Dec
14
2010

SLOW, HARD, AND FAST

31 comments written by Joshua Trentine

SLOW, HARD, AND FAST
by Gus Diamantopoulos

Many people who are affiliated with slow-movement exercise may wonder about the apparent jettisoning of the word ‘slow’ from our moniker. Realize that the single greatest impediment to the true understanding of Hutchins’s original protocol was the belief that slow movement was the target and focus. Despite countless dissertations describing the assumed and primary objective and despite the scrupulously written subprotocols for instruction on the equipment, most people simply never captured the genuine meaning.

I have heard countless reactionary objections to this statement…”Are you saying I’m an idiot? How hard is it to count to ten?” or “What do you mean I don’t understand? Ken says to go slow so I go slow”… And herein lies the source of the problem of why the protocol appears to produce varying results for people.

I find it energetically burdensome to explain this to people who are in this community and should have grasped these concepts but all too often I discover that their tenure as instructors has been largely unexamined and there’s a great deal of going through the motions.

On the other hand, I’ve patiently come to understand how often experienced instructors will come to my studio or have a discussion with me on the phone and claim to be hearing or “seeing” these ideas again for the first time. It still amazes me when I put another instructor through a workout or exercise and then I hear: “I’ve never felt that before”…

For the record, in proper exercise, slow movement is a means and not an end. It is a starting point, not the point itself. It is the method that best allows a working subject to maximally fatigue the structures. Performed properly, an honest effort means the working subject is attempting to move with all his might and as uniformly fast as possible….which, if muscle failure has occurred, means he cannot move at all. 

If the subject is a beginner, then he must MAKE himself move slowly in the early stages of the set. He must do so because he doesn’t have the slightest clue as to his capacity nor his strength. He needs to move slowly, consciously to allow his body to artificially experience load and tension. As he fatigues, it is the instructor who must stage this beginner’s efforts to increase over time.

As a beginner goes to intermediate stages of training, he will always oppose the greater challenge of higher resistance with improper behaviors, most commonly speeding up. At this stage the subject requires intimate and attendant service and instruction to cross-cut his understanding further and to be convinced that he is capable of moving slowly even when it appears that this is not even possible.

He needs to learn how to brace into the equipment and discover all the parts of pressure and tension that are not the movement arm.

He needs to become aware of the reactionary forces in each exercise and he needs to improve his concentration.

When advanced levels are reached, the subject has but one early rep to demonstrate artificiality of slow movement, sometimes less.

An advanced, strong subject is not moving slowly because he wants to; he’s moving slowly because he has no choice.  And each moment of effort during such a set requires more and more herculean effort. By the end of such a set, this subject is pushing/pulling as hard, as fast, and as enthusiastically as is humanly possible. All such effort is utterly measured, infinitely smooth and uniform. It is such because he has learned how to do this from his earlier skill acquisition, from practice, from concentration, and from sheer will.

This is why Hutchins’s cams operate the way they do. This is why most people DO NOT understand these resistance profiles: simply put, most people have neither the initial strength nor the practice time to make the determination that the machines and profiles are correct. Either they complain of the difficulty of the start position or they use too light a load and fail to compensate. As such, the resolution to determine the correctness of the profile is lost.

I recently asked a subject to be alert to his impending fatigue and to anticipate how the next rep will impact his intent to continue. I asked him to “push harder but not faster”. Yes, harder AND not faster.

Previously, in a pre-workout discussion I had him envision the following scenario: Imagine you’re riding your bicycle on level ground and moving at a speed of 13 MPH. You’re pedaling with a smooth and constant rhythm and, while you are moving relatively fast, you havesome reserve strength to at least momentarily produce more power for greater speed. Now imagine you approach a 40 degree grade, a hill. If you want to maintain your 13MPH, what must you do? Obviously the answer is that you have to pedal harder. You must pedal harder but you won’t movefaster because the hill’s grade is a greater resistance.

The approaching moments of fatigue in this subject’s exercise were very much like the hill. He’s becoming progressively fatigued AND the machine’s varying resistance was challenging him more. At this stage of the exercise, most people will either give up prematurely (and emphatically state that they are “truly done” and “couldn’t do another”) or worse, they will indeed push harder AND faster and thus ruin the whole thing by allowing the body to regain some of its lost strength.

