Researchers at Ohio University’s Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute have found that muscle strength is largely based on brain activity, not just hours logged at the gym.

In the study, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, 29 volunteers had their non-dominant arm placed in an elbow-to-finger cast for four weeks. Half were asked to perform mental-imagery exercises five days a week in which they imagined themselves flexing and resting their immobilized wrist for five-second intervals; the other half did not.

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