Uncovering the Formula for Strengthening
let it do its job repeatedly against
example, to bring strength
your weakened neck
and upper back muscles, and to strengthen them a little further to meet the
demands of a bent-forward posture, you must not only use these muscles, but also
make them work harder than normal. Merely standing in an upright position and
bending backwards - this muscle's job - does not cut it, because it does not
provide enough resistance for the muscles to work against. But you can add
resistance, for example, using gravity. If you lie on your stomach on a bed and
lift your neck and head, you are providing
start with a full workout program, because these muscles are often both weakened
and overly tense. Therefore, it is good to start with small movements and
observe how the muscles contract. This helps you know when to add more
power to the contractions.
How do you know that you are strengthening the right muscles?
The benefit of knowing the jobs and exact locations of your muscles is that
this way you can isolate a muscle, which means you will know when and how to
limit a contraction to the exact muscle you want to work on. This reduces the
use of unrelated muscles because all strengthening activity is happening exactly
where you want it. The neck muscles lie right between the
shoulders and move
upwards. Therefore, you can scoot forward on the bed so that the area between
the shoulders is on the edge while your head/neck is hanging over the edge. Now
when you lift your neck backward and up, you make these precise muscles work. To
isolate the upper back muscles, scoot forward a little more so the shoulders and
upper back also hang over the edge. Now when you lift your
chest and shoulders
back up as far as they go, you are strengthening exactly those muscles that need
help so desperately. Doing this exercise according to the principles of
increasing muscle strength will give your upper back the strength is
What is Needed to Increase Strength?
stretching, there are many theories about how best to strengthen muscles,
but most experts agree on certain basic elements. A muscle must be used
(contracted), and it must be pushed beyond the normal daily level of usage.
There is an important difference, however, between stretching and strengthening.
Stretching a painful muscle contributes to its healing, while strengthening a
painful muscle can add to its problem. Therefore, if a muscle is painful when
you do strengthening exercises, you should stop. The fibers need to heal before
they are able to handle the extra load of strengthening.
During strengthening work you must:
Contract the muscle as far as it goes. Each time, lift or bend as
far as you can, to the full available pain-free range of motion.
Repeat the movement enough times. You should do two or three sets of
from 3 to 10 repetitions, depending on the weight used and the kind of muscle
contraction used. Often you will have to determine the ideal number of
repetitions for your body based on how your muscles feel and respond.
Strengthen the muscles often enough. A set of repetitions three times
a week is the minimum needed for strengthening to succeed.
Even a single strengthening contraction does a ton of good for your muscle. The
tissue between the fibers is pushed and shoved, which helps to prevent it from
adhering, or gluing together. Blood flow gets a jump start, the message
communication system is awakened, and the fibers get exercised. All of this
contributes to making you feel better for much the same reasons that stretching
There are several ways to work a muscle. Therefore, you can choose to use one
strengthening technique, or you can add complexity step-by-step as you go. Here
are some strengthening technique:
Tense the muscle by contracting it as tightly as you can without moving your
body (isometric contraction: iso = same, metro = length). This is a very good
exercise to help you retain or regain muscle strength if you are sick in bed and
cannot move around. In fact, it is also great to do while you are sitting still
at work during the day.
Contract the muscle by letting the muscle do its job (concentric
contraction.) This is how you use the muscles in normal daily movement, but a
muscle will strengthen only if you contract it all the way to full range!
Contract and Stretch at the same time
Eccentric contraction is the most effective workout for your muscles. To do it,
hold a weight in your hand with your elbow bent to 90 degrees, then slowly lower
the weight toward the floor. The front upper arm muscles must contract all the
time to prevent the weight from dropping and are being stretched at the same
time as you lower the weight.
Your daily activities are always a combination of these different ways of using
the muscles. When you deliberately want to strengthen a muscle, however, it is
helpful to know that you have options. You may need to work in different ways,
depending on your situation.