Your Upland and Claremont physical therapist’s thoughts on strength training in physical therapy.
Definition: Strength training is the use of resistance to build muscular strength and endurance. The goal of strength training is to slowly and progressively overload the muscles so that they get stronger. It can also be known as resistance training. In order for muscle strength to improve, each effort is performed against a specific opposing force generated by resistance (the resistance being pushed, pulled, squeezed, stretched or bent). Resistance training should not be confused with weightlifting, powerlifting, or bodybuilding, which are competitive sports involving different types of strength training.
History: Strength training began within the ancient Greek society. Progressive strength training dates back to at least the 6th century BC. Legend has it that a wrestler named Milo of Croton trained by carrying a newborn calf from the bottom of a hill to the top every day until the calf was fully grown. Another Greek, the physician Galen, described strength training exercises using the Halteres (an early form of dumbbell) in the 2nd century AD.
Muscle building exercises take many forms: barbells (a long bar with adjustable weights at each end), dumbbells, (a free weight with a short bar), resistance bands (stretchy elastic band or tube), exercise machines, and aquatics (water).
The dumbbell was joined by the barbell in the latter half of the 19th century. Early barbells were hollow globes that could be filled with sand or lead shot. By the end of the century, they were replaced by the plate-loading barbell used today.
Strength training using isometrics (a body part is holding still against a force), was made popular by Charles Atlas in the 1930’s. The 1960’s saw an introduction into weight machines.
In the early 1900’s, resistance bands came into being. They were first used by cutting a piece of surgical tubing and pulling on it using the arms, in various directions.
Function: Strength training is based on the overload principle. In order to gain strength, the muscle groups must be worked at a higher-than-normal workload. This is where Physical Therapy comes in. You do not work an injured area the same way as you work a non-injured area. There are many precautions and differences that must be addressed by your therapist before you begin or continue your work-outs following an injury, illness or surgery. The intensity, the frequency, the number and sets of repetitions are very different than for a non-injured person. The goal of your work-out sessions is not to be sore or in pain afterwards. If you are, you need to look at your technique and review all of your exercises with your therapist. You work sub-maximally in the beginning, which means that you do not go “all out” to the point of fatigue or exhaustion. As you get better, the therapist will adjust and “tweak” your programs towards a more strenuous work-out.
We are not composed of a bunch of disconnected parts, working against or out of line with each other. We are made up of a highly complex mass of cells, all wanting the same thing: harmony and balance.