Rev5 in The TimesThis summer, Rev5 was featured in The Times. The full page piece, written by Peta Bee, appeared in the Saturday’s Body + Soul section on 25th July. It gave rise to huge interest and has really confirmed what we suspected: many over 40s feel the need for an approach to exercise that’s practical, science based and effective. No fads or unnecessary gimmicks. Just results!

Here’s the article:

“Training for short periods at a snail’s pace is the latest route to a toned body”

“Never before have I done a gym session wearing a dress, nor been told to slow down. and then to slow down more. This is a workout like no other. It has caught the interest of celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Uma Thurman, and has now launched in the UK as Rev5. The first gym is opposite Windsor Castle in Berkshire, and the team behind it plans to open more.

It’s a system that allows a workout in your coffee time. Its premise is that lifting heavy weights at a snail’s pace for 15 minutes once a week builds muscle strength and tone. One session a week is recommended because the intensity can leave your floored, meaning it takes days to recover. But you can top up with up to three slow workouts a week at home.

The key thing is to let your muscles repair and rebuild between the weights sessions. Super-slow resistance is billed as the best approach for anyone the wrong side of 40 – and not just by the gym industry. I’m guided through my first session by Dr Tahir Masood, who was convinced of the health benefits after seeing it work on patients with diabetes and other chronic illnesses that come with age.

In the US, it’s the workout approach of the moment, with high-profile trainers like Adam Zickerman, whose clients include A-listers like Stone and Thurman, advocating that we wind down the rate at which we lift weights – and so make fast progress. What appeals is the way in which slow weight-training tranforms your physique. Unlike the hard-worked, sharp-edged look achieved with endless repetitions of light weights, or the chunky appearance which comes with lots of very heavy weights, the result is a more subtle, toned effect that occurs within three weeks.

Celebrities love the fact that they look firmer and leaner with exercises that take so little time. It’s in contrast to the trend for endless, fast repetitions of light weights popularised by the likes of Tracy Anderson, who trains Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Like Dr Masood, Zickerman is convinced that slow-motion fitness has more than aesthetic value. “Workouts have become all about speed, but when it comes to resistance work, it is really not necessary for optimal results,” he says. “By slowing down you eliminate 90 per cent of the injury risk that comes with jerky movements, and your muscles also get much more tired by decreasing acceleration, so that the training effect is boosted.” Anyone can try this technique in their normal weights workout.

A Rev5 session entails 15 minutes of lifting weights on five different machines – a compound row, torso pull-down, shouldeer press, chest press and leg press. The machines are the same as in any gym. Weights on each are adjusted to individual capabilities and increase slightly with every session “so that you are always overloading your muscles”, Masood says. A clock ticks in front of you as you aim to take ten seconds to lift the weight and ten seconds to lower it, continuing for as long as your body will allow, which is usually about 90 seconds to three minutes for each exercise.

It is harder than it sounds. There is a tipping point at which your quivering muscles seem unable to perform another rep, but that’s when it is important to push on. A few minutes in, I feel the kind of muscle fatigue I usually experience after an hour-long gym circuit. “People find it tougher than they expect,” Dr Masood says. “Not just physically but mentally, as it takes the same psychological willpower to overcome muscular fatigue as it does to continue running when you want to walk.”

Interest in slow weights among the medical profession was sparked about 30 years ago when exercise physiologists at the University of Florida, led by Ken Hutchins, discovered that the approach helped to maintain bone mass in women with osteoporosis. Since then, resarchers have found that weight training is the most effective means of slowing down the natural withering of muscle mass that occurs from the age of 35. Sarcopenia (Greek for loss of flesh) is to muscles what osteoporosis is to bones: a sly, destructive condition with a potentially catastrophic effect. Most people are unaware that it is happening, yet on average 90g (3oz) of muscle is lost each year from the age of 40 (men’s greater muscle mass means they have a sharper decline). After 50, sarcopenia bleeds the body of up to 500g of muscle a year; someone in their seventies who does no exercise typically has a third less muscle than a 25-year-old.

“Loss of muscle can have a devastating impact on health,” Dr Masood says. “It is likely to raise blood lipid levels and body fat, particularly the visceral fat that accumulates around vital organs – which is partly why sarcopenia has been linked to obesity and heart disease. It has also been shown to affect insulin resistance and the onset of type 2 diabetes.”

Lower levels of lean muscle mean that the body’s metabolic rate – its ability to burn calories – slows, and since stronger muscle tissue helps to keep bones healthy, advanced saropenia could also lead to osteoporosis, studies have shown. Lifting weights that are at least 70 per cent of the maximum you could manage has proved to be the best peventative measure for slowing down such losses.

Pushing against a heavy resistance triggers tiny tears in myofibrils, the proteins that cause muscles to contract. Cells are activated around the area where this micro-damage occurs and the body recruits protein to repair and strengthen the muscle. In short, resistance training acts as a catalyst for muscle growth.

Avan Aihie Sayer, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Southampton, says: “You can’t stop sarcopenia, but you can modify the way you lose muscle, which may enhance the way you live your life.”

My session ends with muscles quivering. I am told not to return for at least six days because with a Rev5 workout (as opposed to one at home), my muscles “need that time to repair and rebuild”. Next time the weights will be heavier, although I will barely notice it, Dr Masood says. “I have a client who is 78 and has been trialling the method for a year.’ he says. “She is pushing weights that are heavier than our average 45-year-old client can manage. Strength builds strength.”

It’s not cheap (£50 a session or £165 a month) but next day my body aches as if I had run a half-marathon. I will be back.