When progressing through a new program to recover from injury, not only will you need to decrease tissue resistance and increase pliability, but you will also have to learn how to stabilize and use that new motion. Getting into new motion is confusing for your muscles and your brain. You need to use that new motion to remind your muscles and brain what it feels like to get there, how to consistently get there, and how to control that new motion.
This is where stability and strength come in. If you suddenly were able to get to a new position, but you had no awareness or control of that position, then you are going to be at an increased risk in that new position. Turning on the muscles with resistance reinforces that movement and the motor control in that position.
Often, we will work on stability exercises in new positions which can include isometrics, low resistance, or sequencing work. Each of these techniques has a specific goal.
Isometrics is when you engage a muscle but don’t actually move a joint. Think about squeezing a fist tighter, pinching your butt cheeks together, or tensioning your quad when your knee is straight. You engage your muscles strongly, but you don’t actually move.
When doing an isometric, some benefits include increased motor recruitment, increased strength, increased muscle size, and decreased pain. Isometrics are also very good for tendon injuries as they increase tendon thickness and stiffness, both of which are beneficial for tendons. As you are creating an isometric in a fixed position, the risk of injury is reduced. If you can perform isometrics at a variety of angles, then this gives you strong and efficient points throughout the range that you can rely on to keep you in track and moving smoothly.
When you get into a new position that you couldn’t previously get into, isometrics are a great technique to develop strength in that new position while increasing motor control and reducing pain. All the boxes we want to check when recovering from an injury or learning a new skill.
After you’ve completed isometrics throughout full and unrestricted motion, you are then ready to progress to strength training. Strength training’s goal is to improve the ability to overcome resistance. Resistance can be the weight of your limb against gravity, or it can be a loaded barbell. Every movement has resistance, and the more we can have strength to overcome that resistance, the more likely we are to be successful and without injury.
In physical therapy, we often start resistance training for strength with light resistance through full mobility and with high repetitions. We are working on having endurance before we start applying heavy resistance. You may be combining isometrics and low resistance high repetitions during your recovery prior to heavy resistance work. We want to use isometrics and low resistance high repetitions to have efficient muscles that will do what we want when we need it.
As we successfully complete this stage, we then move toward high resistance, but with lower repetitions. Your personal activity goal will be integrated at this point. If your activity requires more endurance, then you will stay with higher repetitions while progressing the resistance. If your activity requires more strength, then you will be lowering repetitions and increasing resistance to meet your goals.
Each plan will be unique to what your needs are, and as always, there are exceptions to rules. This is a general guide of how we utilize stability drills and strengthening exercises to get you to where you want to be. While many clients will work through these stages, your plan will be specific to your goals and may deviate from this general guideline. #snowbeastperformance