Lifting weights for just THREE SECONDS a day helps build muscle

Jennifer E. Engen

Lifting weights for just THREE SECONDS a day may help strengthen your muscles, scientists say

  • Australian researchers studied 39 people who did 20 bicep curls over a month
  • The exercise, which just lasts a few seconds, increased strength by up to 10%
  • Lead author said results show people don’t need to spend lots of time exercising 

Lifting weights for just three seconds a day can strengthen muscle, researchers have found. 

Experts in Australia monitored people who did a different type of bicep curl five days a week for a month. They were asked to do just one curl each time.

The volunteers who performed one specific type of curl saw a 10 per cent increase in muscle strength after four weeks, results showed. 

Professor Ken Nosaka, lead study author, said the results showed people didn’t need to spend vast amounts of time exercising to improve their muscle strength.

The team is yet to find out whether the finding applies to other muscle groups. But if it does it means people could do a ‘whole-body exercise in less than 30 seconds’, he said.

The findings are ‘exciting for promoting physical fitness and health’, such as preventing sarcopenia — a decrease in muscle mass and strength with ageing, Professor Nosaka added. 

The study recruited 52 health students from the Niigata University of Health and Welfare in Japan. They were divided into four groups, with a quarter lifting no weights, while the other volunteers did different types of bicep curls. Pictured: stock image of woman doing bicep curl

The study, by researchers at Edith Cowan University, recruited 52 health students in Japan. 

They were divided into four groups, with a quarter lifting no weights, while the other volunteers did different types of bicep curls.

One group held the weight parallel to the ground, with their elbow at a 90 degree angle — the first part of a bicep curl — for three seconds. This is called an isometric contraction, when the muscle is stationary while holding a weight.

The second group lifted the weight from this stationary position to their chest — a concentric contraction, when the muscle is shortening during the movement. 


Adults aged 19 to 64 are advised to exercise daily.

The NHS says Britons should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity a week. 

The advice is the same for disabled adults, pregnant women and new mothers. 

Exercising just one or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike, dancing, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking and rollerblading.

Vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, riding a bike fast or on hills, walking up stairs, as well as sports such as football, rugby, netball and hockey.

The third group lowered the weight from the 90 degree angle, which is an eccentric contraction. 

The volunteers did their exercise for three seconds per day, five days a week for four weeks. 

The researchers measured their arm muscles strength before and after the four-week period.

The results, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, show that all three lifting methods improved muscle strength. 

There was only a small increase among those who did the other isometric and concentric weight lift.

Those doing a concentric lift — lifting the weight to their chest — saw their concentric strength increase by 6.3 per cent.

The volunteers who did an isometric exercise — holding the weight still — only saw an increase in eccentric strength by 7.2 per cent.

But those who performed an eccentric bicep curl — lowering the weight — saw their muscle strength increase across all three measurements.

Their concentric strength increased by 12.8 per cent, their isometric increased by 10.2 per cent and their eccentric strength increased 12.2 per cent. 

Professor Ken Nosaka, director of exercise and sport science at the university, said: ‘The study results suggest that a very small amount of exercise stimulus – even 60 seconds in four weeks – can increase muscle strength.

‘Many people think you have to spend a lot of time exercising, but it’s not the case. Short, good quality exercise can still be good for your body and every muscle contraction counts.’

The researchers said it is not yet clear why the eccentric movement was most effective.

But the finding that just a three-second  eccentric contraction per day ‘improves muscle strength in a relatively short period is important for health and fitness’, Professor Nosaka added. 


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