During a time of year when so many are hitting the gym and working hard to reach their personal health goals, Hillsboro physical therapist Laura Perry feels many continue to overlook a critical aspect of wellness and function: Strength.
“Strength isn’t just for the bodybuilders in the corner of the gym,” said Perry, a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Impact Physical Therapy of Hillsboro and Banks. “Strength has to do with getting out of a chair, determining your ability to climb one, two or ten flights of stairs, carrying a laundry basket, [and] reaching up and lifting things from a high shelf.”
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), adults should strength train twice per week. Each session should include eight to ten exercises and feature eight to twelve reps per exercise.
Besides maintaining daily function, the muscle mass resulting from strength training will also increase a person’s basal metabolic rate, or the calories the body burns when it’s at rest. So, if your goal is to lose weight, Perry says, strengthening the body will help.
“A big component of your body’s overall metabolism is based on the amount of muscle mass you have,” she said. “To simply sustain more muscle mass, your body has to burn more calories.”
Whatever your strength and wellness goals, however, Perry says your approach to making a lasting, permanent change is three-fold: determining a SMART goal, assessing your current levels of strength, then devising a personalized plan to reach your objectives.
1. Determine a SMART Goal
According to Perry, if you truly want to achieve a goal, the first step is making sure the goal is SMART. This acronym stands for “Specific,” “Measurable,” “Action-oriented,” “Realistic” and “Timely.”
“It’s not enough to just want to be stronger,” Perry said. “If you need to get stronger to lift your grandchild up, define the goal in these terms. How are you going to do this? By when? How will this be measured, and how will you be accountable to the steps it’s going to take to get there?”
Perry adds that physical therapists are skilled at helping people set wellness and movement goals that are most meaningful to them, including those related to strength.
2. Set the Baseline
Before you can get where you’re going, you must know where you are. This, Perry says, is the basis for the second step: determining your current strength levels.
This is done through baseline strength testing with a physical therapist.
“This testing allows us to determine your current strengths and weaknesses which, along with your goals, will allow us to better understand how best to design an effective, personalized strength program,” she said. “We need to know how much to overload your muscles, and when to overload, to make the most optimal program.”
3. Design a Personalized Strength Program
With a strong goal and a baseline established, the journey is the final step.
“We’re drawing a road map,” Perry said. “We have the start and end points defined, and now’s the time when we specifically train you how to get from point A to point B.”
Perry points out that while no two strength programs are alike, all of them are designed with the acronym FITT in mind.
FITT stands for “Frequency” (i.e., how often will you work out each week?), “Intensity” (i.e., how hard or how much effort?), “Time” (i.e., how much time will you be exercising?) and “Type” (i.e., what exercises will you be doing?).
And, as in the previous steps, a physical therapist can play an invaluable role in ensuring your individualized program aligns with your current fitness and strength levels as well as your specific goal(s).
For more information about getting stronger in 2020, and to seek professional advice for reaching your strength and wellness goals, contact Impact Physical Therapy in Hillsboro at (503) 615-5969 and in Banks at (503) 713-3960.