Strength vs. tone. What do you think is better?

After an earlier social media post, I realized I was using terms I have yet to define that will help with your muscle function knowledge. Muscles have 2 functions that are equally important but very different.

Muscles have tone and strength. Strength is how hard a muscle can contract at any given time, typically under conscious control. This means that you can lift 30 lbs. with a bicep curl if you want to try. You decide ok, lift the weight, and the weight moves up. Conscious choice lift once. This type of muscle function also fatigues at a much higher rate than tone will.

The tone is how hard a muscle is pulling all the time. This is what creates posture and stabilization. This is not a conscious control but is controlled by the cerebellum. This is reflected in how you hold yourself and how you move. You can make yourself stand or move differently, but that requires cerebrum or frontal lobe conscious control. The tone or posture leads to all the issues I mentioned in last week’s post.

I wanted to ensure I mentioned the difference since it is a major point; we all need to understand this.

Now the great thing is that we can change the tone and, thus, posture if we want. But first, we must remember that the body does what the brain tells it to, and the brain’s default setting is to go into flexion, thinking fetal position.

That’s why when someone has a stroke, all the flexor muscles contract and curl up. So, if you have an issue that curls you inward, you must work extra hard to get more extension. The way that we change tone is to do dynamic movements, not stretch and hold.

A large full range of motion movements will be the most important. Moving is going to help. However, if you can resist the motion through the full range, this will help this change.

For this, I like to use cables or bands as weights work on gravity and will only work through some of the arch motions you need to do. Focus on extensor muscles on the back above the waist and the front below the waist. You will need to work these muscles daily for a couple of minutes to push back against what the brain is naturally wired to do.

The best place to start is to look at how you’re standing, and if your posture is in a position, you do not like, start there and work the muscles that will move you back into proper posture.

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Dr. Matt Chalmers

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. Before taking any action based on this information you should first consult with your physician or health care provider. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions regarding a medical condition, your health, or wellness.

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