JUNDALUP, Australia — Could it be that a bodybuilder is more concerned with quantity than quality when it comes to gaining muscle? A new study shows that a little exercise every day is better for the body than a single intense workout session.
Researchers from Australia and Japan found that doing a handful of biceps curls five days a week improved muscle strength more than doing long stretches once a week. What’s more, they found that people don’t even need to exercise at full intensity to achieve these results.
During the study, the team had two groups of volunteers perform “maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions” for four weeks and measured each person’s muscle strength and muscle thickness. Eccentric contraction lengthens the muscle. At the moment, the biceps curl is a muscle that is lengthened by lowering a heavy dumbbell.
One group did this six times a day for five days a week (6×5). The other group completed all 30 fills in one day once a week (30×1). The researchers also had a third group of six contractions per week as a control.
The results showed that the 30 × 1 group did not increase muscle strength over four weeks. However, they saw a 5.8 percent increase in muscle thickness (a measure of muscle size). A control group that did six contractions per week saw no change in muscle strength or muscle thickness.
The 6×5 group, on the other hand, saw their muscle strength increase by more than 10 percent, as well as an increase in muscle thickness similar to the 30×1 group.
3 seconds of exercise is enough for big muscles
Interestingly, the team found that the 6×5 group saw similar results to a previous study in which participants increased muscle strength by performing one three-second bicep curl each day.
According to Ken Nosaka, a professor at Edith Cowan University, these studies show that all it takes is regular exercise to produce noticeable improvements in strength.
“People think they have to do long resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case,” Nosaka said in a university release. “Slowly lowering a heavy dumbbell once or six times a day is enough.”
In addition, Nosaka said the latest research shows that people don’t need maximal effort to achieve these results.
“We only used the biceps curl exercise in this study, but we believe that this also applies to other muscles, at least to some extent,” adds the researcher. “Muscle strength is important for our health. It helps prevent the loss of muscle mass and strength with aging. Loss of muscle mass is the cause of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia, and musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.
Days off are still good
While a new study finds that regular exercise is a good thing, the study’s authors say rest is just as important for building muscle.
“In this study, the 6 × 5 group rested two days a week,” Prof. Nosaka explains.
“Muscle adaptations occur when we are at rest; if one is somehow able to train 24 hours a day, there will be no improvement. Muscles need to rest to improve strength and muscle mass, but muscles like to be stimulated more often.’
The team also found that people shouldn’t try to “save” their exercise if they’re a short distance away from the gym. Longer sessions don’t get the results people expect.
“If someone is sick and can’t exercise for a week, that’s fine, but it’s best to get back to your regular exercise routine when you feel better,” suggests Nosaka.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. However, Nosaka’s team believes it’s important to prioritize daily physical activity rather than a specific minute mark.
“If you only go to the gym once a week, it’s not as effective as doing a little exercise every day at home,” concludes Nosaka.
“This study, along with our previous research, shows the importance of focusing on small amounts of exercise per week rather than spending several hours exercising once a week. We need to know that each muscle contraction is important and how regularly you do it is important.”
The results were published in the journal Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.