The Value Of Slow…

I got a question recently from a fellow trainer about why I use exclusively slow repetition speed with my clients as well as my own workouts, and why I don’t include some explosive training and higher repetition speed. She supported her question with some scientific data about the benefits of explosive training. I thought some people might find my perspective interesting if not useful even if they disagree, so here is my reply to my friend’s question:

“This is where I differ from most trainers and strength coaches I know.   I don’t put science at the top of my learning pyramid.  I put logic and common sense there, and science in the middle.  There are many scientifically proven reasons why faster and explosive repetitions can benefit an athlete.  As previously discussed though, the injury/benefit ratio increases whenever momentum enters an exercise.  This increases because in most instances the load is greater, and due to the faster speed combined with a heavier load proper form cannot be adhered to as well – period.


I have to decide who among my students are legitimate athletes.  It turns out that there are very few. For the middle aged man wanting to improve his body, I am of the opinion that all the changes he is looking for can be had with slower, more controlled repetitions, thus minimizing risk/benefit ratio and putting him in a better position to reach his goals.  Same thing with the mom who wants to tone up and take off her baby weight, as well as the obese and morbidly obese students.


When it comes to student athletes at the high school and middle school level, their bodies are still developing and an injury in the weight room might have severe long-term consequences.  Also worthy of consideration is that the habits they learn in the weight room as teens will likely stay with them for life. This is a huge issue with me.  High school sports coaches and even some PE teachers are more often poor strength coaches, but often looked to as supremely knowledgeable.

This leaves a small group who could really benefit from fast and explosive strength training; high level competitive athletes.  Can it benefit them and enhance muscle growth as well as performance…?  Absolutely!  However, I read a study last year that a majority of minor injuries in the NFL take place in the weight room; pulled hamstrings, torn biceps, torn pectorals, low-back strain, neck issues, etc.  This goes back to the risk/benefit ratio.  For men or women to whom thousands if not millions of dollars are at stake for every performance, the benefits of explosive training certainly outweighs the risks, and most would-be injuries can be dealt with and recovered from.

That’s pretty much where it ends with me.  On a personal level, I have run long races, biked far distances, lifted very heavy weights, stood on a posing platform, and conquered dozens of physical obstacles with this body – despite that I have done no explosive training and that my repetition speed in the weight room has been slow and fully controlled since1986 or so.

Lastly, what gets missed in fast or explosive repetitions is, for me, what holds the greatest value in strength training; the intimacy which takes place between the mind and the body when weights are lifted more slowly and through a complete range of motion. This is a connection that is on par with many forms of yoga, and in my opinion is just as spiritual.


I’m a science minded person, but no scientist, and no institution is without some level of agenda, as I have my own.  My agenda is safety combined with results.”

That was my response to my friend. I’m not opposed to high level athletes using faster or explosive repetitions in the weight room. However, for the average liftasaurus or weekend warrior, it’s my opinion that slower, more controlled repetition speed comes with as much benefit as anyone needs, and a lot less risk. Be well… rc

Trainer Roy Cohen is available for online consulting. Learn more by clicking here.


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Wang Chung.  Enjoy!

10 responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Roy! Sure I do some faster explosive movements, but only when I am sure I can handle them, but most of the time, slow is the way I go. I’ve really ramped up my martial arts training recently, and this applies here also. I was practicing kicking last week, and was hitting new heights that I hadn’t reached in years. An instructor at the school said, you are not getting power. I said, first comes height, then I’ll work on more power (explosive). This week I reached my higher goal, and have more power on the previous lower height! If I get injured, I will lose my gains and have to start over again. You know I like to say I’m either injured or ready for further punishment, and I sure prefer the punishment to being injured 🙂

  2. Another reason to consider avoiding Crossfit: it pushes people into explosive and plyometric moves without building a strength base under these moves. I feel like they get the community “we’re all in this together” part right, but progressing “zero to explosive” is scary.

    • Thanks, Lisa. Culturally I have issues with CrossFit, but physiologically I take exception in a huge way. Momentum. Inexperienced coaching. And high repletion compound movements – which are designed for low repetitions. Ugh. Don’t get me started.

      But thank YOU for representing our industry so well, and so intelligently!

  3. We must ask our selves: What purpose or results do we want.Way back,back,back in my football playing days I performed explosive speed,fast muscle twitch exercise and workouts. When I feel up to it,I enjoy quick pump it up arm workouts. Since meeting you over 15 years ago I’ve learned to appreciate stretching with weights. While achieving good results. Plus for me it’s been safer that way, like a great BBQ I like my ribs done “Slow and Low” Also I don’t like set backs,when I get injured. “oh boy here we go again,out for a week,start over again” Aye Aye Captain, Steady as she goes…

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