Health & Wellbeing

3-second daily dumbbell workouts lead to significant gains in strength

3-second daily dumbbell workouts lead to significant gains in strength
A new study suggests daily dumbbell workouts just three seconds in length can lead to impressive strength gains
A new study suggests daily dumbbell workouts just three seconds in length can lead to impressive strength gains
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A new study suggests daily dumbbell workouts just three seconds in length can lead to impressive strength gains
A new study suggests daily dumbbell workouts just three seconds in length can lead to impressive strength gains

Finding time to go the gym or even complete workouts at home can be a tricky task for busy folk, but a new study suggests even lifting a dumbbell once or twice a day can be worth your while, particularly when it comes to combating the effects of aging. The research examined the effects of different forms of bicep curls and found one in particular can lead to significant strength improvements, even when undertaken for just three seconds a day.

The research was carried out by scientists at Australia's Edith Cowan University and Japan's Niigata University of Health and Welfare, and involved a group of healthy university students. Thirty-nine of these subjects were made to perform a bicep curl at maximum effort for three seconds a day, five days a week, over a four-week timeframe, while another 13 students performed no exercise over the same period.

Subjects in the exercise group were made to complete one of three types of bicep curls, either a typical concentric curl where the dumbbell is raised toward the shoulders (shortening the muscle), an eccentric curl where it is slowly lowered back below the hips (lengthening the muscle), or an isometric curl where the arm holds it at a 90-degree angle (keeping the muscle stationary).

The researchers measured the maximum voluntary contraction strength of the subjects' muscles both before and after the four-week period, which illustrated some surprising changes. The eccentric group enjoyed easily the best results, exhibiting significant improvements in their concentric strength (12.8 percent increase), isometric strength (10.2 percent) and eccentric strength (12.2 percent). Their overall muscle strength improved by 11.5 percent in total.

All exercising participants exhibited some improvement, with the concentric group improving their isometric strength by 6.3 percent, and the isometric group increasing their eccentric strength by 7.2 percent. These subjects saw no improvement elsewhere, however, indicating the eccentric contractions might be the best avenue to strength gains if time is limited.

“Although the mechanisms underpinning eccentric contraction’s potent effects are not clear yet, the fact only a three-second maximal eccentric contraction a day improves muscle strength in a relatively short period is important for health and fitness,” said Professor Ken Nosaka from Edith Cowan University.

The scientists say the findings could prove important when it comes to preventing the loss of muscle mass and strength associated with aging. They imagine if the same effects could be replicated in other muscle groups, it could lead to a particularly efficient way to work the entire body.

“We haven’t investigated other muscles yet, but if we find the three-second rule also applies to other muscles then you might be able to do a whole-body exercise in less than 30 seconds,” said Nosaka. “Also, performing only one maximal contraction per day means you don’t get sore afterwards.”

The research was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Source: Edith Cowan University

Fascinating. I look forward to their results with whole body exercise. We HUmons are such lazy beasties...
Excellent! I am age 61 and a lot more active during non-winter months. Having a new (first) grandchild born this winter, I’ve very much noticed a bit of “muscle burn” from simply occasionally holding him and bouncing him. I’m clearly using muscles that are otherwise sleeping.
I'm 72 years old. About 18 months ago I acquired a VR setup (headset, hand controllers etc) and I added wrist weights, currently 2 kg each wrist. By playing games such "Fruit Ninja" I can give my wrists, forearms, upper arms and pecs a good workout over 15-20 minutes. Although wearing a VR headset prevents me from keeping real time tracking of my heart rate, playing this game also seems to assist with maintaining cardio-vascular fitness (I cycle daily and my resting heart rate is 55-60 bpm). As a side benefit it seems to be keeping my decision making in good order, having to quickly make up my mind (a) which object to hit (or not hit - beware the bombs) and (b) which hand to strike with. Might be a good field for further study.
I like joeblake's idea. But yes, doing even a short weight lifting routine every day helps me stay in shape.
Sign me up!! I think I'll try this as I badly need it. A squat for me, would be one.
Max load is critical here and there are similar studies that when you life squeezing out that last rep you can barely move does a lot for strength gains compared to all the ones before it. I assume similar results for other muscles besides biceps but for many people hitting max load outside a real gym for many muscle groups would be a challenge. Also @joeblake I have taken to doing something similar with Oculus Quest and boxing games. I think it's awesome you are using tech to do your thing at 72.
Christian Lassen
A few trainers I've watched and listened to have been saying this for a while now. It's the slow release, or extension of the weight that causes the true gains.

I'd also be curious how this continues with time. Most people can easily gain 10-20% maximum lift weight during their first few weeks of any weight training, but that increase tapers off relatively quickly. Much of it having to do with just learning how to fire neurons that contract the muscles in a coordinated way. So, how do these eccentric movements help in allowing that increase to continue.