The Benefits of Strength Training on Rehabilitation

Resistance training is shown to have vast amounts of benefits in regard to rehabilitation, and it is shown to have unique benefits in comparison to aerobic training.
Aerobic training is classified as endurance activities or any type of cardio or cardio-respiratory exercise.

There are two types of resistance training: high load and low reps, or low load and high reps.  Higher loads with lower reps will help increase muscle strength and hypertrophy (the size of a muscle). Whereas, low load and higher reps is used to increase muscle endurance.

3 types of contractions that are traditionally used for strength training

  1. Isometric contraction is when the length of a muscle is staying the same, an example of this would be pressing your hands together.
  2. Isokinetic contractions are where the speed of the contraction is kept constant, an example of this would be riding a stationary bike at a consistent speed.
  3. Isotonic contraction is where the resistance remains the same throughout the exercise, an example of this is a squat.

5 subtypes of exercise within resistance training

The correct subtype use of resistance training is important when it comes to the rehabilitation process as the different subtypes of exercise will elicit different responses and impact a person’s goals and sports performance.

  • Strength training is used at a load of 85% of a person’s 1 repetition max (1RM). This means that the person is able to lift 100lbs for one repetition then they will train at 85lbs for 6 or fewer repetitions within 2-6 sets.
  • Power (single effort) training requires someone to train at 80-90% of their 1RM for 1-2 reps of 3-5 sets, this is also done at the maximal speed possible for the person.
  • Power (multiple effort) training has an individual train at a load of 75-85% 1RM for 3-5 reps and 3-5 sets, this is also done at the individual’s maximal speed.
  • Hypertrophy training is when an individual trains at a load of 65-85% 1RM for 6-12 reps and 3-6 sets.
  • Muscular endurance training is when an individual trains as 65% or less of their 1RM for 12 reps or higher and 2-3 sets.

The correct use of these subtypes in rehabilitation is essential to deliver an effective program that will allow the individual to progress and become healthier. Traditional and non-traditional movements can also be used within the rehabilitation process.

The use of traditional and functional movements can both be used within strength training to help improve the rehabilitation process as traditional movements such as a squat can help lead to increases in strength in many muscles with continued practice and functional movements such as a step up can do the same but in a less regimented way as it is a relevant muscle pattern people experience in their daily life (ex. Walking upstairs).  Both traditional and functional movements within strength training can show great improvements in muscles that have atrophied from discontinued use or immobilization in times of surgery.

Strength training within atrophied muscles can create quick responses and to a greater extent in regards to muscle strength and size compared to other forms of exercise within rehabilitation.

Long-term resistance training when prescribed correctly has been shown to not only develop fitness and health and be useful in the rehabilitation of injuries but it has also shown to be useful in preventing orthopedic injuries. The use of resistance training for treatment:

  • Patients’ chronic low back pain has been shown to have reduced self-reported pain levels.
  • Patients with chronic tendinopathy both in recreational and elite sports settings that include running and jumping have shown that the isolation of the eccentric phase of a movement (the eccentric phase is when the muscle being used is lengthening) can be used to reduce pain and improve quality of life.
  • Knee osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition, affecting middle-aged and older populations has also presented evidence to suggest that resistance training during the rehabilitation process can be effective. It has been reported that patients with knee osteoarthritis have shown improvements in pain levels and functional ability when quad-strengthening exercises are performed during rehabilitation.
  • In patients with hip replacements evidence supports the idea that resistance training immediately post-operatively shortens the time for hospital discharge as well as continuing resistance training after hospital discharge can increase maximal strength and functional performance.

The use of high-intensity resistance training has shown to be more useful throughout chronic and common muscle injuries. A high-intensity training approach (approximately 70% 1RM) has also shown that it will not increase the likelihood of injury, provided that patients are gradually introduced to heavier loads over a period of time. High-intensity approaches within rehabilitation are also shown to be tolerated by patients and it reduces symptoms rather than exacerbate them. This illustrates that the use of resistance training on injuries can lead to a more successful treatment outcome.



Kristensen, J., & Franklyn-Miller, A. (2012). Resistance training in musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a systematic review. British Journal of sports medicine, 46(10), 719-726.
Graves, J., & Franklin, B. (2001). Resistance training for health and rehabilitation. Human Kinetics.
Shaw, B., Shaw, I., & Brown, G. (2015). Resistance exercise is medicine: Strength training in health promotion and rehabilitation. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 22(8), 385-389.
Rutherford, O. (1988). Muscular coordination and strength training: implications for injury rehabilitation. Sports medicine, 5, 196-202.