In a study from Edith Cowan University and elsewhere, scientists found good news for those who struggle to fit a gym workout into their day: you may be able to cut your weights routine in half and still see the same results.
They found one type of muscle contraction is most effective at increasing muscle strength and muscle size—and rather than lifting weights, the emphasis should be on lowering them.
In the study, the team had groups of people perform three different types of dumbbell curl exercises and measured the results.
They found those who only lowered a weight saw the same improvements as those who raised and lowered weights—despite only performing half the number of repetitions.
The results reinforced previous research indicating a focus on “eccentric” muscle contractions—in which activated muscles are lengthened—is more important to increase the strength and size of muscles, rather than the volume.
Researchers already know only one eccentric muscle contraction a day can increase muscle strength if it is performed five days a week—even if it’s only three seconds a day—but concentric (lifting a weight) or isometric muscle contraction (holding a weight) does not provide such an effect.
This study shows people can be far more efficient in the time they spend exercising and still see significant results by focusing on eccentric muscle contractions.
In the case of a dumbbell curl, many people may believe the lifting action provides the most benefit, or at least some benefit, but the team found concentric muscle contractions contributed little to the training effects.
So how can we put this knowledge to use in the gym?
Using a dumbbell, the team recommends using two hands to help with the concentric (lifting weight) phase, before using one arm for the eccentric phase (lowering weight), when performing: Bicep curls, Overhead extension, Front raise, and Shoulder press.
Using leg weight machines, the team recommends using the same concentric/eccentric technique when performing: Knee extensions, Leg curls, and Calf raises.
For more information about weight loss, please see recent studies about why exercise is less helpful in losing weight than simply eating less, and results showing weight loss drugs may help stop COVID-19.
The study was conducted by Ken Nosaka et al and published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
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