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Strength Training for Pain & Injury Rehab

Why building muscle is easier, better, and more important than you thought, and its role in recovering from injuries and chronic pain

Paul Ingrahamupdated

Exercise is the closest thing there is to a miracle drug,12 and strength training is one of the best kinds of exercise, practically like magic: more healthy and more efficient than most people realize, and a valuable component of fitness and most injury rehabilitation, but not just for the reasons most patients and professionals think. It is the gym-o-centric, oomphy style of exercise that mostly guys like to do — bodybuilding, pumping iron, powerlifting. Nearly everyone else ignores strength training, except during occasional New Year’s resolution phases, or when prescribed and/or supervised by a physical therapist.

Please don’t dismiss it! In this article, I will spell out why building strength truly matters to ordinary folks, and how to do it — and technique is amazingly unimportant. Wearing muscles out, by any means, is usually good enough for the average person or even the average athlete.

While I hope anyone who’s ever spent time in a gym will find this guide helpful, it’s especially written for people with chronic pain and stubborn injuries who are wondering: Where does strength training fit in to a recovery plan? While it does have a vital role in rehab, it’s not a “treatment”: weakness is rarely the reason people are injured or in pain to begin with, and strengthening is rarely an effective prevention or treatment for injury. But it is a crucial part of load management — an ideal way of taking baby steps back to normal function and then beyond into better-than-ever territory.

Exercise is Power: Resistance Training for Older Adults 11:51

The best (and least advertised) benefits of strength training

Over the years, I have come to love strength training for fitness and rehabilitation, but not for entirely conventional reasons, many of which are problematic. Fortunately, there are some other great reasons to challenge your muscles regularly: