Seventy-five-year-old Rich Neville has high hopes for this summer.
“I am going to climb Mount Olympus in Greece,” he said.
Just 10 years ago, he’d all but assumed his climbing days were done.
“I stopped trying to climb any big mountains, like Eiger, which I did in my 50s. Olympus is only 9,500 feet.”
It may not be the Eiger, which is 13,000 feet, but it is still a strenuous, three-mile upward trek to the rocky summit of Mytikas. Neville told StrongPath that he’s up for the climb thanks to his strength training exercise routine.
“SuperSlow has kept my legs strong.”
The workout is aptly named. SuperSlow is a form of resistance training that takes about 20 minutes once or twice a week. Unlike more traditional strength training in which a rep takes two to six seconds to complete, SuperSlow reps take about 20 seconds—ten seconds to lift the weight and ten seconds to lower the weight. Each exercise is performed to the point of muscle fatigue and a workout consists of six to seven different exercises.
The philosophy and science behind SuperSlow came out of a 1982 study of women with osteoporosis who were looking for a safer form of exercise. The man overseeing the study found that slowing down the speed of movement minimized the amount of momentum used. Muscles had to work harder to perform the repetitions. While there is no medical research that shows SuperSlow training to be any more effective than more traditional resistance training, its practitioners find a lot to like about the once-a-week workout.
“We believe exercise should be intense, brief, infrequent, and most importantly, safe,” explained Keith Morton, owner of CityWide SuperSlow in Chicago. “It should be infrequent because you need to recover. It takes days and days to recover from this workout. And by going super slow, ten seconds up, ten seconds down, it’s really hard to get injured. No one really understands what we do until they’re exposed to it. Then once they are, many, many, many people get hooked.”
Morton first read about SuperSlow in 1998, just after it started to gain wide recognition. But it wasn’t until two years later, when he hit his 50s, that he gave it a try.
“I was a very avid runner for 25 years, ran hard, but now I was shuffling along. My hips were killing me.” Morton started working with a SuperSlow trainer once a week. “For a guy like me to take five days off was crazy. I did it and it changed my life.”
Morton said his pain went away and he felt great for the first time in a long time. Six months later, he decided to open his own gym.
“You see tons of ads, and you see all kinds of kids jumping around and throwing things,” said Morton. “Isn’t that great? Isn’t that terrific? And sweating. And okay, that’s fine. What’s somebody 55 years old supposed to do?”
“When people lose muscle, they lose their functional mobility. If you want to ride a bike, you need that leg strength. If you want to grab a small suitcase and throw it on the overhead, you have to have strength. Everything you do, you have to have strength,” explained Morton. He and his trainers start them out with a low weight and increase it as they get stronger. He told StrongPath that the workout is hard, but all done within the constraints of safety.
The workout is done on state-of-the art equipment usually found in a physical therapy office. This allows for a variety of positioning and alignment, depending on the needs of the client. Many of Morton’s clients come in with pre-existing physical conditions or injuries.
Rich Neville was among the first clients at CityWide. He started SuperSlow after he injured his knee running. “My doctor told me ‘Richard, you’re 57. Time for you to think about doing something other than running. That’s a little signal from your body.’”
Neville looked at other, more traditional, options before deciding on SuperSlow. “Your muscle mass and bone and tendons have been around a long time. You want to keep them healthy rather than strain them or cause yourself any injury. I have no arthritis, no pain.”
“I’m not doing any dangerous climbs with ice axes anymore, but I’m going to climb Mount Olympus. I still can play golf five days in a row. I do a lot of traveling in my business as a mediator, and I’m up for it. I sleep well,” Neville said. “Everything that you want working out to do for you, it has done for me.”