If your goal is preventing muscle loss, you are probably considering strength training and/or performing other weight-bearing exercises. Research does show these exercises work at preventing muscle loss.
But do you want something that just works — something that you really have to work at, meaning it takes up a lot of your time — or do you want something that is amazingly effective, but quite a bit less time-consuming?
If you chose the latter — and who wouldn’t?!!! — you’re in for surprise. This will turn everything you’ve ever learned about exercise on its head. Ready?
The Two Types of Exercise
Okay. There are two types of traditional resistance training exercise contractions — concentric and eccentric.
Concentric occurs as the muscle is shortening, usually as you lift the resistance; ie, curling a dumbbell toward your chest with your arms. Eccentric occurs as the muscle is lengthening, usually as you lower the resistance; ie, lowering the dumbbell away from your chest with your arms.
Though exercisers and trainers tend to focus on the concentric action, studies show eccentric action is far more difficult. In fact, safely and slowly lowering weight allows you to use up to 40% more resistance. More resistance equals more total muscle fibers activated. This is important because the more muscle fibers that are activated, the more muscle is developed.
Traditional exercise, by the way, typically only activates one muscle fiber. This is why you can perform so many reps or can work out for 30-60 minutes at a time. But this is not effective for preventing muscle loss, significantly building muscle, lowering setpoint weight, or improving health.
Benefits of Eccentric Exercise
Many studies show eccentric exercise to be superior to traditional exercise at lowering setpoint weight and building lean muscle mass. Eccentric exercise has been shown in various studies to increase levels of growth hormones and testosterone, both of which improve muscle tone and development and increase muscle strength.
You can make any exercise an eccentric one by concentrating on the lowering part of the movement. If you’re performing a squat, for instance, slowly squat for a count of 10. Repeat 6 times. If you’re performing a push-up, begin in a plank position with body parallel to the floor. Keeping your body straight throughout the entire movement, begin slowly lowering yourself until your chest grazes the floor. (It is okay to work up to this level.) Lower your knees to the floor and return to the starting position.
The great thing about eccentric exercise, besides preventing muscle loss and lowering setpoint weight, is that you cannot do them often. It takes a good 4 days to heal your deep muscle fibers. So, you should perform eccentric exercises just once a week, for about 10 minutes.