Athletes regularly perform exercises to maintain or improve strength. However, they are not the only ones who can benefit from strengthening exercises. If you are recovering from some illness, muscle strain or sprain, if you have just had a baby or if you suffer from osteoporosis you may need to do some strengthening exercises. These are usually introduced after the acute stage of injury is past and the soft tissue has been made flexible through stretching and active range of motion exercises.
The benefits of strengthening exercise are:
- Reduction of fat and increase in muscle mass
- Improved blood supply to the muscles and joints
- Increase in bone density and strength
- Strengthening of tendons and ligaments
In order to increase strength, the muscle must contract against its maximum resistance. The number of repetitions, rest intervals, rate of movement and frequency of treatment must be geared toward the patient’s capacity to adapt to the exercise. In order to gain optimum results, exercise should be graded with small loads initially, working up to the maximal power that the muscle can accommodate. This is known as progressive resistive exercise and is best done under the direction of your physiotherapist.
In the beginning of treatment you may not know what your muscles are capable of, therefore you may not exert the amount of force that you should. Pain or fear of injury may also inhibit you from reaching your maximum. Based on the muscle test results, your therapist can estimate the amount of resistance the muscle can take and add or subtract resistance until you can perform the repetitions properly.
Another approach in strengthening exercises is to begin with 100% resistance, then reduce it to 75%, then 50%. This gives the greatest gains at the beginning of treatment and smaller increases as therapy progresses. As with all forms of exercise, certain precautions must be observed, and that’s a very good reason for coming in to see one of our qualified physiotherapists.