Why Faster is Not Always Better in Fitness

To get the results you want from a fitness routine, focusing on quick-paced cardio or HIIT classes is the way to go—or so we think. But you don’t have to commit to grueling boot camps, speed drills, or rapid-fire cardio moves to get fit. Slow workouts can do that for you.

Turns out, slowing down your pace can deliver a wealth of benefits. The change in speed can not only lead to an even more intense and effective exercise sesh, but it can also speed up your journey towards lasting results (à la BodyComp or The Gym Program, our fan-fave training programs).

Here, obé instructor and strength-training specialist Kat E. breaks down 4 reasons why moving slowly is key to seeing results from your fitness routine.

1. You’ll Improve Your Form—And Prevent Injury

The number one reason to try slow workouts? Form and control. “If I can teach you to do it slowly, you’re going to do it right,” explains Kat. “Learning to move this way will set you up for success in the long run, especially if you’re new to strength training.”

Slowing down gives you time to nail the basics: to study how your instructor tackles an exercise, then tune into your own body and finesse your form accordingly. As a beginner, it’s the best technique to reduce your chance of injury, since most people get hurt by moving too quickly.

But don’t get it twisted: slow doesn’t mean “easy.” Pausing to hold at the bottom of an exercise (like a squat) will feel demanding, because that’s where the magic happens. By tapping into the true full range of motion, you’ll exert energy to brace and protect your body—in turn learning where you need to be and how to keep yourself from collapsing, Kat says.

2. You’ll Get More Metabolic Bang for Your Buck

If your goal is to get leaner or in better shape, you’ll want to diversify the energy systems you use while exercising (mini science lesson: there’s three of them!)—and moving slowly can make a big impact.

“When you do an exercise slowly, the time under tension in that set is way higher than if you just bang out those reps,” Kat says. Metabolically, you’ll create more fatigue in your muscles which will cause them to grow and continue to adapt even after your slow workouts are over.

Translation: You’re kicking up your metabolic rate, which helps you get leaner in the long run, Kat explains. “On the other hand, if you’re just running at a steady pace for the same amount of time, once you’re done—you’re done. You adapt to cardio a lot more quickly, so it won’t have that same trickle effect.”

3. You’ll Get (Dramatically) Stronger

Speeding through a HIIT or Dance class may get your heart pumping, but it won’t necessarily make you stronger. As Kat explains: Eventually, you’ll hit a ceiling. On the other hand, going for slow workouts (or working with different tempos!) makes your muscles do the work—allowing you to build more strength and get a better training response out of the body.

“If everything you’re doing is just fast and monotonous, you’re not actually creating enough stimulus to drive change. When you slow down through an entire range of motion, the amount of work you have to do and the time you use to do it is a lot greater,” Kat says. “As a result, your joints will get a whole lot stronger, your muscles adapt more efficiently, and that will help you lift heavier and hold your form better.”

By cutting out momentum, slow workouts also give you a chance to activate deeper stabilizing muscles instead of just the big movers, something that’s hard to do well if you’re only working at a fast pace. And don’t worry—you’ll still get your heart rate up if you’re working with a weight that is challenging for you.

4. You’ll Improve Your Performance All-Around

Cardio lovers, rejoice! Embracing slower, functional exercises will also help you learn how to push yourself (and your performance!) harder during other workouts. This very effect is the backbone of any cross-training effort—a must for most high-performing athletes. (For the full scoop on cross-training, read this.)

“If you spend that time getting stronger, I guarantee you’ll be able to run a little faster,” Kat says. Those burpees in your HIIT class? Your body will know how to support itself through that kind of force. The glute pulses in a Sculpt session? You won’t give out as easily. Put simply, your body will become more efficient, expending less effort meeting your other fitness and cardio goals. Not to mention, your routine will also be more sustainable in the long run.

3 Tips to Slow the Eff Down

If you’re used to go, go, go cardio classes, you may feel a little restless in slow workouts like a Strength session or strength-training program. Here’s what Kat suggests trying between reps to make the most of your rest time:

  • Tip 1: Focus on Your Breathing.  Remember, you’re still doing the work (and likely more of it). Avoid the urge to squeeze in extra jumping jacks or squats between sets—just rest. This is your time to bring your breath back to a steady rate and feel as chill as possible.
  • Tip 2: Track Your Weights. Keep a notebook handy and take a second to write down what weights you used, how many reps you accomplished, or the length of your rest period. “That matters,” emphasizes Kat. “It’s going to keep you accountable and help you stay present.”
  • Tip 3: Hype Yourself Up. Have a motivational conversation with yourself or think about something new to focus on for your next set. “Ask yourself: can I go harder? Can I make this feel easy? Can I reach a new depth?” suggests Kat.

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