How to get twice as strong within a month without working out?

Everybody showed at least once in their life their strength by flexing his or her biceps. The bigger the biceps muscle, the stronger you are. In the fitness world people train their muscles to be stronger, be better, or look sexier. Personally, I am fine with how strong I am now and never had the need to train my muscles as an end-goal. However, as a fitness instructor I know a lot of people who want/need to be stronger, but have motivational problems with going to the gym, so I figured there should be a much easier to gain strength, and  there is. I found a very easy way to get much stronger very quickly.

The muscles in your body are working by a very easy mechanism. If you want to raise your forearms you flex your biceps muscle (figure 1), and you extend your arm again by flexing the triceps muscle. Both muscles work on the fore arms, but in the contrasting movements. So the biceps and the triceps are counteracting each other.  If you would flex your biceps and also flex your triceps, both flexion forces will counter each other. Thus, if you try to flex your biceps and your triceps at the same time it becomes (almost) impossible to bend your forearms because of these counteracting forces (I encourage you to try it out, just flex both your biceps and triceps of your right arm very strongly to see if you could bend your forearm).

Figure 1. Biceps contracts and triceps extends
Figure 1. Biceps contracts and triceps extends

I hope that it was difficult for you to move your forearms when flexing both muscles and that it also cost some effort to flex these muscles for a while. In the gym we hold dumbbells in our hands and use their weights as the counteracting force for our muscles. But as we figured out, we can assume that we could also use our muscles as counteracting forces. So we wouldn’t need to have gym equipment anymore. Before we can make any of these conclusion, this theory needs to be tested.

Methods

First I had to figure out how I could prove this theory which presumably would make me stronger. So how did I do that? A good scientific approach needs an experimental group and a control group to prove the theory. I needed to experiment on a group of muscles but leave the other muscles to rest as a control group. So I figured to train the right side of my body (and my abdominal muscles, just because I wanted a six-pack). In figure 2 I marked the muscles green which I tried to train.

Figure 2.The trained muscle are marked green
Figure 2.The trained muscle are marked green

The training
Three to four times a day I contracted the muscles on the right side of my body as hard as possible, as long as possible. I could do this everywhere I wanted, during college, in bed or in the shower. I did not log the frequency and duration of the contractions unfortunately. I did this training for a duration of four weeks.

Testing myself
To monitor my weight and muscle mass I used a bio-impedance weight scale. To monitor whether I got any stronger I put my muscles to the test by using some weight machines. Luckily I am a fitness instructor and I was able to test myself every week at the same time. I tested the strength of my arms and chest muscles using the chest press (figure 3). This is a machine where you push a bar until you extend your arm in front of you. I set the machine at a resistance of 20 kg and grabbed it with my right arm and performed the exercise for as many repetitions as possible. I also did this exercise using my left arm and measured how many repetitions I could do. I used the same protocol for my legs; I tested my leg muscles using the leg press (figure 4.). This machine has a platform that you have to push away using your leg muscles. I did that with my right-, and left leg separately at 100 kg’s per leg. The third test was for my abdominal muscles. For tracking my progress towards the goal of a sexy six-pack I kept my legs in the air in the same position for as long as possible and measured the maximum time I could do this in seconds (figure 5) .This is pretty exhaustive for your abdominal muscles.

figure 3. chest press
Figure 3. chest press
figure 4. leg press
Figure 4. leg press
figure 5. abdominal exercise
Figure 5. abdominal exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results

After four weeks of measuring every week it was time to analyze my progress. To keep you waiting for the real results I’ll first show you my body variables. My weight increased 1,1 kilogram (figure 6) with the 0,9 kg increase of fat free mass (this means everything on my body that doesn’t have fat). The validity of the fat free mass measuring of the bio-impedance weight scale which I used is questionable, therefore this should be interpreted with caution. However, all together there is a good indication that my muscle mass has increased.

Figure 6. body variables, body mass (kilograms) and fat free mass
Figure 6. body variables, body mass (kilograms) and fat free mass

Chest and arms
In figure 7 you can see the progress over the weeks of my right and left arm as measured using the chest press. After four weeks, the maximum repetitions of my right arm (green) increased by 42% while the amount of repetitions of my left arm did not change.

Figure 7. Maximum repetitions on the Chest press. In green the trained (right) arm/chest, in red the untrained (left) arm/chest
Figure 7. Maximum repetitions on the Chest press. In green the trained (right) arm/chest, in red the untrained (left) arm/chest

Legs
In figure 8 you can see the maximum repetitions of my legs. In four weeks the maximum repetitions of my right leg more than doubled (105%). The repetitions of my left leg also increased but with a less amount (28%).

Figure 8. Maximum repetitions on the Leg press over weeks. In green the trained (right) leg, in red the untrained (left) leg
Figure 8. Maximum repetitions on the Leg press over weeks. In green the trained (right) leg, in red the untrained (left) leg

Abdominals
Figure 9 shows the time (in seconds) that I could do the abdominal muscle exercise. The time in seconds increased with 40% within four weeks.

Figure 9. maximum of doing the abdominal exercise in seconds over weeks
Figure 9. maximum of doing the abdominal exercise in seconds over weeks

Discussion

Within four weeks the maximum repetitions of my trained muscles increased between 40% and 105% compared to the start of the training. As expected, my chest, arms, legs and abdominal muscles definitely got a lot stronger within four weeks compared to the non-trained muscles. But I didn’t expect it to become such a huge increase.

What happens if you get so stronger so quickly?
To be honest, I did not plan to stop after four weeks but I got complications because I got so strong in this short period. Something strange happened after 3 weeks of training, every time I contracted my abdominal muscles I got problems. I had the urge to puke and needed to burp whenever I flexed my abdominal muscles. Until this moment, I still have these burping urges whenever I try to do them, it is pretty weird. I think I managed to train some deeper layered muscles when doing these contractions, or even my stomach muscle.
A second thing what I noticed is that in the few months after the training I strained my back twice, I never had this before so I am almost sure that this had something to do with this training. Inequality between the strength of back- an abdominal muscles can cause straining of the back. I did not really train my back muscles with this training, so this complication is a logical result, so be warned! After straining my back twice, I did the same contractions specifically for my back and I luckily never strained my back again.
A third thing I noticed that my muscle tendons needed to comply with some significant amount of force when doing this contractions. I didn’t get any complications but be alert with this, you don’t want to tear any tendons.

What are the benefits of this training compared to normal resistance training?
First of all, this training is really easy to implement in my daily routine. For training my muscles I did not have to change anything in my daily pattern, I could just do them at home, or anywhere I wanted to. I just trained myself while sitting on my couch watching television, brushing my teeth or while standing in the shower. I did not need to buy dumbbell’s or a gym-membership anywhere. Secondly, you can intensify your training program very much. Because you can do this training is so easy to implement you can do it very frequently (4 times a day, 7 days a week). Therefore, you can make your training program very intensely.

But what are the benefits of strong muscles?
This training is an isolated way to increase the strength of your muscles. For healthy adults in daily life, there is no functional need for the increase of muscle strength. Healthy adults can perform their normal daily activities with their untrained muscles. If you really need muscle strength for something, it is better to train for it by doing functional exercises. For example, if you want to train yourself hitting someone harder with a pillow, it is better to do comparable ” hitting pillow”  exercises than do isolated resistance exercises like this experiment. Training muscles in isolation (like training only the biceps muscle) is something what the body-builders have taught us. The only real benefit of isolated training compared to functional training is that it is more easier to specifically train a certain muscle. Therefore isolated training is only beneficial in training for a “sexy appearance” but is less functional. Also, a negative effect of isolated training is that smaller muscles are more likely to be forgotten.

After the age of 50, muscle strength is declining rapidly. At older age, normal daily activities become vigorous exercises as a result of the reduction of muscle strength. In older adults, standing up from a chair for example, is a near to maximum capacity exercise.
 Therefore increasing muscle strength is beneficial for this group. However, for this group counts the same principle, comparable exercises are more sufficient than isolated resistance training exercises. There are no strong conclusions that resistance training has that much benefit on the performance of daily activities. Recent studies have shown that focusing on power training (strength x speed) might have more benefits on the performance of daily activities in older adults.

Overall conclusions
Overall, this training was very easy to implement in my daily routine. Definitely this training is very effective and got me a lot stronger very rapidly. However be careful, you might encounter some complications. But most of all, you should consider if training your muscles in such an isolated fashion is very necessary for you.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Jvdklei

    Leuk experiment Justin!
    Wil je dit delen met ons personeel?
    Jochem

    Reply

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