super slow lifting is superior

Two studies were done with untrained men (N= 65) and women (N= 82),(mean age= 53.6) who trained two to three times per week for eight to 10 weeks on a 13 exercise Nautilus circuit performing one set of each exercise. Participants exclusively trained using regular speed repetitions for 8 to 12 repetitions per set at 7 sec each (2 sec lifting, 1 sec pause, 4 sec lowering) or a Super Slow training protocol where they completed 4 to 6 repetitions per set at 14 sec each (10 sec lifting, 4 sec lowering). In both studies, Super-Slow training resulted in about a 50% greater increase (p< 0.001) in strength for both men and women than regular speed training. In Study 1, the Super-Slow training group showed a mean increase of 12.0 kg and the regular speed group showed an increase of 8.0 kg increase (p< 0.001). In Study 2, the Super-Slow training group showed a 10.9 kg increase and the regular speed group showed an increase of 7.1 kg (p< 0.001).

but wait actually, fast contractions are better!

One slow set increased strength by 25% (95% CI 13-36%, P < 0.001). Three sets of training produced greater increases in strength than one set (difference = 23% of initial strength, 95% CI 12-34%, P < 0.001) and fast training resulted in a greater increase in strength than slow training (difference = 11%, 95% CI 0.2-23%, P = 0.046). The interaction between sets and speed was negative (-15%) and of borderline significance (P = 0.052), suggesting there is a benefit of training with three sets or fast speeds, but there is not an additive benefit of training with both.

wait wait wai! actually it seems that both fast and slow repetitions are equal

Results indicate that hypertrophic outcomes are similar when training with repetition durations ranging from 0.5 to 8 s

here we go again, turns out faster is better

but MaxV resulted in significantly greater gains than HalfV in all variables analysed:

turns out fast repetitions are so superior they actually build more muscle with less weight, 35% of one rep maxes are better than 70% if faster speed is used

it seems that the LLHV protocol may offer an equal if not better training stimulus for muscular adaptation than the HLLV protocol, because of the greater time under tension, power, force, and work output when the total volume of the exercise is equated.

as you can see everything is so contradictory it is actually ridiculous. How is one supposed to interpret everything? I've listened the opinion of many experts but they seem to choose one or the other on preference and ignore conflicting studies.

  • 2
    If it helps, the first study concluded super slow was better than normal, but they didn't test super slow vs super fast. The third study measured muscle hypertrophy, but not strength. The remaining tested for strength and concluded fast-and-powerful was better, but it doesn't look like either tested for muscle hypertrophy. So looking at only these studies, it seems that faster is better for strength, but either is good for hypertrophy. Meaning it's more beneficial to be fast-and-powerful.
    – DeeV
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:03

1 Answer 1


Studies are hard

You're seeing contradictions because you're comparing apples and oranges. Actually, these studies have so many dimensions that you're comparing the whole fruit section of the supermarket.

Ask yourself: what precisely do you want to know? "Which is better" is not precise enough. Do you mean muscle size? Strength? Athletic ability – and if so, which sport?

Another question to ask yourself: who is this for? A sprinter trains differently than a marathoner, who both need to train differently than someone who just finished a couch-to-5k program. Do the studies you cite keep this constant?

Some of your citations are meta-studies; what were their criteria? Do you agree or disagree? (Studies which use untrained subjects, for instance, should be handled with care.) Are they looking at the same exercises? (Hint: no.) Are they even trying to answer the question you're asking? Do they have enough statistical power? (Hint: often not.)

You have to understand those finer points, and many more, if you want sports science studies to even start to be meaningful to you. Then you can consider the relationship of sports science studies to your training more generally.

The short answer

If you want bigger muscles, then either fast or slow is fine. Just make sure you do a lot of challenging reps. If there's a difference, it's not huge.

If you want to be athletic, then you have to train fast at least sometimes and maybe most of the time, depending on the sport. Moving a weight fast develops muscle to move it both fast and slow; moving it slow only conditions your muscles to move it slow.

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