Rehab… Not another 3 sets of 10

All too often when I ask about peoples rehab programmes or exercises I get the same responses. It seems to be that the therapy industry when it comes to rehabilitation has an obsession with 3 sets of 10 reps. WHY? This prescription may be appropriate during some stages of your rehabilitation and for particular exercises but it is not the “cure” for your pain and solution to preventing the return.

In prescribing exercises you must take in to account the priorities of rehab and the role of the muscle. Is the muscle required to maintain posture? Do we need to increase the muscle size? Is it strength or power that’s needed? 3×10 is ok for hypertrophy with an appropriate load but what about everything else?

Is a muscle required to work all day and does it need endurance to maintain a certain position? 3 sets of 10 will not be increasing endurance sufficiently; you are instead aiming to increase muscle size. Is an injured muscle prepared for a maximum sprint or contraction? You may have started with hypertrophy to increase the muscle size but have you progressed to develop the muscles strength and power required for the individual athlete?

Rehabilitation programmes should consider the goal of each stage of rehab and progress rehab to ultimately return a patient to previous levels of activity or performance. If a hamstring should be able to sprint without injury then training should replicate the powerful contraction that will lengthen the muscle in its longest position. 3×10 of hamstring curls will not be able to do this.

Key points

  • Ensure training is specific for muscle role
  • Use appropriate load for training goal
  • Progress to strength, power and plyometric exercise to replicate demands of activity
  • Don’t settle for 3×10 on every exercise

Our patients would have noticed their home exercises programmes having varying exercise prescriptions. Others will have seen the development of their programmes and a reduction in the prescription and increase in exercise difficulty. All rehabilitation programmes should progress; you’re not finished after 2 weeks of 3×10.

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