Discovery unlocks potential of 'special' muscle

Discovery unlocks potential of ‘special’ muscle

The solar pump

Building on years of research, Hamilton and his colleagues developed the soleus pump, which activates the soleus muscle differently from standing or walking. The SPU targets the soleus to increase oxygen consumption – more than is possible with these other types of soleus activity, while also being fatigue resistant.

So how do you perform a soleus pump?

In short, while sitting with the feet flat on the floor and the muscles relaxed, the heel lifts while the front of the foot remains in place. When the heel reaches the peak of its range of motion, the foot is passively released to descend. The goal is to simultaneously shorten the calf muscle while the soleus is naturally activated by its motor neurons.

While the SPU movement may look like walking (although it’s performed while seated), it’s the exact opposite, according to the researchers. When walking, the body is designed to minimize the amount of energy used, due to the way the soleus moves. Hamilton’s method reverses this and makes the soleus use as much energy as possible for a long duration.

“Soleus push-ups look simple on the outside, but sometimes what we see with the naked eye isn’t the whole story. It’s a very specific move that currently requires wearable technology and experience to optimize health benefits,” Hamilton said.

Study authors shown from left to right: Deborah Hamilton, senior research director; Marc Hamilton, professor; and Théodore Zderic, Assistant Research Professor

Study authors shown from left to right: Deborah Hamilton, senior research director; Marc Hamilton, professor; and Théodore Zderic, Assistant Research Professor

More publications are on the way, focused on how to teach people how to learn this singular move correctly, but without the fancy lab equipment used in this latest study.

Researchers are quick to point out that this isn’t a new fitness tip or diet of the month. It is a powerful physiological movement that capitalizes on the unique characteristics of the soleus.

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