Getting a solid workout done can be a challenge for time-poor fitness enthusiasts, but lately we’ve seen exercise scientists delve into what the most effective workouts might look like. A team from Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) has offered new insights into this area, with a study showing that focusing on cutting weights rather than lifting them can be a more effective way to increase mass. muscular.
Over the past year, researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) have made some interesting discoveries about strength training and how short, focused workouts can still be very helpful. In February, the team showed that barbell workouts of three seconds each day can offer significant strength gains, then in August, they showed that lowering a barbell six times a day can offer the same kind of advantages.
These studies explored the types of muscle gains offered by different phases of bodybuilding. The lifting phase shortens the muscle and is known as a concentric contraction, as it occurs when a dumbbell is lifted toward the shoulders in a bicep curl. An eccentric contraction is the opposite phase, lowering the weight toward the hips, which lengthens the muscle.
Many forms of exercise, such as running and jumping, involve both eccentric and concentric contractions, with the two playing complementary roles in a healthy body. Concentric contractions may feel harder and require more energy at this time, but the muscles recover faster. Eccentric contractions, on the other hand, use less energy during exercise, but are thought to cause more muscle fiber breakdown and greater strength once they are rebuilt.
The ECU team’s previous findings follow this school of thought by showing how eccentric contractions can lead to the greatest strength gains, and the new study continues that theme. The scientists enrolled 53 subjects who were placed in one of three exercise groups designed to perform dumbbell curls twice a week for five weeks, with an inactive group serving as a control.
But only one of the groups performed concentric and eccentric contractions, like you would during a typical bicep curl. Another group performed exclusively concentric contractions, and the other group performed only eccentric contractions. The scientists observed improvements in concentric strength in all groups, but the most interesting result of the experiment was the superior gains seen in the eccentric group only.
Although they only reduced weight and performed half the reps of the eccentric-concentric group, these subjects experienced very similar strength gains. What’s even more interesting is that this group showed greater increases in muscle thickness, 7.2% compared to the 5.4% seen in the concentric-eccentric group. Study author Professor Ken Nosaka told New Atlas that those looking to gain size in the gym would do well to focus on cutting weights rather than lifting them.
“We can reduce concentric contractions and we need to focus on eccentric contractions in our resistance training,” he explained. “Generally people focus on concentric rather than eccentric contractions, but that should be reconsidered.”
Nosaka offers some examples of what it might look like at home using body weight for resistance. You can slowly sit up in a chair from a semi-squat position or slowly lower yourself into a lunge. When it comes to using weights for resistance, it begs the question of how to get them up there in the first place. For this, Nosaka also has some tips.
“To do eccentric contractions, we have to do concentric contractions (to lower a weight, we have to lift a weight first),” he told New Atlas. “It is important to note that concentric contractions induce greater neuromuscular fatigue than eccentric contractions. Thus, it is important to reduce the effort for the concentric contractions by using two arms to lift a weight, and to lower it with one arm to accentuate the eccentric contractions.
One limitation of the study is that it focused exclusively on elbow flexor training via bicep curls in untrained adults. Although Nosaka believes the value of eccentric contractions is the same for muscle groups elsewhere in the body, more studies are needed to confirm this and to determine if the effects apply to a larger population and trained individuals. .
The research was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
Source: Edith Cowan University
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