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Flywheel resistance training calls for greater eccentric muscle activation than weight training

Introduction

There is a consensus that eccentric (ECC) muscle actions should be emphasized in resistance training routines aimed at governing increased muscle size and strength. It has been argued that muscles subjected to ECC exercise exhibit a greater rate of myofibril protein synthesis and hypertrophy than muscles performing shortening or concentric (CON) actions, as the results of human studies show greater skeletal muscle protein synthesis following bouts of maximal ECC than CON exercise.

This study examined whether 5 weeks of weight stack resistance exercise comprising knee extensions with the aid of a constant external load would result in increased muscle volume accompanied by marked increases in maximal isotonic force and power and smaller increases in maximal voluntary isometric force.

What They Did

15 healthy men performed a 5-week training program comprising four sets of seven unilateral, coupled concentric–eccentric knee extensions 2–3 times weekly.

  • 8 men were assigned to training using a weight stack (WS) machine
  • 7 men trained using a flywheel (FW) device, which inherently provides variable resistance and allows for eccentric overload.

The design of these devices ensured similar knee extensor muscle use and range of motion. Before and after training, maximal isometric force (MVC) was measured in tasks non-specific to the training modes.

Magnetic resonance imaging determined the volume of all individual quadriceps muscles, and performance across the 12 exercise sessions was measured using the inherent features of the devices.

What They Found

While MVC increased (p=0.05) at all angles measured in FW, this change was less consistent in WS. Quadriceps muscle volume increased (p=0.025) in both groups after training. Although the more than twofold greater hypertrophy evident in FW (6.2%) was not statistically greater than that shown in WS (3.0%), all four individual quadriceps muscles of FW showed increased (p= 0.025) volume, whereas in WS, only m. rectus femoris was increased (p=0.025).

Practical Application

This study's results suggest more robust muscular adaptations following flywheel than weight stack resistance exercise, supporting the idea that eccentric overload offers a potent stimulus essential to optimize the benefits of resistance exercise.

Reference

Norrbrand, L., Pozzo, M., & Tesch, P. A. (2010). Flywheel resistance training calls for greater eccentric muscle activation than weight training. European journal of applied physiology110(5), 997-1005.

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