When we think about muscular strengthening exercises, we quickly get the image of someone lifting weights in a gym. However, strengthening is more than just lifting loads. Muscular strength allows us to do our work, maintain a stable posture and practice our favorite sports, so physiotherapy uses targeted muscular strengthening exercises to improve your condition.
Most people who come to physiotherapy are asked to perform exercises at home. Among them, we often find strengthening exercises. It is important to understand why physiotherapists recommend them and why these exercises will help you stay healthy.
What is muscular strengthening?
Muscle strength is the ability of our muscles to produce tension. This tension allows us to stabilize or mobilize the bones of the body. Strengthening is the activity that aims to increase muscle strength.
Philippe, a patient at our clinics, began physiotherapy following an alpine skiing accident that forced him to be bedridden for several months. Philippe had a significant decrease in muscle strength. Various exercises allowed him to gradually get back on his feet.
Types of muscular strengthening
There are three types of strengthening exercises depending on the gains you want to achieve:
- Exercises that increase muscle strength are the most popular. They allow you to do everyday work, leisure and activities. They are very important after an injury.
- Exercises that increase muscular endurance allow you to perform a less intense effort for a longer period of time. These exercises are preferred to do sports activities such as running or cycling. They are also important for patients who do physical work for several hours during the day.
- Exercises that increase muscular power allow you to perform a short duration effort at maximum intensity. This is the kind of strength that weightlifters or sprinters develop. These exercises are ideal for a worker who has to lift heavy loads.
Philippe’s exercise program started with simple strength-building exercises. This allowed him to return to work and participate in chores around the home. His next goal was to return to alpine skiing. The exercises then progressed to a mix of power and endurance allowing him to ski for a few hours.
What equipment should you use?
Strengthening can be done with a wide variety of equipment. Physiotherapists generally prefer elastic bands because of the increased resistance they offer. Free weights are also often used.
In the gym, there are strengthening machines that offer different ways to train. A consultation with a private trainer or kinesiologist can be beneficial to get advice on how to use the training equipment in the gym.
Your own body weight can also be used to strengthen muscles. Push-ups, planks, squats and sit-ups are good examples of exercises that do not require equipment.
How does it work on a daily basis?
Because our muscles are what support us and allow us to move, it is important to work them a little every day. Many jobs require sustained effort for long hours. Work can therefore be used as exercises. However, it is important to vary the type of exercise and to do other activities than work in order to strengthen the different muscle groups.
A quick and easy way to strengthen our muscles is to do some kind of sport activity. Swimming, running and yoga are good examples. Sports allow us to work both our muscles and our heart and can be more motivating than working out in a gym.
In summary, muscular strengthening exercises help you to maintain a good level of fitness and to pursue your work and favourite activities. It also reduces the risk of injury. So, do not hesitate to consult your physiotherapist, whether after an injury or simply as a preventive measure, in order to obtain the right physiotherapy exercises for your goals.