SLOW, HARD, AND FAST
SLOW, HARD, AND FAST
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…
by Gus Diamantopoulos