Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (2023)

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (1)

“Special” muscle can promote glucose and fat burning to fuel metabolism for hours while sitting.

The ‘Soleus Pushup’ is a metabolic innovation that rivals any therapeutic approach.

A groundbreaking discovery from the same mind whose research propelled the notion that “sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little” is set to turn a sedentary lifestyle on its ear: Though only 1% of your body weight, the soleus muscle in the calf, if activated correctly, can do big things to significantly enhance the metabolic health in the rest of your body.

And Marc Hamilton, professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston (UH), has discovered such an approach for optimal activation. He is pioneering the “soleus pushup” (SPU) which effectively elevates muscle metabolism for hours, even while sitting. One of 600 muscles in the human body, the soleus is a posterior lower leg muscle that runs from just below the knee to the heel.

“We are unaware of any existing or promising pharmaceuticals that come close to raising and sustaining whole-body oxidative metabolism at this magnitude.” — Marc Hamilton

Published recently in the journal iScience, Hamilton’s research indicates that the soleus pushup’s ability to sustain an elevated oxidative metabolism to improve the regulation of blood glucose is more effective than any popular methods currently touted as a solution. For example, the soleus pushup is more effective at elevating oxidative metabolism than exercise, weight loss, and intermittent fasting. Oxidative metabolism is the process by which oxygen is used to burn metabolites like blood glucose or fats. However, it depends, in part, on the immediate energy needs of the muscle when it’s working.

(Video) Discovery Unlocks Potential of 'Special' Muscle

“We never dreamed that this muscle has this type of capacity. It’s been inside our bodies all along, but no one ever investigated how to use it to optimize our health, until now,” said Hamilton. “When activated correctly, the soleus muscle can raise local oxidative metabolism to high levels for hours, not just minutes, and does so by using a different fuel mixture.”

Muscle biopsies revealed there was minimal glycogen contribution to fueling the soleus. Instead of breaking down glycogen, the soleus can use other types of fuels such as blood glucose and fats. Glycogen is normally the predominant type of carbohydrate that fuels muscular exercise.

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (2)

Marc Hamilton, professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston, is pioneering the “soleus pushup” for the calf muscle that is only 1% of your body weight, but can improve the metabolic health in the rest of your body if activated correctly. Credit: University of Houston

“The soleus’ lower-than-normal reliance on glycogen helps it work for hours effortlessly without fatiguing during this type of muscle activity, because there is a definite limit to muscular endurance caused by glycogen depletion,” he added. “As far as we know, this is the first concerted effort to develop a specialized type of contractile activity centered around optimizing human metabolic processes.”

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (3)

The soleus pushup activates the soleus muscle differently than when standing or walking. Credit: University of Houston

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When the SPU was tested, the whole-body effects on blood chemistry included a 52% improvement in the excursion of blood glucose (sugar) and 60% less insulin requirement over three hours after ingesting a glucose drink.

The new approach of keeping the soleus muscle metabolism humming is also effective at doubling the normal rate of fat metabolism in the fasting period between meals, reducing the levels of fat in the blood (VLDL triglyceride).

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (4)

Soleus muscles are powerful muscles in the back part of the lower leg. They run from just below the knee to the heel, and are involved in standing and walking.

The Soleus Pushup

Building on years of research, Hamilton and his team 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 actually 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.

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“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.

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (5)

Marc Hamilton, professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston. Credit: University of Houston

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.

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

Potential first step toward a healthcare breakthrough

Hamilton calls it the “most important study” ever completed at his Metabolic Innovations lab at UH and said the discovery could be a solution to a variety of health problems caused by spending hours each day living with muscle metabolism that is too low, caused by inactivity. The average American sits about 10 hours a day.

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (6)

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Marc Hamilton, professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston is pioneering the “soleus pushup” which effectively elevates muscle metabolism for hours, even while sitting. Credit: University of Houston

Regardless of a person’s level of physical activity, too much sitting has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and more. Over half of all American adults, and 80% of people over 65, are living with metabolic problems caused by either diabetes or prediabetes.

Having a low metabolic rate while seated is especially troublesome for people who are at high risk for age-associated metabolic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Hamilton said inactive muscles require less energy than most people seem to understand, saying it’s “one of the most fundamental, yet overlooked issues” guiding the way toward discovering metabolic solutions to assist in preventing some age-associated chronic diseases.

Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting (7)

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

“All of the 600 muscles combined normally contribute only about 15% of the whole-body oxidative metabolism in the three hours after ingesting carbohydrates. Despite the fact that the soleus is only 1% of the body weight, it is capable of raising its metabolic rate during SPU contractions to easily double, even sometimes triple, the whole-body carbohydrate oxidation.

We are unaware of any existing or promising pharmaceuticals that come close to raising and sustaining whole-body oxidative metabolism at this magnitude.”


Reference: “A potent physiological method to magnify and sustain soleus oxidative metabolism improves glucose and lipid regulation” by Marc T. Hamilton, Deborah G.Hamilton and Theodore W. Zderic, 5 August 2022, iScience.
DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104869


Which muscles help burn fat? ›

The largest muscles (and therefore the largest calorie burners) are in the thighs, abdomen, chest, and arms.

How do you activate the soleus muscle? ›

The best way to activate your soleus involves plantar flexion or pointing your toes downward, while your knees are in a bent (preferably at or around 90 degrees) position. Bent knees during heel raises target the soleus. If you do not bend your knees, the larger more powerful gastrocnemius muscle will be activated.

How does the gastrocnemius muscle work? ›

Along with the soleus muscle, the gastrocnemius forms half of the calf muscle. Its function is plantar flexing the foot at the ankle joint and flexing the leg at the knee joint. The gastrocnemius is primarily involved in running, jumping and other "fast" movements of leg, and to a lesser degree in walking and standing.

What is the function of the soleus? ›

Soleus has two major functions: To act as skeletal muscle: Along with other calf muscles it is powerful plantarflexor and has a major contribution in running, walking and dancing. It is also a major postural muscle designed to stop the body from falling forwards at the ankle during stance.

How can I burn calories while sitting? ›

How to Burn Calories While Sitting
  1. Work your abs while you sit. ...
  2. Squeeze your stomach muscles as tightly as possible and hold for 8 seconds. ...
  3. Laugh a lot to burn energy. ...
  4. Fidget as much as possible: Tap your feet. ...
  5. Trade your chair for a stability ball. ...
  6. Turn down the thermostat.

What burns fat the fastest? ›

High-intensity interval training (HIIT): It is probably one of the fastest and most efficient ways to lose stomach fat and reduce the overall body fat percentage. HIIT is a high-intensity short period of exercise that usually doesn't exceed 30 minutes, with short breaks of recovery periods of 30-60 seconds.

How do you release soleus trigger points? ›

Self-Myofascial Release: Soleus - YouTube

Does walking on your tiptoes build calves? ›

Boosting Calf Strength

Using your own body weight for resistance, tiptoe walking fires up your calf muscles, including the superficial, heart-shaped gastrocnemius and its assistant, the deeper-lying soleus. Bigger, stronger calves translates into a more shapely lower leg, better ankle stability and increased power.

How do I activate my gastrocnemius? ›

Heel raises are frequently used as gastrocnemius- and soleus-strengthening exercise often performed with 3 different foot positions, neutral, IR, and ER. The rationale for using different foot positions centers on attempting to maximize the activation of both the MG and LG during an exercise bout.

Why is left calf bigger than right? ›

Lymphedema – swelling caused by lymph fluid buildup – may be caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system or when lymph nodes are removed (as may be done as a part of cancer treatment). Lymphedema is most commonly seen in the arms or legs. It is what can cause one leg to swell and become larger than the other.

Why are my calves so big? ›

Genetics – Your height, your muscle mass, your fat ratio will affect the size of your calves. Look at your family members to see if they have naturally big calves, this will give you an idea whether this is related to your genetic makeup.

What is Gastrocsoleus? ›

Abstract. Background: Gastrocsoleus recession is commonly performed to correct equinus contracture of the ankle that may accompany foot and ankle disease in adults. There is concern that mechanical lengthening of the myotendinous unit causes permanent weakness and disability.

What does the Sartorius muscle do? ›

Function. At the hip it flexes, weakly abducts, and rotates the thigh laterally. At the knee, it can flex the leg; when the knee is flexed, it also rotates the leg medially. This muscle plays an important part in stabilisation of the pelvis—especially in women.

Why is it called soleus? ›

The name soleus comes from the Latin word “solea” meaning sandal or flat of the foot. It also refers to “sole”, a type of flat fish.

Where is the SCM muscle? ›

Sternocleidomastoid is the most superficial and largest muscle in the front portion of the neck. It is also known as SCM or Sternomastoid or Sterno muscle. The name has the origin of the Latin words: sternon = chest; cleido = clavicle and the Greek words: mastos = breast and eidos = shape, form.

