How many times do we hear that you need an intense workout to see results in the short-term? or that you need to spend several hours in the gym to improve your strength and muscle thickness?. Well , latest research indicates a little bit of daily activity could well be the most beneficial approach, at least for muscle strength. And happily, it also suggests you don’t have to put in a mountain of work every day.
Frequency is more important than intensity
In collaboration with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan, the four-week training study had three groups of participants performing an arm resistance exercise and changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness were measured and compared.
The exercise consisted of ‘maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions’ performed on a machine which measures muscle strength in each muscle contraction you would do at the gym.
An eccentric contraction is when the muscle is lengthening; in this case, like lowering a heavy dumbbell in a bicep curl.
Two groups performed 30 contractions per week, with one group doing six contractions a day for five days a week (6×5 group), while the other crammed all 30 into a single day, once a week (30×1 group).
Another group only performed six contractions one day a week.
After four weeks, The 6 × 1 group did not show significant changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness.
Significant increases in maximal voluntary eccentric contraction (13.5 ± 11.5%), isometric contraction (9.3 ± 5.5%), maximal voluntary concentric contraction torque (11.1 ± 7.4%) were evident for the 6 × 5 group only, and increases in muscle thickness were found for the 6 × 5 (10.4 ± 4.4%) and 30 × 1 (8.0 ± 5.8%) groups without a significant difference.
How much time do you need to rest to see these results?
It is not yet known precisely why the body responds better to resistance exercises with eccentric contractions in smaller doses rather than bigger loads less frequently.
In this study, the 6×5 group had two days off per week, and the other groups had more days of rest for the arm muscles.
This suggests that muscles need rest to improve their strength and their muscle mass, but muscles appear to like to be stimulated more frequently.
Current Australian Government guidelines already indicate adults should try to be active every day and perform 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity per week. This time is important to distribute many days per week and not do just one day of excessive exercise session. It’s better to do some workout at your home daily than to go to the gym once a week.
Muscle strength is important to our health. This could help prevent a decrease in muscle mass and strength with aging. Maintaining muscle mass is important in prevention of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia, and musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.
This is important to promote to the population, and motivate them to frequently do home exercise, and not depend on having a gym or not.
Riku Yoshida, Shigeru Sato, Kazuki Kasahara, Yuta Murakami, Fu Murakoshi, Kodai Aizawa, Ryoma Koizumi, Kazunori Nosaka, Masatoshi Nakamura, (June 2, 2022). Greater effects by performing a small number of eccentric contractions daily than a larger number of them once a week. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Retrieved from : https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/sms.14220
Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash.