Do you ever wonder what it takes to work the stage like a rockstar, throw down a slam dunk or clear a hurdle? Maneuverability of our body is dependent on a few different factors. The ability to coordinate movement effectively through neuromuscular control and muscular strength are key factors that play a role in overall mobility.
Review of neuromuscular control
In a previous blog post, we highlighted neuromuscular control and the importance with mobility. To review, neuromuscular control is the ability for the body to utilize sensory information to detect, perceive and apply that information to perform a specific activity or task. To be able to successfully perform a task or activity it requires multiple body parts working together in coordination. The achievement of this coordination is made possible by gaining information from receptors in your body that provide feedback regarding your body’s awareness of where it is in space (termed “proprioception”), balance and neuromuscular control. (Dutton, 2012) Neuromuscular control is different from muscular strength, although both work closely together to allow the body to move effectively.
Muscle strength on the other hand refers to the maximal amount of force your muscle tissue, or a group of muscles, can exert against resistance. This corresponds to the number and size of muscle fibers in a muscle group. Muscle strength is integral in the ability to lift and move your body, especially against resistance.
Training for neuromuscular control vs strength
The way we improve neuromuscular control is through neuromuscular education. The focus of neuromuscular education is to strengthen the ability of the central nervous system to generate efficient muscle firing patterns, increase overall joint stability and decrease joint forces. (Dutton, 2012) Ensuring that movement patterns are performed correctly, by emphasizing proper form, is integral to neuromuscular education. It allows us to move as intended without relying on compensatory patterns which can place our body at an increased risk of injury. We train this neuromuscular control through balance training, anti-rotation stability exercises and postural training exercises.
Strength training is what we think of as a “typical” mode of working out. This is resistance training using body weight, resistance bands, or weights to increase muscle mass. There are different ways to train strength including programs with differing number of repetitions, a spectrum of resistance levels, and various progressions. Strength training can be for general body strength, tailored to certain body parts or individualized to specific sports.
Why both are important
Neuromuscular control and muscle strength work closely together to allow for functional movement of the body. Without the coordination of movements, aka neuromuscular control, to provide balance and stability or strength to provide stability at each joint, we would have difficulty with basic tasks such as moving ourselves up/down stairs, lifting objects or even walking and running. Having neuromuscular control without strength or vice versa, can lead to impaired movement patterns, poor technique with workouts and increased risk for injury.
How PT can help
If you exhibit issues with either neuromuscular control and/or strength, you may be experiencing pain with certain activities. You may be having difficulty progressing workouts because of weakness or poor coordination. Your physical therapist can help! A physical therapist can help identify deficits in both neuromuscular control and strength through assessment. After areas of opportunity are identified, your physical therapist will design a tailored program for you to improve your overall movement and decrease your risk of injury.
Contact Dynamic Physical Therapy and Wellness TODAY to provide you with your assessment and individualized training program to ensure that you Perform Better, Live Better, Get Better!
Dutton M. Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, and Intervention. Third ed. New York: McGraw Hill Medical; 2012; chapter 14.