BASICS OF STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT

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Tid Bits of Info

  • Strength training requires at least one day rest between training sessions.
  • 1 RM : maximum amount of force that can be generated in one maximal contraction.
  • Most people will benefit from lifting approximately 70% of their 1RM for 12-15 reps and perform 2-3 sets.
  • Strength training requires an “over-load” to the muscle, therefore you should “struggle” to complete your repetitions but have good form and no joint pain.
  • Seek the advice and help of a Physical Therapist or certified personal trainer to develop and implement your strength building exercise routine.

Every day we use our muscles to do simple chores, move around the house, go into town, and even for fun and relaxing activites. Our functional capabilities depend upon muscular strength. Having strength enables good posture, ease of movement, and the ability to perform work or recreational activities safely. Strength also decreases the chance of falling or suffering an injury. We’re never told that we are too strong for everyday life. Unfortunately, many people don’t exercise at all and in many instances exercise routines are implemented that don’t include a strength development aspect to them.

Building strength is vital because muscles generate force and move the joints of the body.  The muscle helps to protect the joints of the body by supporting them dynamically and absorbing the stress and strain applied to the joint by the external forces associated with life’s events.  If the joint is not supported well or the muscle is too weak to absorb the stress and strain applied to the joint, the structure of the joint will begin to be adversely affected.  The instability of the joint due to lack of dynamic support can lead to abnormal movements and “break-down” of the articular cartilage which is the first sign of osteoarthritis of that joint.  If the joint is left unprotected by weakened muscles, the osteoarthritis can worsen and lead to pain and functional loss.

What is considered effective strength development? The ability to generate maximal force for one repetition is a widely-accepted definition of muscular strength. A well-designed exercise routine should include exercises to address the cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems.  These systems have to “work” together to get the most out of someone’s body.   When the muscular system is exercised, the blood flow to the muscle will help to nourish it with oxygen or remove the by product that is produced when the muscle contracts.  The nervous system controls the way the muscle contracts.

A skeletal muscle is capable of getting stronger as long as it is “over-loaded” with resistance during a workout. There are differing theories as to the exact mechanism of muscle cell growth (hypertrophy)  that is directly related to strength development but it is getting more clear that the need to perform different types of workout to accomplish hypertrophy might not be as important as once believed.  There was a belief that muscle size increased one of two ways. The muscle could increase in size when the sarcoplasmic volume increased (the “pump”) or myofibrillar growth occurred with an increase in the myofibrils or actual contractual proteins of the muscle.  The theory required different ways to stress the muscle.

Building a stronger muscle relies on developing and maintaining tension within the muscle during a workout.  If the tension is maintained, the damage to the muscle cell occurs and when the healing process occurs it produces a bigger and stronger muscle. Many exercises can be performed and the tension is applied to the tendons, ligaments and joint structures but the muscle is not taxed to its maximum.  The number of repetitions and the range of motion can determine the amount of tension that the muscle develops during an exercise.  Lifting through a range of motion that does not allow the resistance to be “released from the muscle” and a conscience effort to think about keeping the tension in the muscle will help to stimulate it very effectively.

Developing a sound program can be difficult if you are not sure what you are doing.  Seek the help of a Physical Therapist or personal trainer.  These healthcare professionals can help you develop and implement your program.  When putting it together, remember some basic facts about muscle strength development.

  • The first 3-4 weeks of any program stimulates the nervous system and enhances the neuromuscular “connection” between the muscles and nerves. The muscles need the nerves to “tell” them what and when to contract.  Bio chemistry changes that indicate a true strength gain will occur approximately 5-6 weeks from the beginning of hard workouts
  • There are 3 types of muscle contraction, isometric, concentric and eccentric. The isometric contraction is utilized by the body to stabilize. Concentric contractions enable the muscle to shorten and accelerate body movements.  Lastly eccentric contractions occur when the body is decelerating and the muscle is under a tremendous amount of strain.  This type of contraction is thought to produce strength gains more quickly than the others
  • The burn that occurs during the lifting routine (actual set) is caused primarily by lactic acid build up in the muscle. Muscle soreness that occurs the next day or two following a hard workout is due to muscle cell swelling and not lactic acid therefore a reduced intensity workout will make the muscle feel better
  • There are two primary muscle cell types (I and II). Both of these cell types can be strength trained but type II will respond better to heavy loads and are thought to be the main reason for muscle growth
  • Different workouts will help to develop muscle strength. Performing full body exercises are a great way to develop strength throughout the entire body.  These exercises are very popular because they are very functional and help to facilitate “normal” function in the body
  • For most people, performing a regimen that requires 8-15 repetitions of any exercise will produce positive results. Lifting heavier weight and performing fewer repetitions will develop strength more quickly than lifting lighter weight for higher repetitions.  Focusing on producing muscle tension is the key!

Developing muscle strength requires hard work.  There is no easy way to develop strength and there is a science behind the best way to develop it. Seeking the advice and guidance of a trained healthcare professional (Physical Therapist or certified personal trainer) will enable you to perform a routine that is safe and effective.