Therapist’s Viewpoint: The Importance of Strength
By Tony D’Ovidio PT, DPT, OCS, MTC
It’s a rarity for me to not perform strength training with my patients during their course of care. If fact, I don’t recall the last time I had a patient where the end goal wasn’t to introduce some strength training. I’m a true believer that performing regular strength training as part of a fitness routine is one of the best things we can do for our overall health and well being. This is particularly important for those of us experiencing injury or pain, as improving strength seems to be the most effective way to overcome injuries in the long term and is effective at preventing injury in the first place (1). Since my career as a physical therapist revolves around treating and preventing injuries, I can’t help but be passionate about the importance of strength training.
Why is this? Put simply, more capacity is better. The stronger and more robust we are, the easier everything in life becomes. This concept is described brilliantly by the folks at ICE as One Rep Max Living. In the gym, a one-rep max is the maximum weight you can lift for one repetition. It’s a shorthand measurement of strength and often used to prescribe sets, reps, and weights when designing a strength training program. It’s important to note that very rarely do people actually do a one-rep max – most training is done well below the athlete’s limit, with one-rep maxes being performed every few months.
When your strength levels are low, however, this is essentially what you’re doing to your body every single day. For example, if I can only lift 20lbs from the floor, every time I lift my laundry basket or a few grocery bags I’m getting close to my limit. If I can lift 300lbs from the floor, I’ll barely feel the weight of a couch I’m moving. Training to the limit every day is not advisable from both a performance and safety perspective.
Why is everyone so deconditioned? I attribute it to our lifestyles. The majority of people that I treat work in sedentary jobs which involves sitting – or they’re lucky – standing for 8 hours a day. Add to this time spent driving or relaxing on the couch, and we’re left with maybe a few hours of working out throughout the week. This level of activity pales in comparison to people living 100, 1000, or 10000 years ago.
Here’s the exciting part – this problem is easy to fix. While my dream of a society where everyone spends at least an hour a day lifting heavy in a gym may never come to pass, it will only take a small investment of time to improve your strength, fitness, and resiliency. It’s easy to integrate bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, and pulling motions into a training routine that you can perform 2-3x per week. That’s a lot of bang for your buck with around a 90-minute time investment.
Our jobs as physical therapists revolve around treating and preventing injury, and strength training is the best tool we have to complete our mission. If you’re experiencing pain or limitations, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Therapydia is here to help.
- Lauersen JB, Andersen TE, Andersen LBStrength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:1557-1563.