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  • Terri Night, PT

Strength Isn't Everything!

Pliability, circulation, and joint lubrication are as important as the ability to generate force with our muscles. Even the way we breathe can have a huge effect on the spine.

Physical therapists and athletic trainers are well-versed in ways to strengthen different muscles. You may be told by these professionals that certain muscles need to be stronger to support certain injured joints. If you have strong leg muscles or butt muscles, your knees will be well-supported. If you have strong abs or back muscles, your spine will be more "stable." This is the conventional way we think of exercise: Your spine is a ship mast, supported by ropes and pulleys (muscles). Strengthen the ropes and pulleys and your spine will be better supported. Well, to some degree, this is true. But this is by no means the only reason to do--or way to think of--strengthening.

Let me state the obvious: Your spine is not a ship mast.

When we think of the spine as a ship mast, it helps us to understand muscles from a mechanical perspective. At the same time, it prevents us from understanding muscles as they really are.

Ropes, pulleys, and ship masts are not alive. Bones, muscles, ligaments, discs, and nerves are. Ropes, pulleys and ship masts do not have a blood supply. Bones, muscles, ligaments, discs, and nerves must have a blood supply to function properly. Without good circulation, none of these structures can function.

To understand muscles, ligaments, discs, bones and nerves, we have to think like a physiologist. Joint lubrication, circulation, and tissue pliability are just as important as force, direction, and torque.

This is why just about any type of exercise (especially aerobic exercise), combined with adequate flexibility, stress reduction, breathing exercises, and healthy diet are going to be more effective than focusing on the strength of any specific muscle.


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