Increase your strength by watching your muscles at work




From Ergo Log

At last we ve found the answer. Why does it feel good to train your biceps, shoulders or whatever muscle group in front of a mirror? According to Satoshi Hirose, a researcher at Kyoto University, you can generate more strength in a movement if you can see your muscles work.

Hirose does research on the influence of visual information on the functioning of muscles. In an experiment, published in Neuroreport, Hirose got sixteen volunteers to squeeze a spring with their thumb and index finger. The squeezing sessions lasted a minute and in that time the test subjects had to squeeze the spring shut 90 times. The power that the subjects developed was recorded.

The subjects sat in front of a screen, upon which Hirose projected images of a hand that was contracting and relaxing in the same rhythm as the subjects had to squeeze the spring. The test subjects were also shown photos of Hirose’s own face, relaxed and making an effort, photos of a foot contracting and relaxing, and of a larger and then smaller ball. The figure below gives an idea.

Watching a hand contracting and relaxing increased the strength with which the test subjects squeezed the spring. Looking at the other images did not have a statistically significant effect.

The images only stimulated the strength if the test subjects watched them ‘in phase’ – so they looked at the contracted hand at the same time that they squeezed the spring.

Hirose concludes that making muscles work is more effective if we see the same muscles working. He thinks that this information is of use for designing operating systems for machines and computers. We, the muscularly obsessed compilers of this web magazine, think that his findings are also interesting for athletes. They could enhance the quality of their strength training by watching their muscles move during their training sessions.

Neuroreport. 2009 Oct 28; 20(16):1477-80.



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