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The Importance of Including Power Exercises in Physical Therapy

Updated: May 5, 2022

The ultimate goal of physical therapy is to return clients to the field, court, or wherever else they want to go. It is important to have an understanding of what is required to perform in an individual's sport. Usually, there is a power component to an athletic performance, and we as physical therapists do a terrible job of addressing it!

Before we get too far into it, let's look at what power means.

Power = Force X Velocity

So, to increase power, you need to do something with more force or do it faster. From a physical therapy lens, we can look at the demands of power and see where the system might break down. For example, if I asked you to lift a 100 pound weight as fast as you could, you would need two components: you need the strength to lift the weight and the ability to do so quickly. If you were not strong enough to lift the weight, then you could hurt yourself trying to lift it. Similarly, if you lift the weight faster than you can handle, then you might injure yourself as well!

I often point out that we underload clients in physical therapy. We are typically content with band exercises that do nothing to replicate real world weights or demands of sport or other activities. However, let's just say that you have a great physical therapist who actually takes the time to get you stronger and ready to go back on the field. Let's use a basketball player who strained his quad as an example. His physical therapist takes him through a bunch of strengthening exercises and he is squatting, lunging, and his leg is even stronger than it was before. That is a great start, but it is neglecting his sport needs.

This PT did a great job of addressing the force production in the power equation, but he neglected velocity. If the athlete goes back to basketball, he may be able to squat down and feel stronger in that position, but what if he tries to jump. He may not be able to jump as high as before, because even though he gained strength, he lost velocity. Also, he may subject himself to an injury because he is doing a rapid movement for which he is unprepared.