Discovery Unlocks Potential of ‘Special’ Muscle

The Soleus Pushup

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

So, how do you perform a soleus pushup?

In brief, while seated with feet flat on the floor and muscles relaxed, the heel rises while the front of the foot stays put. When the heel gets to the top of its range of motion, the foot is passively released to come back down. The aim is to simultaneously shorten the calf muscle while the soleus is naturally activated by its motor neurons.

While the SPU movement might look like walking (though it is performed while seated) it is the exact opposite, according to the researchers. When walking, the body is designed to minimize the amount of energy used, because of how the soleus moves. Hamilton’s method flips that upside down and makes the soleus use as much energy as possible for a long duration.

“The soleus pushup looks simple from the outside, but sometimes what we see with our naked eye isn’t the whole story. It’s a very specific movement that right now requires wearable technology and experience to optimize the health benefits,” said Hamilton.

Study authors pictured left to right: Deborah Hamilton, senior research manager; Marc Hamilton, professor; and Theodore Zderic, research assistant professor

Study authors pictured left to right: Deborah Hamilton, senior research manager; Marc Hamilton, professor; and Theodore Zderic, research assistant professor

Additional publications are in the works focused on how to instruct people to properly learn this singular movement, but without the sophisticated laboratory equipment used in this latest study.

The researchers are quick to point out that this is not some new fitness tip or diet of the month. It’s a potent physiological movement that capitalizes on the unique features of the soleus.

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