This is where almost everyone gets it wrong because this “near failure” moment is actually more difficult than any other in the exercise. It is at this moment that he can actually transcend his genuine perceptions of his remaining strength because when he does push harder AND not faster, he will fatigue more deeply than ever, which means that on his next attempt he can push as hard and as fast as he possibly can because now he is at the precise moment of failure.

Remember, he’s in a cooled environment being ventilated so overheating will not interfere with the fatigue process. And our machines are designed to deliver greater resistance where we are stronger and less where we are weaker. By the end of the set, all factors being equal, there will be no detection of any variation of resistance.

In this case, my subject did follow my instructions and increased his perceived power without altering his speed (even though he could have) and so as the true final rep came, he pushed with all the fury of a volcano and failed outright at about 1/3 into the range of motion and he was able to do so with remarkable equanimity (much like what we see in Al Coleman in the video clips here).

None of what I describe above is easy, or simple, or even common. But it is ideal and it must be what we all strive for, for ourselves and our clients.

Renaissance Exercise requires the correct environment on the right machines and with a full understanding of the protocol. Under such conditions a proper workout is intellectually charged, philosophically elusive, and requires practice.

This is not only true for the novice, but also, and perhaps more so for the subject who has plenty of experience. It means that proper instruction isn’t just helpful, it is necessary. It means that proper equipment will possess characteristics unlike anything previously experienced. It also means that, since the true objective of exercise is the effect on the body, that the idea of movement itself is only ONE means of how we can deliver a stimulus to the subject.

Renaissance Exercise serves to supplant all former iterations of slow and high intensity training because it not only improves on the concept, it includes the whole spectrum of activity that also qualifies as exercise, such as Timed Static Contraction.

But this is another topic…

As always please post any comments or future topics you would like to discuss below and we will personally address them!

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Donnie Hunt December 15, 2010 at 3:40 am

What keeps coming to me is the idea of your muscles not being concerned with being able to “move” the weight. I know that personally using some of the conventional equipment at the gym I go to, my set times are very low when I use a resistance that forces me to move slow. I get that this is due to the resistance curves not matching my body. What happens very quickly is that I’m unable to perform full range reps. Any advice? Performing dynamic contractions is favorable to statics because dynamics cause more microtrauma?

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avatar Travis Weigand December 15, 2010 at 3:52 am

This article is very necessary. I am in agreement that the biggest hurdle to overcome in educating both clients and the remainder of the fitness community is this topic. I really like the cycling imagery, very relatable.

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avatar Jeff December 15, 2010 at 6:35 am

This post was over on DrDarden’s board RE The: Slow, Hard and Fast article

“great description of the evolution of proper exercise. this was my exact experience when i 1st encountered super slow.i did the protocol for a few years and i discovered exactly what was described in your article. i started with the deliberate slowing of the speed in a methodical 10/10 speed [on low friction nautilus]. as i progressed i noticed, at some point, that the weight was becoming impossibly heavy, and i could no longer control the speed but, the speed was slow because my all out effort couldnt move the weight any faster than 10 seconds. at this point my results accelerated and i realized that it was all about safe turn arounds and pushing with all your might. this is the point that everyone purposely avoids. this is where all the results are produced . it is hard to put into words but the author in the article did a great job.”

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avatar Doug Holland December 16, 2010 at 12:43 am

I must say that this is one of the best instructional articles I’ve ever read.Thank you for this!

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 16, 2010 at 2:36 am

Doug,

This means a lot coming from you.

you are very welcome.

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avatar Dennis Rogers December 16, 2010 at 2:25 pm

What an eye opening article, I am one of those that reads this and says that ‘I am seeing this idea again for the first time’, I agree with Doug
Thank You

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avatar Al December 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Dennis-

There are so many deep facets to the most basic things in life. I’m thankful for never being able fully comprehend anything.

Glad you liked the article.

