What is strength?

Everyone commonly agrees that strength is important in all facets of life.  This can range from lifting your shopping out of the trolley through to putting the garbage bins out.  However, having particular muscle groups strong can also reduce the likelihood of pain and injury.  For example, you may have heard of the importance of core strength in preventing low back pain.

Strength refers to the ability and effectiveness of your muscles to contract and relax.  All muscle groups are designed to contract and relax.  Training and practice can create muscular adaptation such as improving size, power, and efficiency and endurance.

Muscle groups all have different characteristics depending on the role they are designed the play.  Muscles can usually be divided as fast twitch, slow twitch or endurance muscles.

Your biceps is an example of a muscle which contains predominantly fast twitch muscle fibres.  It is designed to contract in order to provide power whilst lifting or bending your elbow.  When you lift your shopping bag out of the trolley, your biceps allows you to lift the bag upwards.  However, depending on the weight of the bag, your biceps and arm eventually get quite tired and fatigue if you hold the bag in a sustained position.  Given that their roles differ, targeting and exercising these muscles can be done in different and specific methods.

Your core muscles are designed to support your spine and provide a constant low-level contraction.  Hence these muscles commonly contain slow twitch and endurance muscle fibres.  The main purpose of these muscle groups is to provide a low intensity contraction but contract for a prolonged or long duration.

Hence strength training needs to be targeted and performed in a similar fashion to how the muscle would normally work.  Your physiotherapist is an expert in the assessment of muscular strength deficits.  Importantly, the body has an amazing ability to adapt with practice and your physiotherapist is well placed to provide specific strengthening exercises to target relevant muscle groups.

Learn more about strength training in Episode 2 of The Better Ageing Podcast:

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