Lifting Slow and Steady May Help You Make More Gains

Physical athlete weightlifting
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There’s a downside to high-intensity weight training—and a better way, says orthopedic surgeon Leon E. Popovitz of New York Bone and Joint Specialists. Recently, more men are suffering weight-lifting injuries such as torn tendons and ligaments, the result of workouts that have them going too hard or too heavy. The fix isn’t to avoid picking up a barbell ever again. Instead, try slow lifts.

The idea is to be extra deliberate when you’re moving weight around. There are several upsides. Elongating the lift time forces muscles to sustain a contraction longer, so lifting a lighter load can be just as effective as going heavy. It also makes the whole movement more efficient.

For instance, most people doing deadlifts use gravity to drop the barbell from full extension back to the ground. Doing that same movement in twice the amount of time forces you to re-engage your glutes and core during the back half of the lift. Fewer reps, same benefit.

This mind-set requires an attitude adjustment, an acknowledgment that more does not equate with better. Think about why you’re training in the first place. Staying healthy as you age matters. In your 40s, blood flow to certain muscles starts to slow, which increases your chance of injury. Muscle-building encourages circulation, and it doesn’t matter if you can do 20 push presses in a minute or double that.