The term strength training is often linked to workouts or training programs, as a strategy to improve performance in sports, or as a form of injury prevention.
When it comes to recovering from injury, however, the injury rehabilitation process is often thought of as a very different entity from strength training, with those injured needing to complete their rehab before they get back to strength training and their regular routines.
The reality is that strength training, incrementally and in a way that respects the optimal load that an injured area can safely and beneficially be exposed to, is an integral part of recovery and rehabilitation. Here’s a look into how strength training helps optimise your recovery, and how you can get started on a custom rehab plan for your injury to get you back on the field faster, regardless of how long you’ve had your injury.
First: What Is Strength Training – And What Are The Benefits?
Otherwise known as resistance or weight training, strength training uses resistance to help build muscle strength and endurance. Before you get deterred at spending an hour at the gym five times per week, evidence shows that strength training is a very efficient process, with one study showing marked increases in muscle strength and endurance achieved with just three 13-minute weekly sessions over 8 weeks – the gains of which are similar to those achieved with a substantially greater time commitment. Strength training also generally helps with:
Improving your bone mineral density – which naturally declines with age
Recharging your resting metabolism – with increases of around 7% to your resting metabolic rate observed in studies
Reducing your body fat – and most importantly the risks associated with excess body fat like cardiovascular disease and diabetes
Reversing the effects of inactivity as you age – even in rest home residents. Older adults have been shown to display enhanced movement control, functional abilities, physical performance and walking speed after strength training
Helping resist type two diabetes – by counteracting age-associated declines in insulin sensitivity
Improving cardiovascular health – at least as much as aerobic endurance training, like going for a walk or jog
Reducing the symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and depression while improving self-esteem and cognitive abilities in older adults
Reducing resting blood pressure and blood lipid (fat) profiles
Strength Training In Injury Recovery
Why it’s important
While the initial days following your injury may be focused on reducing your pain and helping you gently mobilise the injured area, it’s important to remember that once your pain ceases, it does not mean that your recovery has ended. For many patients that our physiotherapists see, their injured site is left weakened from a period of limited use and protecting the area – especially if they’ve had weeks of not using their muscles like they used to. This means that if you dive straight into normal activity before you’ve had a chance to address any muscle imbalance and weakness resulting from the injury and expect your body to work the same as it did before, you may be unpleasantly surprised as the weak muscles may not work or activate like they used to. This also makes you vulnerable to reinjury.
How to add strength training to your recovery
To maximise your results and minimise your risk of further injury through the process, simply applying specific exercises that isolate muscle groups around an injury isn’t enough. This is because the injured site will have many smaller muscles and soft tissues around it (like around a joint), so care must be taken to first stabilise the joint, and second, target muscles carefully to avoid the body naturally favouring the strong muscles and leaving the weakened muscles unworked.
This is why your sports physio must correctly prescribe the strength training component of your rehab plan after an assessment of your injury, current muscle strength and function, the range of motion available in your joints, gait assessment to understand the effects of the injury on your kinetic chain, and much more. Your physio will also ensure that the movements do not aggravate any existing injuries, or risk new ones.
More than this, your physio will also examine why your injury occurred in the first place, and help manage this as part of your rehab plan too. Understanding and addressing the cause of an injury is essential to preventing it from coming back, especially in overuse injuries.
Ready To Get Back To Feeling Your Best?
If you’ve recently suffered an injury and need help, have an injury that’s just not getting better, or keep getting recurring injuries and aren’t sure why, our experienced physiotherapy team is here to help. We conduct comprehensive assessments to understand what’s causing your injury, why it occurred, and how your whole body is being affected instead of looking just at the injured joint, muscle or tissue. Our goal is to get you back to feeling your best and doing the things you love in the fastest time.
Book your appointment with your local Allsports physio team online or call the clinic nearest you.