Three seconds of lifting a day is all it takes to improve your muscular strength, according to a new study.
Researchers in Japan and Australia found that performing a single bicep curl at maximum efforts can produce a 10% strength increase in just four weeks.
This new study looks like bad news for those who claim to have absolutely no time to devote to improving their health and fitness. The test subjects worked out for a total of just one minute across the entire four weeks!
Three seconds a day of lifting: enough to improve muscular strength by 10%
A team from a Japanese and an Australian university took 39 healthy college students and had the perform a single bicep curl at max effort for three seconds a day, for five days a week over four weeks. These students did their curls in one of three different ways: one group performed an isometric hold, while two others performed a concentric or eccentric bicep curl.
Researchers measured each person’s maximum voluntary contraction strength before and after the weightlifting program, and also compared their results to those of a group of 13 students who did not exercise at all for those four weeks.
Interestingly, the results show that performing just one eccentric bicep curl every day led to the greatest increases in muscle strength. As you might imagine, the group not exercising did not see any benefits.
“The study results suggest that a very small amount of exercise stimulus – even 60 seconds in four weeks – can increase muscle strength,” says lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, in a university release.
“Many people think you have to spend a lot of time exercising, but it’s not the case. Short, good quality exercise can still be good for your body and every muscle contraction counts.”
Five reasons to lift more in 2022
If you want to get good at something – should you do more of it, or less?
What if someone told you that you had to learn a brand-new skill, let’s say learn a song on guitar – but you’d never played a guitar before. You have 6 weeks to learn how to play the guitar and how to strum these five chords. Would you only pick up the guitar once a week?
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? And yet, this is the approach many of us take with our training schedule. You might be eyeing that elusive three plate bench but how quickly are you going to get there if you only train bench once a week and have every fourth week off?
Legendary strength guru Pavel Tsatsouline coined the term ‘greasing the groove’ for the concept of training more regularly for success. In his words “specificity + frequent practice = success”.
In layman’s terms “focus on what you want to improve + do it regularly = take the W”.
The scientific term for this concept is ‘synaptic facilitation’. Essentially, repetitive and moderately intensive stimulus of a motoneuron can increase the strength of connections and even make new synapses which can help you get big and strong.
Dr Pavel tells a story of a powerlifting record holder who set up a bench press in his kitchen and every time he entered the room, he’d hit a rep or two. This is obviously an extreme case, especially if you live with someone who wouldn’t appreciate a bench in the middle of the kitchen floor, but there are lessons we can all take from this.
Click here to read the rest of this fascinating article
An eccentric curl is not a curl performed in an idiosyncratic or strange manner, but a curl in which the weight is lowered, rather than lifted, which lengthens the muscle. By contrast, a CON-centric curl involves CON-tracting the muscle to lift it. Think of the first as the downward phase of a curl, and the second as the upward phase.
An isometric contraction means the muscle is stationary while the weight.
Researchers found that, while all three lifting methods provide some benefit to a person’s strength, the eccentric contraction did the most. The students performing eccentric curls saw a 12.8% increase in concentric strength, a 12.2% increase in eccentric strength, and a 10.2% increase in isometric strength. Overall, people performing three-second eccentric bicep curls boosted their overall muscle strength by 11.5 percent – after only 60 total seconds of exercise for the month.
The group that did concentric curls only saw improvements in their isometric strength (6.3%) and the isometric group only increased their eccentric strength (7.2%).
“Although the mechanisms underpinning eccentric contraction’s potent effects are not clear yet, the fact only a three-second maximal eccentric contraction a day improves muscle strength in a relatively short period is important for health and fitness,” Prof. Nosaka adds.
The researchers believe their findings are particularly important for older peoplewho may find working out for long periods of time challenging. A simple three-second workout could help to prevent muscle wastage associated with age, at least in the arms.
“We haven’t investigated other muscles yet, but if we find the three-second rule also applies to other muscles then you might be able to do a whole-body exercise in less than 30 seconds,” Prof. Nosaka says.
“Also, performing only one maximal contraction per day means you don’t get sore afterwards.”
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