Specialty Program - Youth

Muscular Strength: Assessing Areas for Improvement and Efficiency

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stretch affect
December 30, 2022

When we envision being healthy and strong, muscular strength is something we all jump to, it’s the natural way to track how you are improving. How much more can I lift? How big are my muscles?

Lifting weights is where everybody likes to be—this is the fun stuff. No one gets excited about working on range of motion or proper breathing.

But if you look at the components of our Movement Health Journey, you will notice strength is nowhere near the beginning of the journey. In order to build strength properly and safely, you first need to acquire the foundations of breath, mobility, stability, and endurance.

These foundations allow us to start with proper breathing, lifting form, adequate time for motor learning, and gradual application of load—all steps necessary to prevent injury when lifting OR prevent future injury.

The Muscle Strength Assessment Starting Block: Identifying Areas of Weakness

Sure, you could go right into lifting weights, but you would be doing yourself a disservice by not first assessing your movement patterns and identifying any weak areas that will not allow you to reach your full potential.

Think of it this way:

You’re a weightlifter, golfer, runner, basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer player…you name it.

You’ve already spent tons of time and money on coaches and performance specialists trying to perfect your craft, but something keeps stopping you from getting the results you want.

Maybe you aren’t achieving the results you want, not because you aren’t trying, but because your body isn’t allowing for it. We all have physical limitations that need to be identified and fixed before we can even think of performing our best.

Here is a common scenario:

Your coach notices poor form in your golf swing and tells you to change your form.

But what if your hips don’t have the flexibility to change that form, or you lack the balance/stability to make the changes?

Then it’s almost impossible to make the correction, or you may compensate another way to make the change, leading to potential injury, leaving you worse off than when you started.

This is a scenario that will leave you frustrated and feeling like you are beating your head against a wall.

But this can be avoided with proper assessment and specific corrective exercises allowing your body to eliminate or improve your weaknesses prior to implementing strength.

How do we identify these weaknesses?

At Stretch Affect we start every new client with the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). SFMA is a movement based diagnostic system designed to identify underlying dysfunctional movement. The results of the assessment help us pinpoint where your greatest training opportunities lie (aka prioritizing areas that need the most work) allowing us to train with purpose and precision.

The assessment consists of movements that measure cervical, upper and lower extremity, flexion, extension, and rotation.

Different Ways to Achieve Muscular Strength

Muscular strength can look different for different people. Not everyone will have the same strength goals.

Some people will want:

  • More strength without building muscle
  • Implementing an efficiency component
  • Functional strength for activities at home and in sport

More Strength Without Building Muscle

Muscular strength and building muscle are not the same thing. Muscular strength focuses on increasing the functional ability and capacity of a muscle while building muscle focuses on increasing size.

These people are looking to increase strength by a greater percentage than mass.

Some examples of people who are strong without large muscles are swimmers, gymnasts, rock climbers, martial artists, and dancers.

Implementing an efficiency component

Eccentric Strength training!

What is it?

An eccentric contraction of a muscle is a lengthening contraction of a muscle. Think about slowly lowering a weight after a bicep curl. The bicep is still active but is lengthening as your wrist moves way from shoulder.

Eccentric strength training has loads of beneficial research compared to emphasizing concentric strengthening.

Some of the benefits of eccentric training include:

Faster muscle gains: eccentric load is more effective in building muscle size and strength as it is a larger stress (1.75x) to the muscle compared to the concentric contraction. In fact, a 2022 study sought to measure strength of the elbow flexors shows eccentric training increased muscle strength and thickness similarly to concentric/eccentric training, despite half the training volume.

Increased Flexibility: studies show those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those to only performed static stretching of their hamstrings

Lower risk of injury: Eccentric exercises strengthen muscles but also the connective tissues surrounding them including fascia and tendons which help prevent risk of tendonitis and ligamentous strains.

We use the Synapse Custom Calibrated Resistance system, the ultimate eccentric overload device, to incorporate eccentric strength training at Stretch Affect.

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

When you contract your muscle on your own, you are contracting a small number of motor neurons but activating more neurons will result in more muscle fibers being activated, and therefore a stronger muscle contraction.

We can achieve a stronger muscle contraction using electro muscular stimulation.

PowerDots is our preferred tool to achieve NMES.

The PowerDot device sends a signal to create a concentric contraction (shortening of the muscle) while moving eccentrically (elongating the muscle) while the unit is trying to pull you concentrically (shortening of the muscle) we can boost the effect of an exercise.

man with PowerDot on pecs working electro stim
NMES with PowerDot at Stretch Affect

Functional Strength for Activities at Home and In Sport

Maybe muscular strength comes from performing movements that translate to everyday activities. These exercises do not focus on showing off those biceps or buns at the beach, but rather on functional strength–developing patterns that are used in your everyday life.

Let’s look at the following functional strength exercises and how they apply to activities you may come across in your life:

Activities at home:

Training proper deadlifts could help prevent an injury when lifting your child from the floor.

Training proper cable trunk rotations could prevent an injury when reaching into the backseat of your car.

Training suitcase carries could prevent injury when carrying heavy grocery bags.

Activities in sport:

Training proper single leg RDLs could help prevent an injury when picking up a golf tee from the ground.

Being able to land on a single leg and then explode off using the correct muscles can limit translation on the ACL. Sports like basketball have seen an uptick in ACL injuries because of moves like the “euro step”. There are ways to prepare the knee for specific activities.

Training proper 3 way progression of step downs that helps runners lessen the pain from runners knee

Our Advice on Gaining Muscular Strength

Some of you may have a perception that gaining muscular strength can be dangerous or could cause injury. This may be true under certain circumstances; however, statistics have shown that weightlifting when performed with proper supervision, sound technique and appropriate weights is one of the SAFEST athletic activities. In fact, weight training has shown to have 10 times less injury rates compared to running!

Most weightlifting injures occur as a result of improper supervision, faulty technique, or overuse. Seek out a professional who can guide you through a proper program to build muscular strength according to your goals and application in your every day life.

If you are in the San Diego area and are looking for a comprehensive physical assessment and guided program from our Movement Health specialists, reach out, we are here for you!

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