Slow versus fast repetitions: Which weightlifting technique is better for you?

Published on:19 January 2020, 14:00pm IST
Turns out, lifting weights isn’t enough if you’re trying to get fit. The technique matters too.
Sonakshi Kohli
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Slow and steady or fast and furious — which reps will you opt for? Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

When it comes to fitness, the exercise technique is just as important as the idea of exercising to burn calories in the first place. If you’ve been to the gym or around people obsessed with weight training, you know that I am talking about the correct stance and speed while lifting weights to achieve the best results.

If it sounds too technical, let me break it down for you along with fitness experts and help you choose between fast and slow resistance training to achieve the body of your dreams:

So, let’s first take the case of slow repetitions
Just as the name suggests, the idea is to simply take it slowww… Basically, you lift weights upwards, against gravity, you can take a pause and hold it for 3-5 seconds before bringing the weight back down.

how to gain muscle
Do you know, that muscle training can improve your ability to do everyday activities? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Not to mention, during this downward motion, it is important to keep the movement of the body part bearing the weight slow and controlled instead of simply giving in to the gravitational pull. Remember, resisting gravity is key here.

Also, read: Should women train differently than men to gain muscle? Experts reveal

Pros of taking it slow: “Decreasing the speed of weightlifting creates more tension in your muscles, as a result of which, they get tired and respond by growing,” says Grand Master Akshar, celebrity fitness trainer, and lifestyle coach. 

He adds:

This also boosts your metabolism, and makes you stronger.

In fact, slowing down the tempo allows you to focus on your form and make sure your movement is correct. This can also lead to a greater range of motion, better neuromuscular control, reduced momentum, reduced risk of injury, and better muscle gains according to Dr. Kruti Khemani, a renowned sports physiotherapist.

Cons of taking it slow: Fortunately, there isn’t much dirt on this method of weight training as Khemani says, “The only disadvantage of slow reps in weight training in women is that they may unknowingly develop muscle bulk over time and the aesthetic result of this might not be something that they wanted.”

Additionally, a 2012 study showed that slow resistance training can be tedious, time-consuming, and more challenging, especially, when lifting heavier weights. 

Also, read: Calling all skinny girls: This is your ultimate guide to gaining muscle

Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that slow lifting can be great for overall muscle activation, but, when it comes to activating one specific target muscle, it isn’t so effective.

Who should do it?: While Akshar suggests slow weight training with light weights for beginners; Khemani says that anyone looking for overall muscle strengthening can do slow repetitions. She also mentions that it depends on the goal of an individual and the desired benefits of slow weight training can be reaped by changing the amount of weight being lifted. 

It’s time to speed up ladies as it’s the curious case of fast repetitions
When your weightlifting speed hits around one repetition per second, you’re on the path of reaping benefits of fast resistance training, my friend. Basically, there’s minimal or no resting time during the set. 

benefits of exercise
Fast reps won’t bulk you up but tone you for sure. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Pros of doing it fast: “Fast repetitions can help you gain strength and build muscle endurance,” says Khemani.

Akshar is quick to add, “Weight training at a faster pace involves a greater overall muscle engagement and build muscle endurance.”

Plus, fast repetitions put muscles through less tension as there’s less time involved in pulling the weights according to him.

Cons of doing it fast: Ladies, faster reps also mean faster exhaustion of the muscles. And the exhausted muscles are obviously more prone to injury. In fact, Akshar points out that during faster movements, your form and alignment can be compromised and that faster repetitions are not very effective in building muscle mass in the body either. Not to mention, moving fast and furious while lifting heavy weights can make your life miserable too.

Also, read: Body-weight exercises vs weight lifting: Which is better for you? Let’s find out

Who should do it?: “Anyone looking to gain muscle strength, power, and endurance would benefit from fast reps,” Khemani suggests.

Finally, which one’s the winner?
I am sure it’s already clear that fast repetitions can help you shed weight. However, slow repetitions can help you build muscle and boost your metabolism too. So, you can either choose one from the above depending on your goals and what suits you in general or you can simply use a combination of fast and slow repetitions—especially during weight maintenance—and reap the benefits of both.

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Sonakshi Kohli Sonakshi Kohli

Twenty kilos down and struggling to maintain the weight loss by preaching healthy eating, while eating unhealthy every now and then.