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Muscular exercises: a few minutes daily or a longer weekly session?

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The effects on muscle volume and strength of a few minutes a day of exercise or a longer weekly session were compared in a study published in July 2022 in the

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Ken Nosaka and his colleagues from Edith Cowan University (Australia) and Niigata and Nishi Kyushu Universities (Japan) conducted this study with three groups of participants who performed arm resistance exercise for four weeks. Changes in muscle strength and thickness were measured.

The exercise consisted of “maximum eccentric bicep contractions” performed on a machine that measures muscle strength for each contraction. An eccentric contraction occurs when the muscle lengthens; in this case, it involved lowering a heavy barbell during a bicep curl.

Two groups performed 30 contractions per week, with one group performing six contractions per day for five days per week (6×5 group), while the other grouped all 30 contractions into one day, once per week ( 30×1 group). Another group performed only six contractions one day a week.

After four weeks:

  • the group performing 30 contractions in a single day showed no increase in muscle strength, although muscle thickness increased by 5.8%;

  • the group performing six contractions once a week showed no change in muscle strength and thickness;

  • in contrast, the 6×5 group experienced a significant increase in muscle strength (more than 10%) and an increase in muscle thickness similar to that of the 30×1 group.

The increase in muscle strength of the 6×5 group was similar to that of the group in a previous study that performed only one maximal eccentric contraction of three seconds per day, five days per week for four weeks.

People think they have to do a long resistance training session in the gym, but they don’t», Comments the researcher. “It is enough to slowly lower a heavy dumbbell one to six times a day.»

Although the study asked participants to exert maximum effort, early findings from ongoing research indicate that similar results could be achieved without the need to push as hard as possible, he reports. “We used a biceps exercise in this study, but we think it would be the case for other muscles as well, at least to some extent.“.

It is not yet known precisely why the body responds better to resistance exercises with eccentric contractions in small doses rather than larger and less frequent loads. One reason could have to do with how often the brain is asked to operate a muscle.

It is important to include rest in an exercise program, emphasizes the researcher. In this study, the 6×5 group had two rest days per week. “Muscular adaptations occur when we rest; if someone could train 24 hours a day, there would actually be no improvement.If a person is unable to exercise for a certain period of time, there is no point in trying to “compensate” with a longer session later, he adds.

The researcher believes that recommendations from health authorities should emphasize the importance of exercising daily, rather than reaching a weekly goal (2.5 to 5 hours per week).

If you go to the gym once a week, it’s not as effective as doing a little exercise every day at home“.

A decrease in muscle mass is a cause of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, dementia, as well as musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis“, recalls the press release from the researchers.

For more information, see the links below.

Psychomedia with sources: Edith Cowan University, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
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