Have you ever been told to slow down, or maybe speed up your movements when exercising? Do you know why?
Our body adapts differently to the same movement, depending on the speed at which you move! This makes it really important to move at the right speed, in order to get the desired benefits, whether you want to improve your strength, speed or balance.
For example, think about when we perform a sit-to-stand from a chair or better yet, give it a go right now. If you can, without using your hands, stand up from your chair and slowly sit back down with control, counting 2 seconds as you stand and counting 3 seconds as you lower back to the chair.
This is an example of traditional slow-speed strength training. In this type of exercise, your legs are holding and moving your body weight at a controlled speed against gravity, meaning the thigh and hip muscles are under tension for a longer period of time. This time under tension is what increases our muscle strength, endurance or length of effort and muscle growth.
Now, making sure you have something close to hold onto if needed, repeat the previous exercise but this time stand up from your chair and sit back down, as fast as you possible can! This is exactly the same movement as you performed previously, but the explosive speed makes it a high-speed power training exercise with different health benefits to the slower version.
Power exercises improve our reaction time, speed, balance and even our fitness if we repeat the movement for multiple repetitions. This type of training is critical for many of our everyday tasks including crossing the busy intersection before the lights change, stepping out of the way of racing grandchildren and moving our feet quickly to stabilise ourselves when we lose our balance.
In fact, research has shown that high speed power training can improve the speed at which we move our foot from the accelerator to brake when driving by 15% compared to slow speed strength training!
So next time you exercise, think about the benefits you want to gain and what speed you need to be moving at to achieve them. If you aren’t sure what speed is right for you, be sure to ask your Exercise Physiologist.