It’s the time of year when gyms are packed because everyone is trying to commit to their New Year’s resolution of losing weight, getting fit, or focusing on their health. And this is a great thing! We all know that exercise has huge benefits!
Some people love working out. Others, not so much. And then some folks are simply too busy. If you are someone who avoids the gym for whatever reason, a new study might pique your interest.
Cutting Your Gym Time in Half
This new study, done by Edith Cowan University has found that there are ways to do half the amount of exercise and still get the same results. The study focused on weight training and revealed that a specific type of muscle contraction is more effective than the standard motion of pumping iron.
Scientists had three groups of subjects do three types of dumbbell curls. One group did normal curls, another focused on contracting on the downward motion, and the third group focused on the upward motion. There was also a control group who did nothing. Upon measuring the results they found that people who only lowered the weight had the same strength gains as people who both raised and lowered. The people who only lowered also had a slight advantage when it came to building muscle (7.2% gain compared to 5.4%).
Eccentric Muscle Contractions
The act of contracting a muscle while a weight is in the downward motion is called an eccentric muscle contraction. Activated muscles are lengthened. This is more important for increasing strength and size as opposed to the volume.
But here is where it gets better for people who are time crunched or hate exercise; just one 3 second eccentric muscle contraction per day for 5 days a week can increase strength. Neither a concentric workout (where you lift and lower) or an isometric routine (where you lift and hold) had any effect on strength if done just one time per day.
Hold Up… a 3 Second Workout???
Obviously just three seconds per day isn’t going to get you amazing, jaw dropping results. But, if this study is correct, it can increase your general strength over time. The research does say that a workout that focuses on eccentric muscle contractions is potentially a game changer when it comes to efficiency.
The researchers on the study did give some suggestions for people who are interested in the shorter workout time. Using a dumbbell, use two hands to help with the concentric( lifting weight) phase, but one arm for the eccentric (lowering). You can do this for:
- Bicep curls
- Overhead extensions
- Front raise
- Shoulder press
Lower body workouts like knee extensions, leg curls, and calf raises can be modified in the same way using weight machines. Use two legs to go up and one to go down.
At Home Workout
If the idea of going to a gym doesn’t seem appealing, there are some simple exercises that you can do at home that focus on eccentric muscle contractions. The use of dumbbells or any type of weight resistance is optional. The goal is to focus on the contracted muscle and feel it lengthen as you complete the exercise. When it’s time to do the next rep, there is no need to contract when you go back to the starting position.
Each exercise should be done 10 times.
Chair sit: Grab a chair and sit down. Start from a half squat and slowly sit, taking 3 to 5 seconds to get your rear onto the seat. You can mix things up by changing your stance or doing it from one leg.
Chair recline/sit back: In a regular chair with a backrest, sit toward the front. Arms can be crossed at your chest or behind your head. Recline back very slowly. You can also do this in a sit up position, lowering yourself slowly to the floor.
Squat: Stand behind a chair with a backrest. Lean to one side so that you have more weight on one leg then squat down slowly. You can use the back of the chair for leverage. After 10 reps, repeat with the weight on the other leg.
Calf lowers: Stand behind the chair and use the backrest for support if you need it. Raise your heels so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Lift one leg and lower the heel of the foot on the ground, taking about three seconds. Repeat on the other side after doing 10 of those.
Wall push downs: Put your palms against the wall with your arms fully extended. Slowly bend your elbows so that you are coming in toward the wall. Reposition yourself back up. You can adjust your distance from the wall for a challenge. Or do push downs from the floor.
Lunge: Put one leg in front of the other and slowly bend so that you’re going down into a position where you are almost on one knee (like you are proposing to someone). Switch and do the other leg after ten reps.
These exercises are still challenging but can be done in half the time! Any form of exercise that gets your heart rate up and your muscles working is great for longevity! We’ll keep up to speed on any studies that come out that might help make your workouts more efficient and effective.