How can I lose belly fat while sitting? ›

Using an exercise ball can also help tone your lower body and burn more calories at rest. Breathing exercises, or doing yoga while you sit and work can also make for an effective weight loss exercise. You can also consider using a stability ball to strengthen core muscles and swap out your desk chair.

Does shaking your legs while sitting burn calories? ›

Fidgeting, 350 Calories a Day

Tapping your foot, shaking your leg, and other general signs of restlessness can be bothersome to those around you—but did you know that they can also help you lose weight? Take that, coworker.

Which sitting position burns most calories? ›

Sit Up Straight

Plus, sitting up straight with your shoulder back and your abs tight—compared to slouching at your desk—requires engaging more muscles and can burn a few more calories.

How do I force my body to burn fat? ›

12 Ways to Promote Long-Term Fat Loss
  1. Start strength training. ...
  2. Follow a high protein diet. ...
  3. Get more sleep. ...
  4. Eat more healthy fats. ...
  5. Drink unsweetened beverages. ...
  6. Fill up on fiber. ...
  7. Choose whole grains instead of refined carbs. ...
  8. Increase your cardio.

What drink burns belly fat overnight? ›

What Drink Burns Fat Overnight? Drinking turmeric milk, chamomile tea, cinnamon tea, green tea, protein shake, green veg smoothies, and fiber-rich juice helps you burn significant fat overnight.

Which part of body loses fat first? ›

Mostly, losing weight is an internal process. You will first lose hard fat that surrounds your organs like liver, kidneys and then you will start to lose soft fat like waistline and thigh fat. The fat loss from around the organs makes you leaner and stronger.

What does myofascial release feel like? ›

Myofascial Structural Release

The first sensation you'll get is a springing give that feels like a release. This is the tissue's elastic component giving way, which means you stop there, you won't see a long-term difference right away because it takes time to get deeper into the more plastic part of the tissue.

Are trigger points real? ›

Trigger points form only in muscles. They form as a local contraction in a small number of muscle fibers in a larger muscle or muscle bundle. These in turn can pull on tendons and ligaments associated with the muscle and can cause pain deep within a joint where there are no muscles.

What is a myofascial trigger point? ›

Sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse. These sensitive areas are called trigger points. A trigger point in a muscle can cause strain and pain throughout the muscle. When this pain persists and worsens, doctors call it myofascial pain syndrome.

What happens if you walk on the balls of your feet? ›

The activity of the major muscles of the ankle, knee, hip and back all increase if you walk on the balls of your feet or your toes as opposed to landing on your heels,” says Carrier. “That tells us the muscles increase the amount of work they are producing if you walk on the balls of your feet.”

What is the balls of your feet? ›

The balls of the feet are the slightly padded areas under the foot just further down from the toes. This area contains a number of structures that can develop symptoms. There is a lot of pressure applied to these areas during activity, such as when walking or running.

Is it normal to walk on the balls of your feet? ›

Walking on the toes or the balls of the feet, also known as toe walking, is fairly common in children who are just beginning to walk. Most children outgrow it. Kids who continue toe walking beyond the toddler years often do so out of habit.

What movement tests the power of the gastrocnemius muscle? ›

The gastrocnemius muscle was tested in toe-in and toe-out foot positions using two different tests: a standing heel-rise and resisted knee flexion while prone.

How do you do a donkey calf raise? ›

The Donkey Calf Raise - YouTube

Should I do seated or standing calf raises? ›

The main difference between seated and standing calf raises is that when you are doing them standing, with a straight knee, you are targeting the gastrocnemius, whereas the seated calf raises targets the soleus (as it does not cross the knee joint).

Why have I got a dent in my leg? ›

Pitting edema occurs when excess fluid builds up in the body, causing swelling; when pressure is applied to the swollen area, a “pit”, or indentation, will remain. Although it can affect any part of the body, pitting edema usually occurs in legs, feet, and ankles.

Why do I feel bubbling in my leg? ›

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which one has feelings of "pulling, searing, drawing, tingling, bubbling, or crawling" beneath the skin, usually in the calf area. This causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. The sensations can also affect the thighs, feet, and sometimes, even the arms.

Why is one leg skinnier than the other? ›

Muscle atrophy is the wasting or thinning of muscle mass. It can be caused by disuse of your muscles or neurogenic conditions. Symptoms include a decrease in muscle mass, one limb being smaller than the other, and numbness, weakness and tingling in your limbs.

