Muscular strength should be maintained at the level which supports the daily activities and allows for emergency physical activities and occasional prolonged periods when adequate nutrition and hours of rest are reduced. Most occupations involve some muscular strain. Sitting for hours at a desk places a continuous strain on the small muscles supporting the shoulders and head. If these small muscles are not allowed to rest or if their circulation is not improved by massage or exercise, they will become fatigued and distractingly painful.
The strenuousness of muscular activity is proportional to the strength of the muscles involved. An activity which is strenuous for a weak muscled individual is less strenuous for another individual with stronger muscles. If a sufficient reserve of muscular strength is maintained daily tasks are performed with greater ease and efficiency, in greater quantities and with less fatigue. As the athlete trains for his event by strengthening himself through increasing loads of work, so the worker and the executive can train themselves the better to withstand their physical stresses through extra loads of physical activity.
The athlete requires daily periods of hard work to maintain a high state of training but those who perform sedentary or moderate work need less frequent and less strenuous periods of extra physical activity. The exercise periods can be made very pleasurable if the work is accomplished in the form of golf, bowling, tennis or other sport. If there is sufficient leisure time, desirable levels of muscular strength can be maintained by such activities as gardening, home workshop activities, fishing, hunting, and camping.
Strengthening Weak Muscles
Muscular weakness may be corrected by working the muscles against heavy loads. The loads should be adapted to the strength of the muscles and increased as muscle strength is improved. Tile rate of improvement will generally be in proportion to the amount of work performed by the muscles. Rapid improvement requires long periods of work. If the load of work is too heavy or the movement too rapid, or if insufficient rest is allowed between the bouts of work, exhaustion will occur and the total amount of work which can be accomplished during the exercise period is diminished.
A properly planned weight lifting program using dumbbells and barbells will give rapid increase in strength of weak muscles. The amount of work can be accurately controlled and the exercise can be adapted to the muscle groups needing the greatest development. Wrestling and gymnastics are also useful for improving muscular strength. In wrestling, however, a weak person usually exhausts himself before he has performed enough work to bring about the desired rate of improvement, Gymnastics tend to develop only the special parts of the body which are used in exercises. Both wrestling and gymnastics have a greater value in the later stages of a strength building program.
A special problem arises in exercises designed to strengthen abdominal muscles. Leg-lifting and trunk-flexing exercises can be performed most easily by contractions of the strong hip flexor muscles, the sartorius, rectus femorus, psoas major, iliacus, and the adductors. Abdominal muscles are brought strongly into play only when the performer contracts them voluntarily during exercise. Assistance can be given by palpation of the abdominal muscles and encouragement of the performer to use his abdominal muscles strongly in the exercise. Autogenous auditory facilitation by means of electrical amplification of the performer’s own muscle sounds assists in increasing the work output and endurance when muscular exercise is difficult.