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

Fit Woman Weight Loss Concept

“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.

“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.

Discovery Unlocks Potential of Special Muscle

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.”

Soleus Pushup Activates Muscle

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

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).

Soleus Muscles

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.

“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.

Marc Hamilton

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.

Metabolic Innovations Lab

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.

Deborah Hamilton, Marc Hamilton, and Theodore Zderic


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

21 Comments on "Groundbreaking Discovery of “Special” Muscle That Can Promote Fat Burning While Sitting"

  1. This is great news. However, it would really help if we had a piece of additional information: How many of these ‘push ups’ do we need to do in order to gain the benefits?

  2. This sci-report writer would be the best composer for commercial ads.

  3. I agree with Dave Z. How do I most effectively use this muscle to lose fat/weight?

  4. Lol are you for real? World breaking news people, exercise is good for you?! Who KNEW?! Its a calf raise, cmon doc’s. If you’re gonna tell me this is any different than that you guys clearly need to go to a gym or get online and watch people exercise.

  5. If you read the article all the way it states that you need the device to properly activate that muscle at this point. So far they are not saying how to do this without the device, yes, they gave a brief description of how to do it but apparently, you need that device to do it properly…..I figured this was way too easy and that something else would be required. Likely they will eventually sell that device for hundreds of dollars.

  6. “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.

  7. So fidgety people have had the answer all along!

  8. If you read the source journal article. It is not just fidgeting although that does help some. The process is to raise your heels to activate the soleus and then let them drop by gravity. That is the part that is the opposite of walking and needs the feedback to ensure it is NOT a controlled drop, or activation of other muscles. It was done for various time trials with the greatest effect from 60 to 120 minutes and then decreased effectiveness up to 180. You are sitting the whole time, so could be done by non-ambulatory people or possibly while doing other stuff after the movement is memorized.

    • Thank you Benjamin K. for referencing the source journal article and highlighting both the actual activity requirements and the greatest effect time window.

  9. Dr Robotnik, your response is priceless and makes the most sense. Thank you for clarifying what a soleus push up really is😊

  10. Thank you Benjamin K.for the only informed comment so far, and saving me the time. I too read the original paper when I saw it reported in neuroscience news. I applied the average protocol of 60 spu per minute for 10 minutes a couple times per day for a week and promptly lost 4 pounds after not being able to lose anything for months and walking lots of miles before I injured my leg about time I read the article. So I had to stop the walking but was able to do the SPU. And suddenly lost weight. I have been busy and distracted last week or so and have not done SPUs. I have not lost more weight but have not gained back 4 pounds lost. So going to get back with it and see if I can lose the other 20 pounds I need to lose. 5 weeks would be just about time for thanksgiving….

  11. I was waiting for someone to mention calf raises lol. Thanks Dr. Robotnik. Now, how long we need to hold the calf raise up and the repetitions that I’ll have to review, but yes, it’s calf raises people. They’re making sound like a never before exercise and I couldn’t help but laugh. The device and the sitting is just to facilitate it for non-ambulatory people. Do calf raises people, hoorah.

  12. Ian nota Spammer | October 19, 2022 at 8:19 am | Reply

    I’ve got some ocean front property for sale in Montana.

  13. I mean really, the only way I could think of a device being needed is if it somehow activates the sole use while not messing with your gastros…but if you’re inducing the contraction via biomechanical action, as opposed to electrical, which does seem to be the case since it’s a GD seated calf raise….it just doesn’t quite make sense to need a device.

  14. Be careful, I decided to try it, it sounded so easy, however next morn I woke up in extreme leg pain & still 3 weeks later no relief. I only did about 40 reps. Told me GP about this ‘new’ research, she looked blank, never read it. I’m already a chronic pain sufferer (13 yrs) trying to keep fit. Now she’s sending me for ultrasounds, suspects I have muscle tears. Wish I’d never read this article. Wish the author had explained how many reps to do. My arthritis is worse now.

    • Jan – as a fellow Chronic Pain as well as Fibromyalgia warrior, I am appalled your Health Care Provider is so far out of the loop to not have already had you go through Physical Therapy for your condition so you would know your limitations. 40 reps for a perfectly healthy individual is way too many. For you, 4 to 5 ONCE a day is the limit for at least a week when starting a new exercise. For future help with pain,I suggest 1000mg of Omega 6 twice daily, 650 MG of Calciun Citrate* (Caltrate is brand) twice daily, Magnesium Oxide(Mag Ox is brand) 400mg daily, CoQ10 200mg daily & Vitamin D3* 5000mg daily. *use caution with Calcium & Vit D3 if you have kidney issues. I have been on my journey for 20 years now & do not use pain meds for medical reasons so these Vitamins & Supplements are a complimentary treatment OK’d by my Health Care Providers who are specialists in FM.
      Show this to your Health Care Provider & look into an online Support Group if you aren’t in one already. These are excellent sources of information as well as support.

  15. Jan in Oz, this is your individual experience. I’ve been doing this exercise for 6 to 12 hours with short breaks for three days in a row. And the next day I didn’t feel anything. The fact is that the Soleus muscle is so conceived by nature – it is designed to constantly experience stress. I noticed that during this exercise my pulse is higher than usual.

    P.S. I am 32 years old. A lot of extra weight.

  16. Mmmm, just because one study claims something to be ‘scientifically proven’ doesn’t mean it is true. Researchers and groups who invest in these studies have much to gain. Think of all of the so called ‘true’ discoveries and studies in the past that have turned out to be rubbish.

  17. I like the article, and I like the referring to scientific research, however, I found it missing visual instruction how to apply it for me everyday. Th

  18. I’ve had some falls from walking so this would absolutely help. Hopefully to keep me healthier. It would be nice to know how long it should be done and exactly how it’s done.

  19. Will standing calf raises have the same effect?

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