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Strength training – Early phase

  12th March, 2012

Pain and swelling that occur as a result of an injury affect the normal function of our muscles. The muscle fibres become inhibited (slowed rate of working), leading to deconditioning and muscle wasting (loss of bulk). This can occur as quickly as one week following injury or surgery.

What strength training is therefore appropriate and at what stage following injury?

Check out the next few days of the Guildford Blog to help you understand how best to regain strength following an injury. We start with information on the early phase of training.

In the first 6 weeks of training, neuromuscular adaptations occur in the muscle. This means the nerve pathways start to activate the muscle with greater ease. An increase in the speed of muscle recruitment and the number of muscle fibres activated is seen, making it easier to contract the muscle.

In this early stage you are looking to improve the ease with which you can contract the muscle and to improve coordination.

It has been found that in the first 2 weeks of training, only 20% of the increase in strength is due to structural change in the muscle (i.e. increase in size of the muscle). The majority of change is known to be neuromuscular (nerve-muscle).

To facilitate the strength training at this stage therefore....

You should be doing exercises little & often (to improve the messaging system between nerve and muscle, but avoid nerve fatigue).

For some people this means as little as 3-5 repetitions of a movement or exercise.  You may start to complete multiple sets if this feels right for you and as you progress through the first 6 weeks of training.

The Blackberry Clinic recommends you seek guidance from a Physiotherapist or fitness instructor to assist you to train at the best level for your injury.

Disclaimer: You should monitor for pain during exercise. Seek assistance from a Physiotherapist or medical health professional if you are unsure of how best to exercise or if you experience an increase in discomfort.

General Rule: Start gently, there's always room for improvement. Overtraining from the outset is more likely to overload tissue and cause further injury or swelling, that can lead to deconditioning and a slower recovery.

Check out the next Guildford blog for information on how to change your strength training to make the most of your recovery 6-8 weeks after injury....

Jo Lamplough, Senior Physiotherapist, MSc, BSc (HONS), MACP, MSCP