Al

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avatar Scott Springston December 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Renaissance Exercise requires the correct environment on the right machines and with a full understanding of the protocol. Under such conditions a proper workout is intellectually charged, philosophically elusive, and requires practice….
==Scott==
I can see that I have a lot to learn here. It appears that the type training here is not just about jerking up as much weight as possible for several reps but rather doing the reps in a manner which allows the mind to meld with the muscle so as get the most feel in the muscle and to make it work to it’s maximum capacity safely. These articles are helping but I still don’t think I have a clue about about how to do a set properly. Not having ever even seen a Hutchins machine I can only guess that the cams and machines are made so that a persons strength curve is matched so as to make a rep hard and consistent through out the rep as compared to machines like some Nautilus where the profile is very aggressive in the contracted position and not nearly as hard at the start of the rep? I think this is what has been making the understanding of slow reps so hard for me. I’ve often had issues with my Nautilus machines strength curves which didn’t seem to be appropriate at least for me. Some seem to have the strength curve made more appropriately so that the feel is equal through out the movement and others seem to aggressive in certain parts of the motion. I guess one of many challenges I face now is to figure out how use my machines in conjunction with the methods described on here , if that’s possible?? Keep the information coming. I’m a slow learner like John Wooden but once I get something, look out!! ha ha..
Thanks !!

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avatar Al December 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Scott,

Its all about education. That is one of our primary goals here. I’m glad you’ve decided to explore this further. It’s quite the ride.

We are going to address your equipment questions shortly.

Al

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Scott, with regard to Hutchins machines you’re on the right track, just imagine Nautilus machines that feel perfectly balanced to your needs with no perceivable friction. So sweet!

same technology with all of the constraints removed.

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avatar Scott Springston December 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I noticed when I was using my Nautilus behind the neck in slow fashion it had tons of friction and the gear cogs clunk so I’m thinking for it to work like properly for this form of exercise and be mnore like a hutchins machine I would need to get new bearings and possibley change the cam profile? From watching the video’s on here it appears that the subject is pressing as hard and fast as he can but it’s still going slow because the machine and cam are designed so one can’t go any faster if proper weight is used??? I know Jones thinking was to make the rep harder in the contracted position which I always had my doubts about, but with this style training having the resistance higher in the contracted position would make it too easy in the beginning part of the rep so if you pushed hard and fast you would go faster at the beginning of the rep and slow down considerably near the end. Not what this training is all about??
So to recap what I’m trying to figure out here is….Is the fellow on the leg press pushing as fast and hard as possible from rep one or he purposely slowing it down on the early reps. I’m guessing that with enough weight the machine is forcing him to go slow and even on all reps including the first one??

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 18, 2010 at 12:29 am

The Nautilus Behind the neck is one of the most complicated retrofits that could be done. It needs what you mention and then more. It’s really amazing when done properly.

In the Leg Press video Al is applying force as gradual as possible to engage the load, assuming one is making an effort to eliminate all of the stored energy on the turn arounds, an advanced subject will be working very near peak efforts by the third rep.
I actually shot some video of this same exercise yesterday it is a great example because I actually don’t graduate my effort as well as Al on my first rep and you can see the result, by the third , fourth and fifth reps you see me fighting to do everything i can to keep it from slowing down even more, you can see at this point that it has NOTHING to do with trying to go slow, it’s me trying to hurry up so I don’t bog down even more.
Man i have to get that video up, I’ll do that Monday. Great illustration if you know what to look for.

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avatar Dennis Rogers December 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I have 5 pieces of used MEDX (compound movements) and I just purchased 2 nautilus machines (leg ex. and leg curl ) from about the 1800’s I think,,after using Medx the Nautilus seems very friction laden but even so the strength curves seem appropriate, how difficult is it to retrofit for this protocol?

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 16, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Low friction retrofit is relatively easy on any of the old Nautilus. To re-cam the machines is an event and may not be worth the effort.

i know compared to MedX they feel awful, but even MedX can have some real wight stack issues too.

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avatar John Tatore December 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Josh

<<>>

*** What type of issues.

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 18, 2010 at 12:14 am

friction.

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avatar John Tatore December 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I notice that when you copy and paste copy into a reply it doesn’t show up in the copy of that reply … McGuff’s site to had this problem.

