Valley Magazine 2005

Pumping Up in Slow Motion

Weight-lifting has been touted, especially in recent years, as the most efficient way to burn fat and lose weight, because lean muscle mass burns more calories and takes up less space than fatty tissue. In our society, more is usually considered better. So the low-rep, single-set, SuperSlow method requires an open mind.

Also known as Slow Burn and the Power-of-10, SuperSlow was actually created in the 1980s by Florida-based trainer Ken Hutchins. The program entails one set of six to 10 repetitions for each body part, performed on approximately eight smooth-moving weight machines. It works the muscles to failure, or until no more reps can be done. Each rep takes a count of 10 on the way out and 10 bringing it back in. The last rep, when the muscle is about to lose any contraction, is then held for an additional 10 seconds as you continue to try and press a little further.

Melissa Gunn, owner of the newly opened Pure Strength training facility Studio City, is an advocate of the SuperSlow technique. The tranquil environment of her studio is far from what you'd expect for a weight-lifting gym, but since the slow, smooth, controlled repetitions of this work-out require maximum mental focus (and maximum use of the muscles) you can see why a quiet environment is a necessity.

"Not being able to rely on momentum forces the muscles to work harder," she says, leading me to a familiar leg press machine. I thought I knew what "no momentum" meant, but with Gunn's expertly trained eye locked on my body, I soon found out its true definition. "Did you feel those little bounces on your way back out?" Gunn asked. "You want to keep it really smooth."

The degree of control that Gunn was asking of me did indeed force me to find a deeper contraction in my buttocks to maintain the weight's resistance and then press it back out. "And I want you to breathe, like this." Her breaths sounded a little fast for me, but as I follow her lead, I found it did make the effort a bit more powerful.

We moved on to the hip adductor machine, which works the outer hip.

"Does that feel heavy now?" I wasn't sure how to respond. Now that I knew what to expect, I wanted to say yes to avoid heavier resistance. "Kind of," I said.

"Really? Let's see what you can do." I barely eeked out about six reps, not letting go of the last on until the 10-count was up. There was no way I could mentally put myself through this workout without cheating. After just two exercises, me legs were quivering.

We continued through the upper body exercises until, for no reason except that I was tired, I just stopped. Gunn pointed out that because this workout is done only once a week, each session requires maximum focus and intensity. I couldn't help but feel skeptical about the once-a-week perscription. After all, I shoot for five or six workouts a week.

"The body needs that much time to fully recover," she explained. When muscles recover, they rebuild. Gunn said she has experimented with the workout herself, sometimes putting as many as 10 days between workouts. "Ninety percent of my clients have been very pleased with their progress doing just one session per week," she admitted. "Even without dieting, they start to get leaner."

I asked Gunn if she had a favorite quote that summed up the technique and its results. She pointed to a card she'd given me: "No wasted time, no wasted energy." In our time-crunched world, this efficient, safe, productive strength training that yields maximum results may just be the answer. By appointment only.