|Image 1: Believe it or not, Arnold is just "pre-regenerating" ;-)|
Muscle preconditioning by maximal isometric contractions
Similar to the hot bath, of which I know that it's probably not for everyone, a recently published paper by Hsin-Lian Chen and his colleagues from the National Chiayi University in Taiwan, the Edith Cowan and the Deakin University in Australia (Chen. 2012), the execution of only no more than 2 isometric maximal contractions (duration 3s, 45s rest between contractions) at an elbow-flexor angle of 20° (where 0° would indicate a straight arm / stretch position) on something a bodybuilder would probably call a "preacher bench" can have statistically significant effects your curl performance and muscle damage during an eccentric biceps workout 48h later.
|Figure 1: Relative peak maximal torque and change in biceps circumference 0-10 days after an eccentric exercise bout with and without 2 or 10 maximum isokinetic contractions 48h before (data adapted from Chen. 2012)|
|Figure 2: Creatine kinase and muscle soreness 0-10 days after an eccentric exercise bout with and without 2 or 10 maximum isokinetic contractions 48h before (data adapted from Chen. 2012)|
Practical implications & suggestions
You don't add 0.5 inch of muscle in 6 minutes. In a way it's a pitty, wouldn't it be great to be able to add 0.5inch to your biceps within 14 minutes of which you actually trained for 6 minutes, only? It certainly would, but let's be realistic, if that worked, you would soon have to stop training because Popeye would look like a shrimp next to you and Jay Cutler would ask himself, why on earth nobody had told him about that before the last Mr. Olympia ;-)
|Image 2: A slightly more bend arm and a cable pulley - otherwise that's your position for the isometric contractions. Hold them for 3s, squeeze to make your bis explode, rest 10s repeat & go home!|
Guess what: Arnold knew it all along!
|Image 3: Austrian Wisdom ;-)|
Further evidence and alternatives
If neither posing, nor bathing, nor going to the gym to perform no more than 2-10 isometric contractions is something you could imagine to do, you may be happy to hear that this is not the first study by Chen et al. In their previous work the researchers that
- "low-intensity eccentric contractions (ECC) of the elbow flexors with a dumbbell set at 10% of maximal isometric strength (10%-ECC) either 2 days, 7 days (1 week), 14 days (2 weeks) or 21 days (3 weeks) before 30 maximal eccentric contractions (Max-ECC)" (Chen. 2011) elicited similar protective effects, and that
- "repeating submaximal eccentric exercise confers the same magnitude of protective effect as one bout of maximal eccentric exercise against the subsequent maximal eccentric exercise" (Chen. 2010)
- Chen HL, Nosaka K, Pearce AJ, Chen TC. Two maximal isometric contractions attenuate the magnitude of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012 May 11. [Epub ahead of print]
- Chen HL, Nosaka K, Chen TC. Muscle damage protection by low-intensity eccentric contractions remains for 2 weeks but not 3 weeks. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Feb;112(2):555-65. Epub 2011 May 25.
- Chen TC, Chen HL, Lin MJ, Wu CJ, Nosaka K. Potent protective effect conferred by four bouts of low-intensity eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 May;42(5):1004-12.