What Is The Best Way To Improve Muscle Strength?
There is a new studied that was recently performed which goes against many things that were previously thought. Up until recently it was believed that the best way to build muscle strength was to engage in physical activity that consisted of sustained muscle contractions lasting about 3 seconds. However several new studies would seem to show that muscles grow bigger, faster, and stronger when people engage in physical activities consist of explosive and fast muscle contractions that last one second or less. Let’s talk about this study a little more.
The study was led by Dr. Jonathan Folland who is a Reader in Human Performance and Neuromuscular Physiology at Loughborough University. He is the first person and this is the first study to effectively compare the effects of long term sustained muscle contractions in terms of muscle building efficacy compared to short term explosive muscle contractions. Of course strength training is a proven method in terms of physical strength, concentration, balance, and even cardiovascular health. Strength training is good for everybody including professional athletes, children, people of all ages, and especially people that are undergoing physical rehabilitation due to previous injuries.
One of the reasons that small and explosive contractions are much better for strength training than long and sustained contractions is because they are much easier to do and are less tiring, therefore it’s easier to get the same amount of results with less work. The short contractions work so well because they cause the nervous system and the brain to activate and switch on trained muscles to work faster and harder. On the other hand, longer and more sustained contractions are shown to be much harder to do and are also much more tiring, not to mention that they don’t help muscle mass grow nearly as quickly and after all, the main goal of strength training is to increase muscle mass as well as their overall strength.
The way the study was performed is that a number of people were tested in terms of physical exercise when it came to long or short contractions. To be specific the effects of the contractions were studied in relation to the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. There was one group that did short and explosive contractions and there was a control group which engaged in the more traditional sustained contractions. All of the participants in both groups performed 40 contractions 3 times per week to study the results. The study closely monitored the participants to ensure that they were in fact engaging in the type of contractions (long or short) that was assigned to their study group. Before and after the study was performed there were quite a few different physiological and physical assessments done to measure the results and the efficacy of each type of strength training.
There have been many fitness debates raging on for a very long time concerning the efficacy of one type of strength training over another. Up until recently it was thought that longer and more sustained contractions were the way to go and that without any pain there would be no gain. However this most recent study shows that is not the case and it is in fact possible to gain a lot of muscle mass with short and explosive contractions which result in less pain and less fatigue. The participants that engaged in short and explosive strength training were shown to have a higher muscle mass, a higher muscle density, and overall better strength after the study was completed than compared to those who did longer and more sustained contractions.
In essence this study shows that strength training doesn’t have to be a slow, long, and grueling process because the shorter version that is more explosive is more effective in the end anyway. Furthermore it was shown that the shorter and more explosive contractions may actually be better for elderly people, especially those suffering from bone issues such as osteoporosis. So the next time you go to do any strength training just keep in mind that more is not always better. Keep it simple and keep fit!