What are big calves good for? ›

Big Calf Muscles Lower Stroke Risk

Regardless of age, gender, body mass index, and other vascular risk factors, the bigger people's calves were the fewer fatty deposits known as plaques they built up in their arteries, lowering their risk for stenosis, carotid artery disease, and strokes.

Does running slim your calves? ›

Cardio is the most effective training method in making calves smaller. Burn fat and reduce muscles with low-intensity cardio, like running, walking, swimming and more. Running with a heel to toe stride motion on flat surface to slim your legs down.

Do calf raises slim your calves? ›

Building Toned Calf Muscles. Try calf raises to tone your calves. Strengthening exercises that target your calves won't help you lose fat there, but they can help tone and define your calf muscles. To do a basic calf raise, stand up straight and rest your hands on a wall or the back of a chair for stability.

What is the Thompson test used for? ›

The Thompson test examines the integrity of the Achilles tendon by squeezing the calf. It is performed as a clinical test to identify the presence of a complete Achilles rupture.

What is foot Dorsiflexes? ›

The extensor hallucis longus specifically extends the hallux, dorsiflexes the foot at the ankle, and inverts the foot.

Why is it called the triceps surae? ›

It is from Latin caput and sura meaning "three-headed [muscle] of the calf".

Do muscles help with fat loss? ›

This means that even after a good strength training session, your body will still burn extra calories ( 18 , 19 ). What's more, muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning having more muscle on your body can further support weight loss by burning more calories ( 20 , 21 ).

Do sore muscles mean you're burning fat? ›

Also, as you get into a regular exercise schedule your muscles will adapt and the soreness will lessen over time. But to answer the question - no, sore muscles do not burn fat directly. You burn calories both during your workout and after your workout. And sore muscles are just one indication that you exercised.

Does having more muscle help lose fat? ›

When you build lean muscle mass, the additional muscle requires additional energy. In turn, this raises your resting metabolic rate, or the amount of calories your body burns while at rest. This increased bodily demand for calories can aid in keeping you slim when combined with sound eating habits.

Can building muscle burn fat? ›

Maintaining muscle mass and strength is critical as you age, and adding muscle can also help with weight loss efforts. This is because lean muscle burns more calories than fat. Muscle is metabolically more active than fat; the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be.

Where do you lose fat first? ›

Mostly, losing weight is an internal process. You will first lose hard fat that surrounds your organs like liver, kidneys and then you will start to lose soft fat like waistline and thigh fat. The fat loss from around the organs makes you leaner and stronger.

How do you shred fat? ›

The 14 Best Ways to Burn Fat Fast
  7. FILL UP ON FIBER. ...

What can I drink to lose belly fat without losing weight? ›

By beginning your day by drinking a glass of water or having a glass of water just before a meal can hydrate your body, boost your body's metabolism and also keep high calorie foods at bay. This in turn also satiates your hunger and keeps you fuller for longer periods of time.

What burns faster muscle or fat? ›

Fat Preferentially Metabolized

Because fat is a high-energy source with 9 calories per gram, fat is an efficient fuel source. Additionally, your body metabolically prefers to preserve lean body mass and, when possible, breaks down fat stores for fuel.

Do cramps burn calories? ›

Typically, no. While experts largely agree that resting metabolic rates fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, the change is negligible. Given this minimal difference, most women will not burn many more calories than usual.

What happens if you don't stretch after a workout? ›

You might experience stiffness if you're not stretching adequately. Muscles and tendons that aren't stretched properly after exercise may be more susceptible to injury. If you already have an injury the Mayo Clinic advises adjusting your stretching routine.

Who burns more calories fat or skinny? ›

Basically, the more you weigh, the more energy it takes for your body to move and function. This means that a heavier person will burn more calories as compared to a lighter person performing the same activities. This applies to both people who are overweight as well as those with higher muscle mass.

How many calories is a pound of fat? ›

It originated from researcher Max Wishnofsky, MD, in 1958, who calculated that 1 lb of fat stores approximately 3,500 kcal of energy.

How many calories is 1 kg of muscle? ›

It takes roughly 5,940 calories to build 1kg of muscle (or 2,700 to build 1lb), so that means over a year we'd need to eat in a surplus of 49 calories per day.

Can you build muscle and lose belly fat? ›

"Although many people claim that you cannot do it, it is indeed possible to build muscle and lose body fat simultaneously. This process is often referred to as 'recomping,'" Ben Carpenter, a qualified master personal trainer and strength-and-conditioning specialist, told Insider.

How long does it take to start burning fat? ›

Fat burning typically begins after approximately 12 hours of fasting and escalates between 16 and 24 hours of fasting.


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