Want a more effective workout? Picture this: You are sitting on an overhead press machine (image above), or holding two dumbbells and pressing the weight overhead over and over again with the intention of building muscle strength and definition to the shoulder girdle. The “typical” formula used in gyms is performing “3 sets of 15 repetitions (or reps)” of each exercise you do. There is a more effective workout! Read on:
Do the math
If you do the math, in the case of the shoulder press, that means you are lifting heavy weight overhead 45 times. Yes, you will build strength and definition in the shoulders, but have you ever stopped to think about the damage or wear and tear you are bringing to that shoulder joint. Is that wear and tear necessary? No.
Not only does repeating 20-45 reps for each muscle group mean that the joints involved are working overtime, it also takes up a lot of your precious time to complete all of those reps. We are all looking for ways to find more time in our day, but we also understand the priority and importance of having strong muscles for total body health.
The slow cadence solution
Sometimes “old” philosophies need to be revisited because they just make sense. In this case, Arthur Jones, who founded the exercise equipment company Nautilus in the 1970’s, pioneered a more effective workout, building stronger muscles while keep your joints healthy. As we age this becomes more and more of a priority!
Let’s try it. Since we used an overhead press as an example, let’s stick with it. Put your arms in position for an overhead press (palms can be facing in or forward, see above photo) and slowly count to 10 as you press up. It should take you the full 10 seconds to get to the top. Next, without pausing at the top, slowly come back down, taking another 10 seconds to return to the starting position. Without pausing at the bottom, keep it moving back up to the top again.
The movement is ultra-slow and non-stop. Within 4-8 repetitions of 1 set your muscles will have “failed”, and this is the one time in life you want to encourage failure! After that 1 set you move onto the next exercise, targeting a new group of muscles, resting only as long as it takes to set up for the next exercise, usually 30-60 seconds.
Did you try it?
How did it feel? Were your muscles shaking by the second rep? Then you are probably using the right weight. The general guidelines for choosing weight to start with are this: During the first SLOW rep you should already feel like “wow, I might not be able to do this!” If your repetitions go longer than 2:00 minutes, or 10 reps, the weight was not hard enough. The feeling of muscle failure, in good form, should feel like you got stuck or stopped and that you can’t move that weight another inch without changing your posture or form.
You can try this by yourself, counting the seconds, watching a clock, or using a timer. With a partner, timing and encouraging each other makes it more fun. This slow cadence formula or philosophy can be used for almost all exercises. Other examples are the classic “row” and “leg extension” shown in the photos below.
Optimally, you would work with a trainer in a facility that is trained in this protocol, and that specializes in slow cadence.
If you go to a specialized training center, you not only get the benefit of working with a trainer that knows how to best coach someone in slow cadence, but also the use of highly specialized equipment that makes the movements of the workout feel as smooth as silk. Among the list of real benefits of going to a studio like 20 Minutes to Fitness, is that you can workout in your work clothes because it is virtually “sweat less”, no shower afterwards = having even more time in your day.
Has this post peaked your interest? Find out more science, details, and the locations of 20 Minutes to Fitness. If their comprehensive website doesn’t answer all of your questions as to why this is a more effective workout, call them up! They would love to hear from you!
Photo credit: Naomi Chokr Photography