We all tend to pay more attention to training aimed at burning calories and losing fat. However, the work that allows us to develop muscular strength can offer great benefits for our health.

Strength training has proven to be the best tool to combat the negative effects associated with aging in our body: it prevents osteoporosis , sarcopenia, improves joint mobility, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, relieves stress, anxiety… .

There are many benefits of practicing this discipline. And best of all: it is a training suitable for anyone , even for those over 70 years of age. As in all sport, it is about adapting the exercises to the initial situation of each person.

Now, a new study has found, lifting weights for as little as three seconds a day can have a positive impact on muscle strength.

In the study from Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia, 39 healthy university students performed maximal effort muscle contractions for three seconds a day, five days a week, a routine that spanned four weeks. Another 13 students did not perform any exercise during the same period and were also measured before and after the four weeks.

Exercises consisted of an isometric, concentric, or eccentric biceps curl at maximum effort. The researchers measured the maximum voluntary contraction force of the muscles before and after the four-week period.

An isometric contraction is when the muscle is immobile under load, the concentric is when the muscle is shortened, and the eccentric is when the muscle is lengthened. In the case of a biceps curl, a dumbbell is held at the side of the arm, before lifting the weight towards the chest and then lowering it by the elbow. When lifting the weight the biceps contracts concentrically, when lowering the weight it contracts eccentrically, while holding the weight parallel to the floor is isometric.The findings of the work, which have been published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, showed that muscle strength increased by more than 10% in the group that performed the eccentric biceps curl after four weeks, but the increase of muscle strength was lower in the other two exercise groups. No change in musculature was found in the control group.

Lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka , from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, said these findings show that people did not need to spend a lot of time exercising to improve their muscle strength.

“The results of the study suggest that a very small amount of exercise stimulus – even 60 seconds in four weeks – can increase muscle strength,” he stresses. Many people think that you have to spend a lot of time exercising, but this is not the case. Short, good quality exercise can still be good for the body and every muscle contraction counts.”

What is the best exercise? The study showed that all three lifting methods have some benefit for muscle strength, however the eccentric contraction easily produced the best results. The concentric lifting group improved slightly (6.3 percent) in isometric strength but saw no other improvement, while the isometric group only saw an increase in eccentric strength (7.2 percent). However, the eccentric group experienced significant improvements in strength on all three measures: concentric increased 12.8 percent, isometric 10.2 percent, and eccentric 12.2 percent. The overall muscle strength of the eccentric group improved 11.5 percent after 60 seconds of total effort.

“Although the mechanisms behind the powerful effects of eccentric contraction are still unclear, the fact that just a maximum eccentric contraction of three seconds per day improves muscle strength in a relatively short period of time is important for health and fitness. ”, emphasizes Professor Nosaka. The authors point out that if the three-second rule is also applied to other muscles, a full-body exercise could be completed in less than 30 seconds.

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