Very muscular Lincoln Nebraska student looking

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A recent study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has given new meaning to the concept of brain power by suggesting that physical strength might stem as much from exercising the nervous system as the muscles it controls. Over the past few years, researchers have found evidence that lifting more repetitions of lighter weight can build muscle mass just as well as fewer reps of heavier weight. Even so, those who train with heavier weight still see greater gains in strength than those who lift lighter lo. Nathaniel Jenkins and his colleagues may have uncovered some answers by measuring how the brain and motor neurons — cells that send electrical als to muscle — adapt to high- vs.

Their study suggests that high-load training better conditions the nervous system to transmit electrical als from the brain to muscles, increasing the force those muscles can produce to a greater extent than does low-load training. Those als descend from the cortex to the spinal tract, speeding through the spine while jumping to other motor neurons that then excite muscle fibers. Jenkins found evidence that the nervous system activates more of those motor neurons — or excites them more frequently — when subjected to high-load training.

That increased excitation could for the greater strength gains despite comparable growth in muscle mass. The dissertation randomly ased 26 men to train for six weeks on a leg-extension machine loaded with either 80 or 30 percent of the maximum weight they could lift.

Very muscular Lincoln Nebraska student looking

Three times per week, the participants lifted until they could not complete another repetition. But the researchers also supplied an electric current to the nerve that stimulates the quadriceps muscles used in leg extensions. Even at full effort, most people do not generate percent of the force their muscles can physiologically produce, Jenkins said. When adjusting for baseline scores, the researchers found that the voluntary activation of the low-load group increased from The high-load group saw their voluntary activation jump from Jenkins also tested his hypothesis another way, asking participants from both groups to kick out at percent intervals of their baseline strength — from 10 percent all the way up to percent — after three and six weeks.

If high-load training does improve muscle efficiency better than low-load training, he reasoned, then high-load lifters should also use a smaller proportion of their strength — that is, exhibit lower voluntary activation — when lifting the same relative weight. Voluntary activation in the low-load group did decrease slightly, from an average of about 56 percent at baseline to But it decreased more in the high-load group, dropping from about 57 to Placing electrodes on the participants to record the electrical atures of their quadriceps reinforced those.

High-load training led to a substantially larger drop in electrical activity after six weeks, the study reported, and that activity was lower across most levels of exertion. Jenkins maintained that low-load training remains a viable option for those looking to simply build mass or avoid putting extreme stress on ts, a priority for older adults and people rehabbing from injury.

Still, he said, the new study lends even greater credence to the notion that when it comes to building strength — especially amid a busy schedule — heavier is better. Having now embarked on a career in exercise science research, Jenkins also conveyed his gratitude toward former doctoral adviser Joel Cramer and the opportunities granted him at Nebraska. Jenkins detailed his findings in the journal Very muscular Lincoln Nebraska student looking in Physiology. He authored the paper with Cramer, associate professor of nutrition and health sciences; Terry Housh, professor of nutrition and health sciences; Nebraska doctoral students Amelia Miramonti, Ethan Hill, Cory Smith; and doctoral graduate Kristen Cochrane-Snyman, now at California State Polytechnic University.

Nebraska Newsroom Nebraska Today Does strength depend on more than muscle? Husker study suggests so. Craig Chandler University Communication. A new Nebraska study suggests that high-load training better conditions the nervous system to transmit electrical als from the brain to muscles, increasing the force those muscles can produce to a greater extent than does low-load training. But if strength differs even when muscle mass does not, what explains the disparity? Recent News.

Very muscular Lincoln Nebraska student looking

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Very muscular Lincoln Nebraska student looking Very muscular Lincoln Nebraska student looking

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