A team at Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) has exhibited through a study that a focus on lowering weights instead of lifting them may be a more efficient way to increase muscle mass.
In February, the team showed that three-second dumbbell workouts each day can offer sizable benefits for strength. In August, it was discovered that reducing this to six times a day could help achieve the same output.
The lifting phase shortens the muscle and is called a concentric contraction. An eccentric contraction is the opposite of that.
Some exercises like running and jumping have both eccentric and concentric contractions. Both of them are responsible for a healthy body.
The scientists conducted a test on 53 subjects who were placed in one of three exercise groups made to perform dumbbell curls twice a week for five weeks, and an inactive group was kept as a control.
However, only one group performed both concentric and eccentric contractions during a typical bicep curl. Another group performed exclusively concentric contractions, and the other group performed only eccentric contractions. There was an improved concentric strength in all groups. One interesting finding was that certain strengths were developed only in the eccentric-only group.
They had only reduced the weight and made half the repetitions of the eccentric-concentric group. Still, they had similar strength gains. Also, the group showed greater increases in muscle thickness, of 7.2% compared to 5.4% seen in the concentric-eccentric group. Study author Professor Ken Nosaka tells New Atlas:
“We can cut concentric contractions and we need to focus on eccentric contractions in our resistance training,” he explained. “Generally speaking, people focus on concentric rather than eccentric contractions, but this should be reconsidered.”
Nosaka brings a demonstration that showed what this might look like at home using body weight for resistance.
“In order to do eccentric contractions, we need to do concentric contractions (in order to lower a weight, we need to lift a weight first),” he told New Atlas. “It is important to note that concentric contractions induce greater neuromuscular fatigue than eccentric contractions. Thus, it is important to reduce the effort for concentric contractions by using two arms to lift a weight, and lower it with one arm to emphasize eccentric contractions.”
However, there is a limit to the study. It only sheds light on training the elbow flexor through bicep curls in untrained adults. Further studies are needed for a more inclusive result.
The research was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.