Those who lowered weights saw a greater increase in muscle cells
Lowering weights rather than lifting them may be the key to building stronger muscles, new research suggests.
Experts found that one type of muscle contraction, simply lowering weights, was just as effective as lowering and raising weights – suggesting that gym-goers could build the same amount of muscle with a shorter workout routine.
The study, published by the Edith Cowan University (ECU), Australia, monitored three groups of people who were tasked with performing dumbbell curls twice a week for five weeks. A separate control group did no arm exercises.
Of the three groups, one performed “eccentric-only muscle contractions”, or lowering of the weight.
Another group only did “concentric-only muscle contractions”, which is the lifting of the weight. A third group carried out both lifting and lowering of weights.
While members of all three groups saw improvement in their muscle strength, the group which only lowered the weights saw the greatest improvement in muscle thickness.
Researchers said this indicated a 7.2 per cent increase in muscle cells in those who lowered weights, compared with 5.4 per cent increase among those who lifted and lowered weights.
Professor Ken Nosaka from ECU, an author of the study, said the results showed that people can be “far more efficient” in the time they spend exercising and still see significant results by focusing on lowering weights.
“In the case of a dumbbell curl, many people may believe the lifting action provides the most benefit, or at least some benefit, but we found concentric muscle contractions contributed little to the training effects.
“With the small amount of daily exercise needed to see results, people don’t necessarily even have to go to the gym – they can incorporate eccentric exercise into their everyday routine.”
Lifting weights, or strength training, has gained popularity in recent years, with many studies exploring its benefits.
In September, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine,which observed more than 100,000 people over a ten year period, found that those who lifted weights once or twice a week with no other exercise lowered their risk of dying by 9-22 per cent.
Those who combined weight lifting with aerobic exercise had a 47 per cent lower risk of dying from any cause, apart from cancer.