SuperSlow Zone

I had driven past the building a number of times, a two level affair smack dab in the middle of “The Forum” shopping center. It was hard to miss, painted with a Tuscan style mural of cherubs dancing on a fountain and adorned with dramatically arched windows; my eyes inevitably wandered its direction. The sign most prominently featured on the storefront was  Bed Bath and Beyond, but on the top level was that baffling sign reading “SuperSlow Zone.”

Upon Googling, I discovered that “SuperSlow Zone” was a unique sort of exercise franchise. Basically, each center provides personalized training sessions, employing a number of specialized weight training machines, more akin to what might be used in therapy rather than a standard gym. These machines would be set to as heavy a weight as the client could handle, then the client would be made to repeatedly lift this weight, very slowly, 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down. The website proudly toted this as “The fastest way to fitness…guaranteed” which seemed ironic given the name SuperSlow. A video featured on the site showed a young woman, who had gone from a size 12 to an 8, with two 20 minute one on one sessions a week, which she could do in her street clothes.

This sounded promising. Admittedly, time has always been one of the biggest obstacles for me in hitting the gym. There’s always an article or two to finish up, an ever mounting inbox full of emails I need to reply to, or all those phone call I need to return.

Then again, even when I make the time to go, I’m forced to change into those dreadful clothes. From my experience gym clothes fall into two categories, you have loose and baggy, or tight and unforgiving, neither of which are terribly flattering on the average Jane.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that there are not only wall to wall mirrors there to mock you, but other people at the gym who are happy to step up to the plate. For some people, the gym is a social outing, and without fail, you always have a few who find need to smirk and snicker at those whose drawstrings don’t pull as tight. Then you have those people who creep up behind you and decide to deliver an impromptu coaching (never trainers mind you, you’d have to pay for their opinions.) I always just want to look up vacantly at them and say “Exercise? Dag Nabbit! They tricked me! I just followed the trail of donuts in from off the street!”

I’ve found myself most comfortable going to the gym between 1 and 2am, when no one’s there but the cleaning crew. However, for anyone holding an occupation other than writer, that kind of schedule isn’t really doable. To be able to just drop in for a 20 minute one on one session, in what I’m already wearing, only twice a week AND see results, this sounded like a Godsend! I had to know more.

I clicked on the contact link and sent an email, asking if I might be able to interview someone with the franchise and write a blog about SuperSlow Zone. I was promptly replied to by Thom Tombs of the SuperSlow Zone in Carlsbad, who invited me to try out a session while I was there. He emailed me the necessary paperwork, and suggested I “wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and shoes with supportive soles.” A few exchanges later, and I was ascending the escalator, paperwork in hand, towards that second level over Borders and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Thom greeted me at the door. The lobby was beautiful, with sort of the tranquil minimalist décor you would expect at a Spa rather than a gym. Thom led me to the consultation room, where I took a seat and began to ask my questions:

The Interview

Q. How did SuperSlow come in to being?

A. Well SuperSlow started as part of an Osteoporosis Study at the University of Florida. A fellow by the name of Ken Hutchins, who worked for Nautilus at the time, was put in charge of the exercise portion. Working at Nautilus, he had done training of professional athletes, [but] the subjects in the study were elderly women, often frail because of their osteoporosis, so using traditional strength training protocol wasn’t safe. Not only that, it was really difficult to keep records of progression and the work that they were doing … so that’s where SuperSlow was conceived. As time went on he wrote the SuperSlow protocol, there is quite an extensive technical manual that he developed.

Q. Describe a typical SuperSlow session for me.

A. Well, a typical SuperSlow Session, when you walk in your instructor usually meets you at the door. Your instructor takes care of setting up your equipment, we keep track of your seat settings on each piece of equipment, and we keep track of your weights, what’s appropriate resistance for you on each piece of equipment. You come in, as you can see it’s quiet, it’s private and there are really no distractions. So, your job is to come in and work hard but we take care of everything else for you as far as the equipment, making sure that you’re safe and also that you are getting everything you possibly can from your workout for that day.

Q.How does SuperSlow work and what are the advantages that SuperSlow offers over traditional weight loss and weight training methods?

A. SuperSlow works like any strength training or any body building activity. The idea is to bring the muscle that you are working to a point of momentary muscular fatigue. That triggers the body’s growth response mechanism so you get stronger not from exercising, you get stronger as a result of having exercised. Your body then needs adequate time and recovery resources in order to repair the muscle and make it stronger.

SuperSlow is the most time efficient and most effective method for strengthening. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn, so in that way as far as fat loss goes, having more muscle helps your body burn more calories and makes your body more efficient at burning calories. SuperSlow is the most effective way of doing that.

Q. Who can a SuperSlow program benefit and why?

A. Our clients right now range from age 12 to 79, and we’ve had older clients as well. It’s really ideal for anybody because it’s generalized exercise, its generalized strengthening. As far as who it benefits the most, busy professionals, busy moms, older people who want to remain active.  As a society we’re aging longer, we’re living longer, and in order to maintain function throughout your life, in order to maintain your activity level, it helps a lot to be strong. Really that’s what it’s all about, that’s what exercise is all about.

I just wrote an article that talks about the assumed objective vs. the real objective of why we exercise. It’s not because we like running or like bicycling, or like lifting weights for that matter, it’s because we want the results. We want to be stronger, we want our bodies to function better throughout our lifetime, and that’s what it’s really all about.

