Before you get too excited and think you can get away with doing less exercise, I should explain what I mean.
Have you been in the gym recently and seen someone going at their exercise like a wasp in a jam jar, with so much passion and ferocity that you worry not only for their physical health, but also for their mental health? Maybe you are that person and you feel the only way you will truly get your results is by going this fast. Well take a break and find out why training at a slower rate is better for you.
The dangers of injury
Injury or illness is not only the gym enthusiast’s greatest enemy but also the gym novice’s worst enemy. When you have just started out on your exercise journey, nothing will get in the way more than an injury. What has this got to do with training too fast? Well when you exercise in such a fast ballistic manner you greatly increase your chances of injury.
By moving your body too fast you can hyper extend your joints. For example the bench press is a relatively safe exercise as long as you stop the movement before your elbows become locked. By moving too fast your elbows can go too far, which can cause swelling, ligament damage, soft tissue damage and can stop your training for a few weeks or longer.
Muscles are nice and soft and malleable or at least they should be. However not all of us are as supple as a gymnast and if we are honest we tend to forget the importance of stretching. This leaves us with muscles that are strong in a small range of movement but are tight and weak outside of that range. So when we start to exercise and go too fast we start to lose control. This lack of control can take our body into these danger weak areas and result in muscle damage which can range from small tears to complete ruptures. Any of these can keep you out of the gym for many weeks which won’t give you the results you desire.
It’s not just the muscle you are using that can get injured. When we move too quickly during an exercise we are not performing in control and when we lose control we tend to use other muscles that really are not needed for the exercise. A good example is the biceps curl. Performed correctly the only movement of the biceps curl should come from your arm at the elbow joint. Carried out too quickly and the shoulder joins in as does the lower back. I’m sure we have all seen “bicep curlers” using their backs to aid the movement. What you haven’t possibly realised is the amount of damage they could be causing their backs. It maybe quick and short term or they may be fine for years but eventually that movement will come back to haunt them.
Simple really: slow down your training. Not only will you reduce the chance of injury but you will also improve your strength and muscle tone. But remember, at the start you will find that you need to reduce your weights as this technique is much harder because you use your muscles for longer.
There are no set rules for timing but I would not advise to go faster than 1 second on the contraction and always slightly slower, say 1.5 seconds, on the eccentric phase. However it is important to spice up your training so why not try 1 second on the contraction and 5 seconds on the eccentric phase your body will thank you for it.
Of course there is always a need to train at a faster pace e.g. to improve speed or power but a faster pace should never compromise your technique. For the majority of us the 1 : 1.5 second rule or longer should apply if you want to get the most from your time in the gym and don’t want your new fit life plagued by injury.