The prevailing recommendation from orthopedists, physical therapists, and exercise professionals concerning the strengthening of the muscles that surround the knee is this: “Closed chain” exercises (these include squats, leg presses, lunges, step-ups) are preferable to “open chain” exercises (these include leg extensions and leg curls) for individuals with knee pain or individuals who have undergone knee surgeries. Some practitioners have gone so far to suggest that open chain movements such as leg extensions should be avoided completely as they may contribute to knee pain. Investigators of a research study sought to answer the question: For patients with prolonged knee pain (patellofemoral pain), which form of exercise is more effective? A team of researchers from Ghent University in Belgium hypothesized that the long-term benefits of closed chain movements would be more pronounced than opened chain movements. Researchers separated individuals who had experienced long-term knee pain into two different groups: closed chain and open chain. After a 5-year follow up, researchers were surprised by the results; patients performing open-chain exercise faired either equally as well or better than the closed chain group. The researchers concluded that the prejudice toward closed chain movements is unfounded and recommend the inclusion of open chain exercises in order improve long-term pain reduction and enhanced functionality.
I will argue that most exercisers, even the most dedicated and hardworking fitness enthusiasts fail to ask a simple question before they commence an exercise program, an individual exercise, or a general mode of exercise.
For over 11 years, we at Discover Strength have gone against the conventional wisdom that "more is better" when it comes to strength training. For years, we've taught the foundational tenet: You don't get stronger and reap the benefits of strength training WHILE we strength train; instead, we reap the benefits while we are RECOVERING from strength training. Research now supports the notion that two workouts per week can optimize the myriad of benefits from strength training.
However, until recently, very little research existed examining how the various stressors in our lives impact our finite recovery ability.
Authors of a brand new research study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides a breakthrough in our understanding of how chronic mental stress impacts the recovery of our muscles. The researchers concluded that "life event stress" significantly impacted one's ability to recovery from strength training. The authors state, "In all analyses, higher stress was associated with worse recovery." "Stress, whether assessed as life event stress or perceived stress, moderated the recovery trajectories of muscular function and somatic sensations in a 96-hour period after strenuous resistance exercise."
The take-home messages:
- "In an excellent review titled, 'Strength Training as a Countermeasure to Aging Muscle and Chronic Disease,' Hurley, Hanson, and Sheoff described four studies that demonstrated an inverse relationship between muscular strength and mental decline/Alzheimer disease."
- "O'Connor, Herring, and Caravalho's comprehensive review of the mental health benefits of strength training identified four studies that attained significant improvements in memory as a result of resistance exercise."
- "A 2012 study by Nagamatsu and associates actually found resistance exercise to be more effective than aerobic activity for improving mental performance in 70 to 80 year old woman with mild cognitive impairment."
- "Research has revealed enhanced self-esteem resulting from resistance training among younger adults, older adults, women, and cancer patients."
- "Based on their research review, O'Connor and colleagues concluded that 'strength training alone is associated with improvements in overall self-esteem.'"
- "Strength training alone is associated with both large reductions in symptoms of depression among depressed patients with moderate reductions in depression symptoms among patients with fibromyalgia."
- "More than 90% of the initially depressed elders in the resistance exercise group no longer met the criteria for depression after 10 weeks of training, compared to 40% of those in the health education group over the same time period."
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