The Skeletal Muscle Exercise Research Facility (SMERF) is led by Paul LaStayo, PhD, PTand his colleagues Robin Marcus, PhD, PT and Lee Dibble, PhD, PT. The SMERF is focused on muscle, movement and human performance; specifically how muscles adapt and how these changes help or hinder human function in daily life and across the lifespan, following injury or disease, and in sport.
While disuse and disease can lead to muscle impairments and disability, judicious loading (i.e., resistance strength-training exercise) of the muscle can help minimize and overcome these problems. Dr LaStayo's interdisciplinary team has been exploring a novel muscular intervention which maximizes muscular adaptations and function.
The intervention induces the muscle to perform work while undergoing a lengthening (eccentric) contraction, which occurs when an external load exceeds the muscle's ability to generate force. Eccentric work (aka "negative work") is ideally designed for the elderly and disease impaired as the very low energy required to perform eccentric muscle contractions makes the task easy to perform. The very high mechanical load to muscle (high force production), however, makes it a potent stimulus for muscle growth, strength and power.
While founded on 60 years of sound and time-honored muscle physiology, this team is one of the first to bring the unique negative work exercise concept to the clinical and training room environments.
The following excerpts from a Guest Editorial in a prestigious geriatrics journal exemplify the impact:
"Occasionally, it takes time for a great scientific discovery (eccentric muscular work) to penetrate clinical practice."
"LaStayo and colleagues, in the current issue, have made it evident that this (eccentric) exercise can be clinically exploited to combat the epidemic levels of muscle wasting in our aging society."
"The present work by LaStayo and colleagues raises hope that it will not take another 60 years to address these issues."