The SuperSlow program began when its developer, Ken Hutchins of
Orlando, Fla., led a program investigating the effects of resistance training
on older women with osteoporosis. "These women were so weak we were afraid
for their safety," Hutchins recalls.
Even before then, Hutchins had toyed with the idea of slow
exercise before, only to lose interest. But low weight combined with slow
movements seemed like the perfect program for these women: Following it, the
women made dramatic gains in strength.
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Wayne L. Westcott, PhD, fitness research director at the South
Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., heard of the program and staged two informal
studies in 1993 and 1999. In each, about 75 people trained with the SuperSlow
program -- for 8 and 10 weeks, respectively. Those doing SuperSlow in both
groups experienced a greater than 50% gain in strength. In fact, the results
were so difficult to believe that Westcott had them verified at Virginia
According to Hutchins, the key to SuperSlow is to never let the
muscle rest -- to remove the element of momentum from each exercise, making the
muscles do the work instead of capitalizing on the tendency of a weight in
motion to stay in motion. Muscles are worked beyond the shaky phase to the
point of failure, when the person is physically unable to perform one more
The people in Westcott's study did 12-13 exercises. The
comparison group did 10 repetitions of each exercise, pulling the weight up and
lowering it over a period of the usual 2 seconds in each direction. The other
half did five repetitions, but lifted slowly, 10 seconds on the upstroke and 4
seconds on the way back down. (Hutchins and others recommend 10 seconds each
way.) That's 20 seconds of muscle contraction for each repetition instead of 4
seconds. Multiply that by five repetitions and 12 exercises, and you have a
killer workout, Westcott says. Despite the fact that the technique started with
elderly ladies, it is intensive and tough, Westcott says. (It also requires
machinery in good working condition to minimize friction, which
"unloads" the muscle.)
Not one person in Westcott's groups had an injury.
"SuperSlow is a neat trick," says M. Doug McGuff, MD, an emergency-room
physician in Seneca, S.C., and SuperSlow studio owner. "With other
exercises, to make them more challenging, you usually have to increase the
force required -- the weight level, whatever -- which brings on aches and
pains. This makes them more dangerous. With SuperSlow, you can make exercise
much more challenging without increasing force."
At his studio, with people who are completely untrained and
have never worked out, McGuff says he can bring about a 30% increase in
strength in six to eight weeks and almost guarantee a 100% increase in eight
months to a year.
Sure, you're thinking, these fanatics go to the gym six times a
week. No! This is the best part. You only do SuperSlow once, and at most twice,
a week, to get results. In fact, the developers don't want you to do it more
often. When pushed to the point of failure, muscles need time to recover.
"A workout is like filling a hole," McGuff says. "It needs time to
fill up. If you start digging again before it's full, the hole will never fill.
You need to get out of your own way."