By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Pasadena Weekly Executive Editor
Melinda Hughes suffered from scoliosis as well as knee pain, until she discovered SuperSlow strength training 13 years ago.
After experiencing more energy during the day and a more restful sleep each night, the then-27-year-old noticed her knee pain disappeared and her back was stronger. Her scoliosis wasn’t as pronounced because she safely corrected muscular imbalances.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” she said. “Something about the science that made sense to me. I went out on a limb and tried the workout with her. Right away, I would tell the difference. In only a few months, my knee pain was completely gone. It was just a matter of strengthening the muscles.”
In 2011, wanting to share SuperSlow, she stepped out on her own and opened The Strength Shoppe in 2011 to bring the benefits of high-intensity strength training to Pasadena. The move has proven to be successful. Six years later, she expanded to DTLA/Echo Park.
Hughes said the technique is quite different, calling it “slow motion, high-intensity strength training.
“You’re lifting the weight slowly and lowering it slowly,” she added.
“You’re not using momentum to lift the weight. You work very intensely. We never lock out our joints, and we never set the weight down. From the beginning to the end of the exercise, muscles are working to a point of muscle failure. If you’re lifting to the point of muscle failure, you’re not allowing the muscle to rest.”
Hughes said at one point, the weight can’t be lifted. At that point, Hughes or her staff encourages the person to try to move the weight for 10 seconds.
“The key element to this is because you’re working the muscles that intensely it’s a more effective workout.”
The body must be pushed a little bit more to get it to respond, she said. This form of exercise was developed for osteoporosis patients in their 80s and is safe enough for 90-year-old osteoporotic women.
“Weight training has long been known to be the only nonmedication way of halting progress of osteoporosis and reversing it,” she said.
Her studio members with osteoporosis were using traditional strength training, which made them susceptible to bone fractures. SuperSlow produces results quicker and more significantly, too, she explained. It just takes 20 minutes once a week.
Her clients range in age from 12 to 91. The younger ones are children of members who want their kids to understand how to take care of their body and feel good about it, she explained.
“I had a client come in walking with a cane,” said Hughes, who added that SuperSlow is based on scientific research. “She said her doctor wanted her to try strength training before knee replacement surgery.
“The healing after the knee replacement surgery goes better if you’re stronger. The aftercare is easier. After only about two to three months, she had no pain and was walking without the cane. She still hasn’t had knee replacements.”
Hughes said that without allowing the body to recover, those who use traditional exercise are more susceptible to cold, flu, sickness and injury.
Still, according to the Mayo Clinic, research hasn’t shown SuperSlow strength training to be superior to other forms of strength training.
According to two separate studies conducted by fitness researcher Dr. Westcott, “slower repetition speed may effectively increase intensity throughout the lifting phase while decreasing momentum.”
Westcott and his team of researchers concluded “in both studies, Super-Slow training resulted in about a 50% greater increase in strength for both men and women than regular speed training.”
Furthermore, due to the safety of slow movements, “SuperSlow training is an effective method for middle-aged and older adults to increase strength.”
Hughes said SuperSlow is perfect for those who want to exercise and get the maximum benefit in a minimal amount of time. Armed with a Master of Science in holistic nutrition, Hughes sees many clients who are busy parents or those who work long days.
The exercise form works, she said, because SuperSlow causes little tears to the muscle fiber. The muscle, which is attached to bone, tugs at the bone, causing trauma to the bone tissue.
“Growth hormones are released, osteoblasts are released, and the body recovers from the workout.
“It’s like your skin,” she explained. “If you scrape your knee, your skin is going to repair itself pretty quickly. In a day or two it’s done. If you cut your skin to the bone, it’s going to require more days for the body to repair the skin tissue and heal that wound.”
The Studio City resident says working out at The Strength Shoppe is appropriate in this pandemic-riddled world.
“This is still a raging virus,” Hughes said. “It’s nice to be able to come in and have your trainer wear a mask. You’re the only one in there. You don’t have to worry about bigger gyms with a bunch of people.
“COVID-19 hit the fitness industry really hard. However, people are not looking for big classes with lots of people. That’s not what the people are looking for right now. They’re looking for something that makes them healthier and keeps them strong. We have an air purifier system, and we clean the machines after workouts. All it takes is 20 minutes each week.”
The Strength Shoppe
350 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 105, Pasadena
305 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles