Whether you’re the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or the next Betty White, it’s likely that strength training will be part of your physical therapy program. Now, not all strengthening activities are created equal. Based upon your goals and presenting condition, a skilled therapist will implement varying degrees and types of strength training to help you achieve your goals. Here are a few common methods used by PTs to improve strength and stability.
Despite the fancy names, these are the most commonly used and more generic methods of strength training. Think of that Planet Fitness commercial—“You pick things up and put them down.” Concentric strengthening is what most people think of when they picture strengthening—using your muscles to contract and move a weight against gravity. Eccentric weight training is the lowering phase when your muscles lengthen and control the descent of the weight. Significant research supports the use of eccentric strengthening for various tendon injuries such as Achilles tendonopathy or tennis elbow.
While typically not as functional as Concentric/Eccentric strength training, Isometrics are a common cornerstone of post-operative and core strengthening programs. No movement takes place at your joints with isometric exercises; it is considered a static contraction, often done with no equipment. A good example is a plank for your abdominals, or pressing your fist into a wall to strengthen shoulder muscles.
Resisted exercises are any activity performed with some form of resistance, most often weights or resistance bands. They can be done with concentric, eccentric, or isometric contractions. Resistance bands add instability and increased tension to improve the dynamic strength of muscles, allowing for more functional strength gains.
Countless other methods of strengthening are used by PTs, such as aquatic exercises, balance stability, plyometrics depending on your goals and deficits. For more information or to begin an appropriate and safe strengthening program contact your local physical therapist.
Cole Racich, PT, DPT, OCS