Slow, slow, fit fit, slow

Is the aerobics cult a con? Yes, says America's new exercise guru. Nick Walker reports

It has been said that exercise is the new religion. If so, then Ken Hutchins, America's new fitness guru, is an altar-defacing heretic, not to mention a media celebrity, because he says (gasp) that aerobic exercise - the be-all and end-all of the global fitness industry - does not work and, moreover, is dangerous. "The notion that the aerobic protocol is good for you is one of the greatest threats to national health."

Hutchins challenges the very notion of exercise as it is understood. "The medical schools and physiologists try to push the idea that aerobics is the basis of exercise. It is not." Then what is? "Why, muscles! The control and movement of muscles."Hutchins, 43, a former employee of the fitness giant Nautilus, claims he knows what he is talking about. He left the company because it embraced the aerobics boom (he says Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones was anti-aerobics, too), a boom which is "an insidious sham, a nonsense, a con". According to Hutchins, current fitness theory is peddled by "Nazis". Aerobics Nazis. And he is not "going to sit back and take it".

So what is he not going to take? Basically, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines on aerobic exercise. The college states that aerobic - or with "oxygen" - exercise, if strenuous and sustained enough, requires the muscles to demand nutrients and oxygen from the bloodstream. Your heart and lungs work harder. Twenty or so minutes of such cardiovascular endeavour a day is the road - the only road - to fitness. Hutchins disagrees. There have been too many accidents jogging, too many slips in step class with jolted joints. He is adamant that if all aerobic exercise were to cease tomorrow - all jogging, treadmill walking, all rowing on machines - then "our health would instantly improve". No more strain injuries, impacted ligaments or impaired hearing (only months ago, the US Journal of Sports warned of inner ear damage caused by jumping and jarring). "See what I mean?" gloats Hutchins.

But not to worry, he has a new creed: his very own Florida-based, 150-trainer Super Slow Exercise Guild, viewed by some as a cult with bar bells.

Hit the play button: "If the key to exercise lies in building the muscles to support the body's system, then that is exactly what it should do." Exercise," he says, "needs only to focus on strengthening the muscles in a concentrated manner". The heart, bones and lungs will then, apparently, join in to maintain the effort. "Muscles are the window to the body. Only muscles affect fitness. Only muscles have a direct physical function."

With Super Slow, you take "10 seconds to lift a weight and five seconds to lower it". There is no pausing at the top nor jerking at the bottom. Repetitions are seamless. Fixed weights are preferred to free weights as a fixed weight will provide more control, and you only have to lift the weight you normally lift. Sounds easy, but after 90 seconds or so of controlled, concentrated lifting and continuous muscle resistance, you will be lucky if you can manage a seventh repetition before you "hit the wall" and experience muscle failure.

Without a pause, move on to the next machine. You only use eight machines per session, so a Super Slow workout takes just 20 or 30 minutes. And, big selling point, you only need to visit the gym twice a week. Hogwash, say sceptics, murmuring "research?", "fad" and "remember callanetics?".

Is Super Slow poised to be the Next Big Thing? "I can understand the theory," says Kathy Fulcher, laboratory director and exercise physiologist at the National Sports Medicine Institute. "But it doesn't add just to state that aerobic exercise is bad or, equally, to say aerobic exercise is the only solution. His theory may have some credibility, but it doesn't sound very practical."

Others in the US have simply gone for the jugular. American GQ magazine describes Hutchins as "a raving, eccentric hothead who's obscuring any legitimate points he may have with inflammatory bluster". Hutchins shrugs: "Before others call the Super Slow Exercise Guild a cult, they should first analyse which fitness camp has the greatest numbers performing unison movements en masse with singing and music against special lighting effects. Hitler was not and is not the only Pied Piper."

Strong words. To place Triumph of the Will as a mere precursor to Jane Fonda's Workout Video is somewhat flip (and beside the point), but Hutchins's message - only two visits to the gym per week - is far-reaching. We are talking revolution, a new messiah, not merchandising.

"But there is no miracle solution," says Alison Hall, the UK representative for the ACSM. "Just like weight loss, everybody knows what that answer is common sense. It's just that it can be damn hard work."

Nevertheless, Ken Hutchins believes in miracles. He says we stand at the verge of a new exercise era. He will work(out) wonders. Turning water into wine is somewhat passe. Turning fat into muscle - now, that could really change the world.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

    SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DOVER

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

    English Teacher - From October Half Term

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher requir...

    Science Teacher - Spring half term

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Are you QTS qualified and availa...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week