Go Slow To Get Fast

Go Slow to Get Fast

May 8, 2020

What's the rush, people!? Slow down when learning the movements in sport and chances are you'll be more successful. The benefits from going slow can be seen in a variety of activities including strength training, running and swimming. In all cases it comes down to taking the time to develop better movement patterns.

When doing a body weight squat, the slower you do it, or if you pause at the bottom of the motion, you increase what we call the time under tension (TUT). TUT has a positive effect on your muscular adaptation and strength gains but more importantly slowing down means you are better able to work on perfecting the movement pattern. Fast motion might get the job done but are you recruiting the correct muscles or are there compensations happening? Also, are you sacrificing proper alignment to get that speed? I'm not saying you shouldn't lift explosively to build power if you have great movement patterns and experience. My recommendation is that you start by perfecting the basic movements slowly. And, keep in mind, time under tension means you'll still get the fitness gains.

As a running coach one of the most important lessons I can share is the importance of learning to run slow. For learners, they must understand that they are allowed to go really slow as they learn and build. What is really slow? My learn to run groups are usually in the range of 7:30 to 8:30 per kilometre. Once you've been doing that for 12 weeks or so, sure, fool around with some slightly faster running. Till then though, go slow, be comfortable, and focus on technique: posture, arm carriage and cadence. Going too fast and being out of breath will not help your brain learn the movement patterns.

For more experienced runners there are big benefits to slow running as well. For them, though, it's less about technique and more about managing workload. Simply put, most runners run too fast on their slow day and too slow on their fast day. Learning to run slower achieves the aerobic and functional goals of a long run while saving energy for a harder hard run later in the week.

Have you ever tried to ride a bike super slowly? It's very hard and requires excellent balance. Swimming is the same. When I slow a swimmer's stroke rate, they start to see compensations that are not noticeable when they are swimming faster. Some notice they need to get their arms into the water quickly in order to push downward and stabilize the body which, till now, they thought was balanced. If you can swim well and balanced with a very slow stroke rate then you have a great foundation from where to build fast, strong and efficient technique.

Slowing down when developing technique in many sports means your brain is better able to connect with the neuro-muscular system. That connection leads to better movement patterns and a more capable and functional body.

Posted by Geordie McConnell