Short bursts of strenuous exercise for 3 seconds per day improves muscle strength

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A demonstration of a biceps curl.interstid/iStock

We all have our new year resolutions that we don’t usually follow, like embracing a healthier lifestyle and visiting the gym more often either for cardiovascular activities or lifting weights.

Sparing a decent time of your day for exercise could be tricky, and many of us hide behind the excuse of not being able to find the time for the gym.

But there is good news for those who genuinely can’t find the time, a new study by the researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) from Australia and Niigata University of Health and Welfare from Japan has discovered that lifting weights for as little as three seconds per day can increase muscle strength and can help with combat against aging.

Thirty-nine of these subjects were tasked to perform a bicep curl at maximum effort for three seconds each day, five days a week, over a period of four weeks, while another 13 students performed no exercise over the same period.

The researchers examined the effects of different forms of bicep curls and “invented” one, which can lead to significant improvements in strength, even when undertaken for just three seconds per day.

Subjects in the exercise group were made to complete one of three types of bicep curls, either a typical concentric curl that shortens the muscle, an eccentric curl that lengthens the muscle, or an isometric curl where the arm holds it at a 90-degree angle while keeping the muscle tense.

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The maximum voluntary contraction strength of the subjects' muscles was measured both before and after the four-week period by the researchers. The results of the study have shown some drastic changes. The eccentric group had the best results, increasing their concentric strength by 12.8 percent, the eccentric strength group increased their strength by 12.2 percent, and the isometric strength group increased their muscle strength by 10.2 percent. The overall muscle strength of the participants was improved by 11.5 percent in total.

On the other hand, the concentric group improved their isometric strength by 6.3 percent, and the isometric group increased their eccentric strength by 7.2 percent, however, the research indicates that the eccentric contractions might be the best avenue for gaining strength in a limited time.

“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,” said the lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka from Edith Cowan University.

“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,” said Nosaka. “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. Also, performing only one maximal contraction per day means you don’t get sore afterwards.”

The research team argues that the findings could prove important when it comes to preventing the loss of muscle mass and strength associated with aging. They imagine if the same effects could be replicated in other muscle groups, it could lead to a particularly efficient way to work the entire body.

Our muscles may never be as strong as artificial muscles, but even so, we can build strong muscles as an investment for the time we get old, unless we find ways to reverse aging.

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