Q. Is this program viable for people of limited mobility?

A. Yeah, because you’re working with an instructor, we’re always working in a pain free range of motion. Because it’s so personal, it’s one on one, we’re going to work with you in the largest range of pain free motion that you can do. We don’t really worry too much about what you can’t do, we work on what you can do, get you stronger in that range and hopefully increase that range over time.

Q. What is the retention rate with your clients? Do they tend to use this for a specific weight loss goal or do they tend to maintain?

A. We have both. Exercise is a lifelong process, just like you’re always going to have to get haircuts, you’re always going to have to trim your nails, you’re always going to have to exercise. SuperSlow offers a very convenient way, really in as little as 20-30 minutes a week, it’s a way of exercising throughout your lifetime that’s always going to produce positive results for you.

Our focus is on safety. A lot of times people start exercising, and maybe they’re not prepared for what they’re doing or maybe they’re being pushed in some direction where they aren’t ready to go and injure themselves. That sets you back from your original goals. That’s actually how I got started with SuperSlow. I’m a former Marine, and I used to think that the way to get in shape was to run.  So, I went out and ran, stepped on a rock, broke my ankle. Now, I’m sitting around for 6-8 weeks, waiting for my ankle to heal, and putting on an extra 20lbs in the meantime. Being safe is just extremely important.

Q. I think we already touched on who the target demographic is, it’s really for anybody isn’t it?

A. It really is, you know I can tell you that our average client is about 55 years old, we’re about 60% female, 40% male and they all get great results.

Q. So how many centers are you currently operating?

A. Well, SuperSlow Zone is a franchise, there are currently, I think about 25 nationwide, and there will hopefully be more. SuperSlow Zone is a fairly new franchise, but SuperSlow has been around since 1982, back when Ken wrote the SuperSlow protocol.

Q. Do you foresee this going international?

A. Oh absolutely, we actually have a SuperSlow Zone in Istanbul. Actually, Dilek, who is the owner of that facility, came to Carlsbad for her certification.

The Session

Having finished with my questions, Thom went over my paperwork with me, and over some safety precautions for the work out. He then proceeded to show me where the changing area was, though he added it usually wasn’t necessary.

“Say if you came straight from work and wanted to take off your tie” he suggested. On an average day, I’d probably need somewhere to tuck my heels away, but today I came prepared, sporting my cross trainers.

We entered the work out area. I was surprised by the set up, this was nothing like a normal gym. Gone were the mirrors, speakers pumping their oh so infectious jams, and televisions so common place in most gyms. The walls were lined only with a row of oscillating fans on either side. I also took notice of the fact that all the machines were facing away from one another. I could really appreciate that. No one, other than your instructor, staring you down while you work out.

Thom informed me that in most gyms, they don’t care if you actually show up. They intentionally oversell their memberships, knowing that half the people paying will never set foot inside. He explained that SuperSlow really requires you to fully concentrate on your movements and form, something that can’t be done with a lot of distractions like TVs and stereos. Your instructor, someone trained in the SuperSlow technique, monitors your form. This seems an improvement over trying to do it yourself in a mirror, while fixating on the new roll you’ve discovered.

Thom set me up on a leg press machine. This machine was different from its gym brethren in that it had specialized controls. Rather than just changing the weight, and seat height, this machine allowed the instructor total control over the range of motion the client could execute. This truly was a personalized work out.

Thom set the weight for just 5lbs under my body weight. He explained that if your legs can carry your full weight all day, they should be able to manage just a little less for the duration of the exercise, which is usually about 1.5 to 3 minutes per machine.

He spent some time determining my starting and ending points, locking them in so that I wouldn’t over extend during the exercise. He then instructed me to lift very slowly, allowing 10 seconds between start to finish.  I was to let the weight just barely touchdown when I returned to my starting position, and then very slowly creep back to ending position, resisting the urge to force my way up or “fire out” as he referred to it.

I was surprised by how challenging this was, but this slow, steady movement really forced the muscle to work. I tried several of the machines using this technique. At the end of each set, Thom would have me hold the weight in suspension for a few seconds, then release. I could definitely feel the “point of momentary muscular fatigue.”

At the completion of my session, I didn’t feel exhausted, and wasn’t dripping with sweat but I certainly felt I had given my muscles a work out. Thom made sure to let me know that if I felt any pain the next day, SuperSlow Zone would provide me with a complimentary relief session, a service offered to all clients. I was told “that adverse levels of muscle soreness can usually be relieved by repeating the exercise(s) that prompted the soreness” which is basically what the relief session would consist of. This made me think about all the times I had talked myself out of a trip to the gym with the excuse that “I was too sore to go back just yet” and remained that way for the rest of the week. I probably would have been better off just getting back on the horse so to speak.

The next day, I found that despite a minimal amount of soreness in my legs and chest, I was walking taller, and feeling more energetic. I definitely felt like I had given my body a work out. SuperSlow is truly doable for anyone. It doesn’t involve rigorous movements, just slow, steady repetitive motions, performed with concentration and focus. It is the perfect example of quality versus quantity. A short, but intense work out twice a week beats out hours fumbling around at the gym in my book any day.

To find a SuperSlow Zone near you, visit:

San Diego Locals:

SuperSlow Zone Carlsbad is on Facebook:

-To Your Health,

-Sarah Marcotte

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One Response to SuperSlow Zone

  1. Pingback: Body Workout 101

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