Finding That Balance

The Strength Shoppe clients become stronger in 20 minutes a week

By Leah Schwartz

Melinda Hughes suffered from scoliosis and knee pain until she discovered SuperSlow strength training 15 years ago.

The workout resulted in her feeling more energetic during the day and experiencing a more restful sleep each night. The then-27-year-old noticed her chronic pain had disappeared and her back felt much stronger. Her scoliosis also wasn’t as pronounced because she safely corrected muscular imbalances.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” she says.

“But the science made sense to me, based on my studies of the human body as I earned my master’s in nutrition. I took a chance and tried the workout. Right away, I could tell the difference. In only a few months, my knee pain, which was diagnosed as genetic, was completely gone. It was just a matter of strengthening the muscles.”

After working as a strength training instructor at her mentor’s studio, Hughes stepped out on her own and opened The Strength Shoppe in 2011 to bring the benefits of high-intensity strength training to clients in Pasadena. Six years later, she opened a second studio in Echo Park.

Hughes said the slow-motion, high-intensity strength training technique used at The Strength Shoppe is successful because it is safe and effective. 

“You’re lifting the weight slowly and lowering it slowly,” she adds.

“You’re not using momentum to lift the weight, so you work the muscles very intensely. You never lock out or completely straighten your joints, and you never set the weight down. From the beginning to the end of the exercise, your muscles are working to the point of muscle failure. Lifting to the point of muscle failure does not allow the muscle to rest, which causes the muscle to become stronger.”

The exercise form works, she says, because SuperSlow causes little tears to the muscle fiber. The muscle, which is attached to bone, tugs at the bone, causing a stimulus to the bone tissue.

“We don’t actually become stronger during a workout,” she says.

“A workout makes us temporarily weaker, and the body’s response to this stimulus makes us stronger. It’s necessary to offer a meaningful stimulus and equally necessary to allow the recovery time needed for the body to repair and become stronger.”

During the rest period between workouts, “growth hormones are released, osteoblasts are released, and the body recovers from the workout.”

But for the recovery process to be most effective, the stimulus provided must be significant.

“It’s like your skin,” she explains. “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.”

Hughes said those who use traditional exercise and work out too often without allowing the body to recover are more susceptible to cold, flu, sickness and injury.

She maintains SuperSlow training is perfect for those who want to get the maximum benefit of exercise in a minimal amount of time. The Strength Shoppe trainers work with many clients who are busy parents and those who work long days or travel frequently.

This form of exercise was developed for osteoporosis patients in their 90s and is safe enough for those with medical conditions and injuries.

“Weight training has long been known to be the only way of halting progress of osteoporosis and reversing it aside from medication, but traditional strength training poses too high a risk of fractures for those with low bone density,” Hughes says.

Hughes and her team work with their clients at the Pasadena and Echo Park studios as well as online in virtual appointments on Zoom or FaceTime. The Strength Shoppe clients range in age from 11 to 92. Parents send their children to The Strength Shoppe so they understand how to take care of their body and feel good about it, Hughes explains.

Clients De and Pat Alcorn have been going to The Strength Shoppe since its opening. De remarks that this method of lifting is not something to pass up. There’s “such little time required. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I got stronger and stronger, and I was in my 80s at the time, and I’m 90 now. The Strength Shoppe is something I wouldn’t do without anymore. It’s just made a big difference. Without it, I think I would be a lot less healthy than I am right now.”

Pat agrees.

“I’m not one for exercise,” Pat says. “So, it started out with me not being very enthusiastic. But I feel that it has been such an important thing in my life. It’s almost like a physical therapy session for me, so I wouldn’t miss it.

“I’ve had a couple of health setbacks in the past couple of years. When we first started, I was gaining strength, especially in my upper body. The trainers were able to work around my health setbacks, and it helped me recover quickly.”

De says Hughes is a wonderful person to work with, and the trainers are excellent. 

“They’re very patient, thorough, easy to work with, cognizant of our condition, and attentive to their clients. And they’re just very friendly people and professional,” De explains.

SuperSlow training is based on scientific research.

“Doctors advise their patients to try strength training before knee replacement surgery,” Hughes says. “The healing after the knee replacement surgery goes better if you’re stronger. The after care is easier.”

Client Pam Craig says she came to The Strength Shoppe “using a cane to walk. I couldn’t stand without pain in my knee. Now it’s years later, I still come every week. I walk without a cane. I stand without pain. I still have almost no cartilage in my knee, but the stronger lower body muscles compensate. This training has literally saved me.”

According to two separate studies conducted by renowned fitness researcher Dr. Wayne 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, SuperSlow 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.”

Lifelong lifter Blake Boyd turned to The Strength Shoppe after experiencing neck pain in 2018. Boyd asserts, “It didn’t happen overnight, but after a couple months of strength training one day a week, my neck has never hurt since. It’s very cathartic work. Physically, it’s also very safe because you’re going super slow.

“I had both my hips replaced. That was two years ago. My trainer and I figured it out about six months ago that since the surgery, my lower body strength is up about 30%, and I’m 56.”

For further education, Hughes uses her Master of Science in holistic nutrition to create educational workshops and courses with her husband/co-owner, Arjen van Eijmeren, to offer clients of The Strength Shoppe a one-stop shop for all things health related. Clients access these programs through an online portal.

“Our goal is to help people expand the physical capability of their bodies so they are able to do all the things they want to do in their lives,” Hughes says.

“Your body shouldn’t limit you. Your body should give you the strength and ability to achieve your full potential and live your best life.”

The Strength Shoppe

350 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 105, Pasadena

305 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles

Leave a Reply