While any injury can be debilitating, arm injuries can prevent the completion of even basic tasks. Healing can take extensive time and effort to complete just to return to basic competency. Once healed, muscle atrophy in the injured arm presents a number of challenges. To rebuild your arm strength following an injury, there are several elements to consider. The most important factor to consider is taking care to avoid re-aggravating the initial injury. Do not attempt to rebuild arm strength until your injury is healed, and do so under the guidance of licensed physical therapist.
The three primary muscle groups in the arm are the biceps, the triceps and the forearms. While there are numerous small individual muscles through the upper extremities, exercises that target the major muscle groups will help redevelop a base level of strength in the previously injured arm. If the injury is a muscle tear or sprain, pay special attention to avoid re-tearing that muscle. If the injury was a joint injury in the wrist, elbow or shoulder, focus your strength rehabilitation on slow and steady training.
The forearms are engaged by numerous exercises that target the biceps and triceps. The key for rebuilding strength is to select basic exercises that emphasize a full range of motion for each repetition. The standing dumbbell curl will help you rebuild strength in the biceps, as long as the motion is smooth and steady. Hammer curls will engage the biceps as well as the forearms. Lying triceps extensions will also engage the forearms while you target the triceps. Triceps presses also provide a simple, smooth motion for working the triceps.
The focus of rebuilding arm strength is to avoid aggressively overloading the target muscles at the outset. You need to start more slowly than one ordinarily would, focusing on re-establishing muscle memory for the forms of each exercise, while protecting joints, tendons and muscles. For the first few weeks, use standard sets of eight to 10 repetitions using relatively light weight. The weight should be no more than 75 percent of your previous normal maximum capacity prior to the injury.
The type of equipment you use will depend on the type and severity of the injury. Typically, to focus on rebuilding strength in a single arm, you will devote specific attention to that arm with the use of dumbbells or a cable attached to a stacked weight machines. You also have the option of dedicated lever-actuated machines that provide resistance with stacked weight plates, and guide you through a precise form that activates target muscles. This option is ideal for rebuilding strength following serious injury, as it helps re-teach you proper form, and helps you re-establish foundational strength in the affected arm.