Many of my clients are used to me telling them to do their homework. However, it’s more than just doing what your therapist tell you to do. We all know that we are supposed to do our exercises and it will help. The truth of the matter is that we are working with our motor control system. Here is how it works:
Imagine you decide “I want _____ (ice cream, cookie, cake etc)”. That desire is rooted in your limbic system and is the “fill my needs” part of the brain. The cerebral cortex of the brain is the strategist. It decides which route to take. Then we get into the good stuff. The motor control centre coordinates the pattern of movement ie. “do it this way”. The message is sent to the spine which is the “do it” command. The muscles are where the doing it action occurs.
When I am testing your muscle and it doesn’t work, I am getting the brain to fail. Because the brain learns from failure, if we don’t find a reason for the failure, the pattern remains. Testing the muscle lights up the Motor Control Centre and makes it available for learning. we can either do the same old thing (reinforce the failure) or give it something new (create a new neural pattern). Giving you a corrective exercise that pairs the failing muscle with the compensating muscle (in the correct order) makes a greater impact because we are re-grooving the neuromuscular pattern.
How many repetitions does this take? There is some debate on the timing and I find it’s quite individual. A minimum of 700 good repetitions upwards to 3000 good repetitions. What does a “good” repetition mean? We do not want to fatigue the muscle. This isn’t strength training. We need to get to the point where we feel the muscle activate but not tire it out. With proper form. And in the proper order.
The point is, if you do your homework diligently 3 x day, 15sec or 15 reps (activation portion of your homework) for a minimum of 2-3 weeks, you will reinforce the proper pattern.