4 Seconds Down Results in Greater Muscle Mass

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4 Second Down Results in Greater Muscle Mass

by: Robbie Durand

It is not often that you can go to the gym and see a lifter doing a slow and controlled lifting speed.  Most lifters want to load the weight on the bar and move some weight.  There is some evidence that using a slow and controlled lifting speed can be more beneficial for muscle growth.  A slower repetition speed could increase hypertrophy and strength development, by increasing time under tension.  Researchers from Brazil reported that lowering the weight slowly instead of fast can result in a greater Growth Hormone (GH) burst during exercise.

Slow, Eccentric Lifts Result in Greater GH Responses
Researchers wanted to examine the GH responses when men bench press with a weight that was lowered slowly and the when the weight was lowered rapidly.

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-The men in one group took half a second to lower the weight: fast lowering

-The men in the other group took three seconds to lower the weight slow, controlled eccentric.

At the end of the study, the slow eccentric lowering bench press group (i.e. 3 seconds to lower the weight) resulted in a greater metabolic stress to perform the exercise, resulting in increased 17 times higher GH secretion after an eccentric exercise bout (~ 1700% higher).  These results demonstrate the influence of eccentric lowering speed on metabolic stress and acute hormonal responses. What’s interesting is that we have two identical groups performing the same weight, yet the GH responses were much lower in the fast eccentric lowering group. These results suggest that slow eccentric bench press exercise prescribed by a particular muscular strength test is an effective way to induce a significantly greater GH release.

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Slow, Eccentric Lifts Result in Greater Muscle Growth Responses

New research suggests that a slow eccentric contraction results in greater muscle mass.  Twelve healthy adults were randomly assigned into two groups: fast speed and low speed. The subjects were instructed to perform three sets of 8 repetitions maximum if the subject made less than eight reps or more than eight reps, the weight load was adjusted the next training session. Rest interval between sets was of two minutes. The subjects were broken down into two groups:

-The Fast Group performed repeating the following cadence: 1-second concentric phase and 1-second in the eccentric phase.

-The Slow Group performed the repetitions with 1-second in the concentric phase but 4-seconds in the eccentric phase.

At the end of the study, the slow speed, 4 seconds down group had bigger gains in muscle hypertrophy and strength from pre to post training. The slow speed training was more effective to improve hypertrophy and muscle strength in well-trained adults. The researchers had several theories as to why the slow eccentric lowering group resulted in greater increases in muscle mass:

1.) Longer time under tension with the 4-second eccentric down contraction causes higher muscular tension, with a higher stress on a small number of active fibers, leading to greater muscle damage (especially fast twitch fibers, that are more hypertrophy prone). This promotes greater activation of satellite cells, which are related to muscle hypertrophy.

2.) A longer time under tension also increases acute protein synthesis after resistance exercise, stimulating hypertrophy response.

3.) A longer time under tension promotes compressed blood vessels for a longer period that leads to vascular occlusion and metabolic stress, contributing to the increased hypertrophy response. Therefore, controlled repetitions with slow eccentric phase promote greater muscular hypertrophy, in a balance between significant metabolic stress and muscle tension.

Key Points: The research suggests that a slow eccentric phase (4 seconds) can stimulate muscle strength and muscle mass.

Pereira, Paulo Eduardo Assis, et al. “Resistance training with slow speed of movement is better for hypertrophy and muscle strength gains than fast speed of movement.” International Journal of Applied Exercise Physiology 5.2 (2016): 37-43.

Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2010;24(10):2857-

Lieber R, Friden J. Selective damage of fast glycolytic muscle fibres with eccentric contraction of the rabbit tibialis anterior. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica. 1988;133(4):587-8.

Stauber WT. Eccentric action of muscles: physiology, injury, and adaptation. Exercise and sport sciences reviews. 1988;17:157-85.

Calixto R, Verlengia R, Crisp A, et al. ACUTE EFFECTS OF MOVEMENT VELOCITY ON BLOOD LACTATE AND GROWTH HORMONE RESPONSES AFTER ECCENTRIC BENCH PRESS EXERCISE IN RESISTANCE-TRAINED MEN. Biology of Sport. 2014;31(4):289-294.

Goto K, Ishii N, Kizuka T, Kraemer RR, Honda Y, Takamatsu K. Hormonal and metabolic responses to slow movement resistance exercise with different durations of concentric and eccentric actions. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009;106:731–739.

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