seconds returning to the start position.
  • Rowing Machine - 6 repetitions (or until failure) performed 10 seconds pulling and 10 seconds returning to the start position.
  • Pull-down Machine - 6 repetitions (or until failure) performed 10 seconds pulling and 10 seconds returning to the start position.
  • Shoulder Press Machine - 6 repetitions (or until failure) performed 10 seconds pushing and 10 seconds returning to the start position.
  • Leg Press Machine - 6 repetitions (or until failure) performed 10 seconds pushing and 10 seconds returning to the start position.
  • That’s it. That simple. No muss, no fuss.

    A couple of key points,

  • NO rest between exercises. You’ll want to go to the next machine and next exercise as fast as you can. Preferrably, pre-load the machines with your desired resistance.
  • Practice active breathing for the last couple of reps to really maximize oxygen availability. See the videos for what I mean by this. It’s kind of like the breathing women sometimes use during labor.
  • Allow at least one week between workouts. The better shape you are in, the greater the time between workouts.

    A Couple Of Examples

    I realize the routine is hard to imagine. So here are links to a couple of videos.

    I chose these two because they are both people who are clearly not body-builder types. I want to emphasize that this routine can be done by anyone and is especially appropriate for seniors.

    (Pay close attention to her breathing as she approaches "failure." She skips one of the exercises. That's a personal preference.)



    Your Trainer Will Hate This Routine

    I already know that some of you are going to tell your fitness trainer about this routine and he/she is going to explain to you why this is stupid. The best educated of them will even be able to spout lots of scientific sounding reasons why. I submit to you that they’ve been misled.But I’m not asking you to take me on faith. Try it for say 12 weeks. Measure your results and pay attention to how you feel. If you don’t feel more energy and able to do more with less effort, then go back to your regular routine. What have you lost? But you owe to yourself to give it a try.


    The Psychological Challenges Are the Hardest

    This routine is hard. I never said it would be easy. I said it would be more time efficient and better for your long-term fitness. But not easy.

    There are four psychological factors adding to the perceived difficulty.

    It's Not Easy Being Green

    First, it’s just different than what we're used to and what everyone else in the gym is doing. If you are like me and you’ve worked out 3 times per week for years, it just feels strange to work out just once per week. Plus, it feels like everyone else in the gym is staring at you (They’re probably not by the way. Most people in the gym are fully absorbed with how they are being perceived.) And, it very likely that some well-meaning person or trainer will interrupt you to explain that what you are doing is wrong.


    Gym Envy

    Also, if you are a man, you are pre-programmed to be competitive with other males. You are likely to look over at the guy on the machine next to you and see he’s using a lot more weight than you. You will be constantly tempted to compete. That’s the wrong method. If you want to compete with that guy, estimate his time under-load (TUL) compared to yours. After a few weeks you will likely be out performing him.

    I So Don't Wanna Finish This Set

    Second, your body is programmed to avoid strenuous exercise. If you are using the correct resistance, about 2/3 through any given exercise you body releases a bunch of chemicals that make you suddenly feel incredibly fatigued. You’re not, it’s a chemical response. But for a few moments, everything in your body is telling you , “quit”. But to actually realize the benefits of this routine you have to push past that.


    I Don't want To Be On the Lunch Menu

    Third, remember the discussion in an earlier post about the tiger? In order to realize the full benefits of this routine you have to push yourself into the anaerobic phase of exercise. This is a final burst of energy that is normally held in reserve for life and death situations. So, guess what else happens in life and death situations? Your body releases a bunch of hormones including adrenaline.

    That hormone release is key because it mobilizes fat burning metabolism thus helping with weight loss. But guess how it feels? Here’s a clue. What would it feel like to be chased by a tiger. Scary. And that’s how it feels when those same hormones are released during a workout. Even though you are in no actual danger, suddenly it feels like something really bad is about to happen. You have to push past that also.

    It’s not easy. I mention it because labeling and expecting those psychological events makes them easier to deal with. In the end, I find it’s worth it. I’ll update you how my own work out is going once in a while. I hope if you give it a try, you will do the same by leaving a comment here.


    Are you Ready For It?... Here's The Big Sales Pitch

    One last-last thing, I received more than one email during this blog post sequence like this one from a customer,

    “You’ve lost me as a customer! I have zero tolerance for promotional Bull^&*#. I don’t know what you are planning to sell me with this, but I’m not buying.”

    I always hate to lose a customer. But I honestly have nothing exercise related to sell. I don’t make exercise videos or fitness shakes and don’t plan to start (maybe a Chi-Kung or Taichi video someday if my teacher okays it). I learned a lot from Dr. McGuff’s and I thought some of you would benefit from it as well.

    So here’s my sales pitch. If you enjoyed this series or found it interesting, please keep buying my tea and maybe recommend us to a friend.

    I would greatly appreciate it. Have a great and healthy day.

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