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Progressive strengthening exercises are used in rehabilitation to increase muscle strength, tone, size, and function.  Progressive strengthening is also referred to as “progressive resistance,” “exercise progression,” and the “overload principle.”  Injury, disease, and neurological disorders, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury, can weaken muscles.  Bed rest and inactivity can cause muscle wasting. Progressive strengthening exercises build up muscles by gradually increasing the amount of weight or resistance you use while exercising.

Your doctor can refer you to a physical or occupational therapist for progressive strengthening exercises. At your initial evaluation, your rehabilitation therapist will examine your arms and legs. Measurements will be taken to see how far you can move your joints and how strong your muscles are. Your rehabilitation therapist will assess your balance and posture while you are standing and sitting. You should state your concerns and goals. Your rehabilitation therapist will design a progressive strengthening program based on your initial functioning.


Your progressive strengthening program will consist of lifting a specified amount of weight a certain amount of times. When your muscles have strengthened enough that the exercises become easy, the amount of weight or resistance will be increased. The process will continue until you have reached your goal.

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit