Australian study says exercise frequency more important than intensity for building muscle

Extreme, lengthy work-outs may not be the key to your summer six-pack and bulging biceps, following the release of a new study which has highlighted the importance of frequent exercise over intense exercise.
The four-week study conducted by Edith Cowan University (ECU) found a little bit of daily activity could be all you need to build muscle strength.

“People think they have to do a lengthy session of resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case,” ECU exercise and sports science professor Ken Nosaka said.

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A little bit of exercise goes a long way, new study reveals. (Instagram)

“Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once or six times a day is enough.”

Nosaka said this new look at muscles could help prevent a decrease in strength with ageing.

“A decrease in muscle mass is a cause of many chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia, plus musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.”

ECU's Professor Ken Nosaka
ECU professor Ken Nosaka (ECU)

The study examined changes in muscle strength and thickness through consistent “maximal voluntary eccentric bicep contractions” performed on a machine.

Two groups performed 30 contractions per week, with one group doing six contractions a day for five days a week, while the other crammed all 30 into a single day each week.

Another group only performed six contractions one day a week.

After four weeks, the group doing 30 contractions in a single day did not show any increase in muscle strength, although muscle thickness increased by 5.8 per cent.

The group doing six contractions once a week did not show any changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness.

However, the 6×5 group saw significant increases in muscle strength – more than 10 per cent – and a similar increase in muscle thickness of 5.8 per cent.

Nosaka said rest is equally as important to give muscles time to recover.

ECU’s Professor Ken Nosaka said daily exercise is more beneficial than weekly minute goals. (Drobot Dean –

“In this study, the 6×5 group had two days off per week,” he said.

“Muscle adaptions occur when we are resting; if someone was able to somehow train 24 hours a day, there would actually be no improvement at all.

“Muscles need rest to improve their strength and their muscle mass, but muscles appear to like to be stimulated more frequently.”

Australian Government guidelines state adults should try to be active every day and perform 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity per week.

Nosaka said daily exercise is better than trying to hit a weekly minute goal.

“If you’re just going to the gym once a week, it’s not as effective as doing a bit of exercise every day at home,” he said.

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