A Muscle Tone Experiment

In July 2008, the British Medical Journal published a landmark study which established an association between muscle strength and mortality unrelated to fitness or exercise levels. You can see the study here: http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a439

They found that men in the weakest third were 33% more likely to die from all causes than men in the middle and strongest third. For men over 60, death from all causes was half in the strongest third compared to the weakest.

As I was setting up a new practice a year later, I decided to replicate their protocols to see whether my treatment could alter muscle strength measured using their protocol.

In their experiment they had to allow for the fact that a 120 kg man is going to be stronger than a 70 kg man, everything else being equal. How did they do this?

They measured muscle mass and divided this into lift capacity.

They asked the men to do a one rep maximum lift with bench press and leg press. By adding the two lifts together and dividing by muscle mass, they were able to come up with a ration of strength per kg of muscle.

So that’s exactly what I did.

I used a Bioscan 916 from Maltron to measure muscle mass, and then I measured a one rep maximum bench press.

I found the leg press was problematic because it depended on the angle of the knee (which is a function of height), so I used a deadlift instead. I figure with those two tests, I am using most of the body’s muscle mass, which is the name of the game.

Here is how it worked:

I measured 100 consecutive patients and followed up with as many of them as possible on their second (or third) visit to measure the change, within two weeks when possible.

The results have been fascinating:

For men I got a range of between 1 and 6. To be competitive, athletes need to be above 5. Anyone below 3.3 is in the lowest third of my population and is usually well below par healthwise.

For women the lowest third is below 2.

I am pleased that every patient in the lowest third I have been able to lift out of the danger zone. The average increase in strength for those in the lowest third is 64%.

The average increase for those in the middle third is 17% and the average for the top third is 10%.  These increases are an average for everyone who I have re-tested, which is about 70% which is not great but neither are they selected.

This experiment deserves repeating, this time with a control group.