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How to gain muscle mass… while sitting

How to gain muscle mass… while sitting

November 20, 2021

What if they told you that it is possible to increase and strengthen muscle mass simply by sitting comfortably? You would probably think this is a quirk… yet it is the reality. In fact, there is what is called the mind-muscle connection whereby imagining a movement results in an increase in strength in the muscle involved. Not only that, in case of forced immobility this mental exercise can help reduce the loss of muscle mass. This emerges from various scientific researches published in recent years in specialized journals (Neumann et al, Front. Sports Act. Living, 2019 - Clark et al, JNP, 2014 - Raganathan et al, Neuropsychologia, 2004).

The mind-muscle connection

The mind has immense power, also over the body and muscles. Often it may happen that it is not possible to be active and keep the muscles healthy, just think of people recovering, too weak or elderly. So the brain may become useful by helping to increase muscle strength. But let's go deeper into this fascinating topic.

Increase strength while remaining seated, the experiment

It was 2004 when a group of scientists from Cleveland, Ohio, recruited 30 people to perform a very special experiment. The volunteers were divided into three groups. The first group was asked to perform for 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 3 months, an exercise in which they visualized the contraction of the little finger of the hand. The second group had to visualize, for the same period of time, the movement of bending the elbow to the maximum. The third group, on the other hand, was used as a control. Well, at the end of the study it was found that people in the first group had a 35% increase in the strength of the little finger while in the second group the strength of the muscles that led to the bending of the elbow had increased by 13%.

Another proof of the power of the mind over the muscles

A decade later, a group of scientists from Ohio University came up with very similar results. 30 volunteers had their wrists immobilized for a month in order to induce muscle weakness. Half of the study participants were asked to imagine a strong contraction of the wrist flexor muscle. Each session consisted of imagining 50 contractions of 5 seconds each and 5 seconds of pause, every day for five days a week. Well, what emerged was that at the end of the experiment, the immobilization of the joint had led to a reduction in strength and an alteration of the stimulus to muscle activation. However, those who had performed the mental exercises had less loss of muscle strength and a better muscle response time.

Imagining the movement can become a gymnastics

Finally, a very recent study has expanded these results by observing that imagining movement, such as weight lifting, focusing on the muscle that performs it, leads to a general activation of different muscles, not only of the target muscle. In short, this exercise of imagination, even if focused on a muscle, becomes almost a complete gymnastics.

Conclusions

Certainly imagining movement should not take the place of moderate physical activity. However, the action of recreating movement with the mind can prove to be an additional help, together with physical exercise, in those who can practice it, and nutrition, to counteract the loss of muscle mass that with age or a condition of weakness or temporary sedentary lifestyle may occur.

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