Strength training exercises are designed to increase muscle strength and resistance. While muscle strength is important for each of us to maintain our structural and physiological equilibrium, it becomes absolutely essential for lower-limb amputees. Obviously, daily exercise must be carefully regulated to match one’s individual physical capacity and before training begins, we need to ascertain that walking is being done correctly, with proper balance and gait. It’s best to be followed by a specialist who can make sure you are walking properly and assign you exercises most adapted to your abilities.
Today we’ve come to the gym with Mira to discover what strength training routine he follows as part of his preparation for the Xterra.
I personally prefer strength training using just the weight of my own body. I prefer it both because I simply enjoy this kind of training in itself and also because you can do it at home or outside without needing any gym equipment or just using simple ones. I can, for example, easily dedicate some time to these kinds of exercises after a session of running training. I usually mainly focus on doing exercises for core stability which usually don’t require the use of any specific machine. I feel that these exercises are particularly beneficial for me. From time to time I go to the gym and use the machines to focus on exercises for my shoulders, arms and legs.
An amputee needs to work particularly hard on muscle strength in order to regain stability and equilibrium. This is why Mira works on his overall body strength, but pays particular attention to strengthening his core.
Our “core” refers to the central part of our body, our nucleus. It is located between the abdomen and the lumbar region. Just by its position alone you can see what enormous importance it holds, as our bodies depend on it both for static and dynamic efficiency. Our core plays a major role in our anatomical structure and its primary functions, influencing (positively or negatively, depending on our condition) our postural stability, balance and distribution. It can be defined as the key link in our kinetic chains and if it is not sufficiently strengthened, it could lead to putting undue stress on joints and muscles.
The benefits of maintaining core strength for an amputee are many: from improving posture and coordination to providing greater ambulatory ability and overall mobility. In addition, a strong core can help prevent lower back pain and other pathologies.
Here are a few of the exercises Mira usually carries out in his core training regime:
- abdominal exercises (always carried out slowly);
- lumbar extensions (always carried out slowly);
- planking (with straight or bent arms, the side plank, isometric, static, or dynamic, etc.);
- prone walkouts;
- hollow position exercises both on a stable surface (like a mat), and an unstable one (like a BOSU).
Upper and lower limb strengthening
Mira works his residual limb also by strengthening his other limbs. It is fundamental to increase muscle hypertrophy of the healthy limb to give it strength and stability, but at the same time the residual limb needs to be worked (keeping in mind the type of amputation).
Here are some floor exercises, which can be done with or without additional weights like dumbbells or barbells, that Mira does for leg strength:
- squats (as permitted by the prosthesis);
- lunges (as permitted by the prosthesis);
- supine straight bridge, stretching the back and lifting the glutes (supported only by shoulders and heels).
Some of the exercises Mira does using fitness machines in the gym include:
- leg extensions for quadriceps strengthening;
- leg curl for femoral muscle strengthening;
- calf machine for calf muscles;
- press for overall strength.
Of course, training the upper-body is also important (shoulders, back, arms) for maintaining all-around muscle strength and fitness. Exercises for the upper back, for example, improve posture and help keep the various area of the body in equilibrium.
Some back, shoulder and arm exercises are:
- pull-ups or assisted pull-ups (horizontal) for strengthening the back (particularly the Latissimus dorsi) and the biceps;
- rowing machine to work the shoulder muscles (especially the rhomboids) which are essential to good posture;
- push-ups or barbell lifts for strengthening shoulders and pecs.
We need to also remember that before beginning his strength training routine, Mira dedicates some time to doing his warm up exercises to prepare his body for the rigorous workout. It is essential to warm up the various parts of the body to reduce the risk of getting hurt and to assure the best possible results.