A new study has reported that slowly lowering weights builds and strengthens muscles almost as well as lifting and lowering them. That means, for example, using two hands to lift a dumbbell, then one hand to slowly lower it, because focusing on the lowering can lead to a more efficient gym session,
In a Japanese research study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology , researchers divided people into three groups of 14 for a five-week, twice-weekly comparison. One group performed dumbbell curls from full extension to about one-quarter of the way up, for two seconds up and two seconds down, in three sets of 10 reps. Another 14 people performed only the lift portion of the movement (a researcher helped them reset the weight after each rep), and another 14 did only the lowering part of the move.
The group that both lifted and lowered the weights increased the maximum force they could produce on a lift by 18%, and increased the thickness of their biceps muscle by 11%. The people who only lowered the weights nearly matched that, increasing their maximum force by 14% and muscle size by 10%. The lifting-only group increased their max force by 11%, while their muscle size increase was insignificant.
The lifting-plus-lowering group saw the biggest gains because they were basically doing twice the number of reps. The lowering-only group made similar improvements in strength and muscle with only half the work.
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