Muscle mass and eccentric exercise
Maintaining muscle mass has some extraordinary benefits for your body. Not only does it help you feel healthier, but it also physically helps your body in lots of different ways.
Whilst we might think about weight training as only lifting heavy dumbbells, the way we physically lower those weights is also hugely beneficial in building the muscle mass we are trying to achieve. Having an awareness of a ‘full movement’ whilst weight training can increase your muscle mass more quickly and you can start enjoying the benefits sooner.
- Longevity– a study of over 3000 men and women over 10 years found those with higher muscle mass had a longer life expectancy. Muscle mass has since become a more reliable indicator of your overall health than the size of your waistline or Body Mass Index (BMI).
- Immune System – a study in women has shown weight training naturally helps to boost their immune systems. This allows the cells in your body to actively help fight infection if you regularly undertake resistance training.
- Cognitive function – in the over-65s weight training has been proven to help improve different functions of the brain. Things like matching names to faces and decision-making functions were improved in a study group who trained with weights. So building muscle mass helps keep the brain working at it’s best for longer.
- Increase bone density – From when you turn 30 your body will naturally start losing bone density. By stressing your bones with weight bearing and resistance exercise, this strength training can help sustain and increase your bone density reducing your risk of osteoporosis in later life.
This is the part of exercising we don’t always think about. For every push there is a pull, for every concentric muscle contraction, there is an eccentric muscle lengthening. If you are doing a bicep curl, the concentric movement would be on the way up, the eccentric exercise would be from the top of the curl as you lower the weight back down.
The body builds strength by healing microscopic damage done to muscles brought about by general use and weight training. During the eccentric exercise fewer muscle fibres are put to work, meaning each fibre takes more weight, more microscopic tears are produced, more muscle mass and strength is built.
Eccentric exercise can also help boost your metabolic rate – meaning you burn more calories whilst resting. So, you are benefiting even when you aren’t exercising! This boost in metabolic rate can last for up to 72 hours after a short 30-minute workout.
By simply being aware of eccentric exercise and focusing your efforts you can make sure you are reaping the rewards. Don’t just let the weight drop down, lower it with purposeful movement!
And it’s not just weight training, all forms of exercise have an eccentric element such as Yoga and Pilates or even something as simple as sitting down slowly. When you repeat these movements you will be helping build muscle mass that will keep your body and brain healthier for longer.
As ever with exercise, make sure you are doing it safely and stay well hydrated. If you feel ill at any time or develop an injury stop what you are doing and contact a healthcare professional if the symptoms persist.