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avatar John Tatore December 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Josh … I meant what type of issues with the MedX weight stacks?
John

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avatar John Tatore December 18, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Where does that friction come from? The weight stack? If yes, how so? I have the exercise version of the lumbar extension and it seems very smooth to me.
Thanks
John

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Push a weight stack from the bottom and as it moves up it’s going to tilt and lean on the brass bushings. If you doubt this open up a older MedX machine and look at the wear, or even the brass shavings you’ll see. Of course if your machine is leveled perfectly this helps, but does not solve this issues with the type of lever MedX uses to drive their weight stack.

I believe there is more friction there than people think. Funny thing is, when i do all of the low friction retrofits sometimes clients will claim that the machines with greater friction are “smoother”. I’m leary of the term smooth when determining friction.

I believe the MedX machine is close but needs to be redone with bearings and elimnation of weight stack tilt.

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avatar Dennis Rogers December 19, 2010 at 2:18 am

Any idea where I could get the needle bearings for retrofitting the Nautilius Leg Extension and Leg Curl? and the Medx ‘big 5’ compound movements? Are there kits available ?

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avatar Gus Diamantopoulos December 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm

John,

Realize that ‘smooth’ only means that the perception of movement is uniform. Friction means that moving parts are experiencing resistance against each other, regardless of how lightly this may be happening. You can have very smooth movement AND relatively high friction exercise machines. Of course, in most cases, friction results in bumpy drag that is also not smooth and this is obviously a problem. But in many MedX machines, their “smoothness” belies underlying friction. It takes a heightened sensitivity to friction to discover this type of hidden, invisible effect, but as Josh says, it is there in MedX machines. Having said this, of course, with most MedX machines, this friction is much less of a problem than in other machines but we must concede that it IS present and it also means that in the quest for the ideal machine, the MedX weight stack leaves much to be desired.

gus

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avatar Dennis Rogers December 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Any idea where I could get needle bearings for Nautilus and Medx pieces. Are there any kits available anywhere ?

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm

A MedX weight stack would need a lot of work, at great cost, to outfit with bearings.

Timken needle(roller) bearings can be used for early Nautilus at all articulations and sprockets.

currently our focus is on building improved equipment, we currently are not offering cam retrofits.

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avatar John Tatore December 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Gus … could one replace the brass bushing with bearings? I looked quickly at my MedX Lumbar machine and I noticed a brass bushing in the metal cross bar that is directly under the 20 pound add -on weight stack. One could maybe just make a larger hole to put a bearings instead of a bushing. This could be also done (maybe) with the larger weight stack. I couldn’t see details without a flashlight but if the stack came off maybe the same replacement of bushing with bearing could work. This combined with a level weight stack would eliminate a lot of friction from the machine. Any thoughts?

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 20, 2010 at 10:26 pm

We believe the MedX machine needs more than just two linear bearings to replace the bushings in that case.

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avatar John Tatore December 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Thanks Josh … Ken’s new weight stack designs will blow people away …….

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avatar Joshua Trentine December 19, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Yes, they will, the weight stacks have some unique features. Gus deserves much credit with these too.

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avatar Jeff January 6, 2011 at 3:09 am

Joshua Trentine wrote:
The machines are in Cleveland, Ohio if anyone wants a test drive.

Chuck wrote:
Well worth the drive. Thanks for your hospitality today Josh and Al. You gentlemen are always welcome here anytime.
So, I still feel pretty much like a wimp after using the leg press.
Sorry about no video to post from today but I would have been the stick figure standing next to either Al or Josh.
The reason very few will get this at present is because it is a total paradigm shift in how you evaluate the process of stimulating musculature for the purpose of growth. Too much training is rooted in the attempted demonstration of strength and accounting methods based in the purely mechanical analysis realm.
ROM, TUL.. they all become meaningless when they become the end instead of the means.
There is potentially something far more profound going on at Renaissance/Overload and I don’t suspect that many will be able to understand from their current experience base. You have to see it and do it under careful tutelage to have a glimpse of what is so correct about this.
There would still be a lot of shovel throwers though.

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avatar Jay Rhine January 10, 2011 at 2:56 am

What role, if any, does testosterone play in the muscle building process?

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Testosterone is a powerful muscle building and fat burning hormone.

So much so that studies have shown men to increase muscle mass without even exercising while using Testosterone injections(exogenous).

That being said, there is no evidence to support the widely-held belief that acute elevations in testosterone(endogenous) has any significant effect on strength gains.

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