Short, explosive leg contractions lasting less than 1 second may be more effective than sustained contractions lasting 3 seconds when strength training.

The study, led by Dr Jonathan Folland, Reader in Human Performance and Neuromuscular Physiology at Loughborough University, suggests that the explosive contractions are easier and less tiring, and therefore a more efficient way to increase strength and functional capacity in the muscles.

The sustained contractions, the study continues, demand a lot of effort and soon become tiring, but are actually a more effective way to increase muscle mass, according to a media release from Loughborough University.

The study investigated the effect of explosive and sustained contractions on the participants’ quadriceps muscles, located on the front of the thigh. Folland and colleagues divided the 43 participants (healthy males in their 20s) into three groups: those who performed explosive contractions, those who performed sustained contractions, and a third that acted as a control group.

The participants performed 40 contractions three times per week for 3 months, and was prescribed and monitored to ensure they were either explosive or sustained. In addition, the participants participated in a range of performance and physiological measurements before and after the training sessions to assess the changes, per the release.

“Whereas traditional strength training is made up of slow, grinding contractions using heavy weights, which is quite hard work, this study shows that short, sharp contractions are relatively easy to perform and a very beneficial way of building up strength,” states Folland in the release.

“These short, explosive contractions may also be beneficial to older individuals and patient groups such as those with osteoarthritis, who would benefit from getting stronger, but are reluctant to undergo tiring sustained contractions,” he adds.

The study was published recently in Journal of Applied Physiology.

[Source(s): Loughborough University, Science Daily]