If you have ever been to outpatient physical therapy, you will know that performing exercise is a major component in helping you to get better. Each exercise is chosen for a specific reason based on what your limitations are. When the therapist instructs you to perform you exercises, he or she will often tell you to perform a certain number of sets and repetitions (reps). This article will help you to understand why this is.
Let’s use the example of a 45 year old woman who is attending physical therapy to improve the strength of her shoulder so she can reach overhead. The therapist may say to her, “I want you to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions” for a certain exercise. At this point, our patient may say to herself, “Three sets of 10. Why don’t I just do 30 reps straight? It’s the same either way!” The truth is that doing 30 reps straight will not give her the same benefit as performing 3 sets of 10 reps.
The purpose of breaking the exercise into sets is to allow for rest breaks. If the goals for your exercise is to improve the muscle’s strength, you shoulder choose a weight or resistance that will cause the muscle to become fatigued by the last repetition. Muscle fatigues occur when the muscle has used all of its stored energy. It is during the rest break that the muscle creates more energy so that it can continue to work. Over the course of your physical therapy sessions, the muscle will begin storing more energy and this is what causes you to become stronger!
So the next time your physical therapist tells you to perform 3 sets of 10 you will know why!