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 surgery or prolonged illness, from muscle strain, ligament sprain or another type of soft tissue injury, if you have suffered a fractured bone, if you have just had a baby or if you suffer from osteoporosis, you may need to do strengthening exercises as part of your rehabilitation. These are usually introduced once the acute stage of injury is over.
The benefits of strengthening exercises are:
- More efficient fat reduction which occurs with an increase in muscle mass
- Improved blood supply to the muscles and joints
- Increase in bone density and strength helping reduce and prevent the effects of osteoporosis
- Improved muscle balance which helps prevent re-injury
There are many ways to strengthen muscles and the strengthening exercise programme needs to be tailored to each patient’s condition and goals. Variables such as the speed of muscle contractions, the resistance used (e.g. heaviness of hand weights), the number of repetitions performed, the type of muscle contraction used or the number of muscles recruited in each contraction, all affect the outcome of the programme.
With strength training, the idea is to overload the muscle being strengthened for benefits to be gained.
- If you want muscle hypertrophy (increase size/bulk), then fewer sets and reps are performed with heavier resistance.
- If your goal is to improve muscle endurance rather than increase muscle size, the number of repetitions is much higher than with muscle hypertrophy programmes and the resistance is lowered.
- With most of our clients, increasing muscle strength is the goal and these programmes are tailored to be in-between the programmes for hypertrophy and endurance, meaning both the resistance used and the number of repetitions performed are moderate.
Different strength programmes are also best suited to specific injuries and goals of training. These include:
- Matrix training, where the muscles are only taken through a partial range of movement.
- One set theory, where only one set of repetitions is performed in one all-out effort.
- Circuit training, where the patient moves from station to station to strengthen each muscle in turn.
- Super setting, where two exercises for the same or similar muscle groups are performed one after the other.
- Pre-fatiguing, where the aim is to overwork one main muscle to recruit and strengthen its surrounding smaller muscles.
- Plyometrics, where a quick eccentric (lengthening) contraction of the muscle is followed by a sharp concentric (shortening) contraction of the same muscle to improve muscle power, e.g. a jump squat.
If you need advice and direction with a muscle strengthening programme, come in and see us. We can design a programme to suit your needs, whether it is muscle strengthening where no movement is allowed (such as with patients who are in a splint or brace), pre and postnatal exercises, especially abdominal muscle retraining after a caesarean or for a graduated return to elite sport following injury, we can help you.