Here is clarification of a paragraph in the previous post:
Of course, there's a fine line between the exercise and movement needed to relearn movement. But the emphasis on trying to build muscle is as mistaken as changing the oil in a car with no gas: Its a good thing, but hardly the main issue.
This difference between exercise and repetitive practice (movement needed to relearn movement) may seem like a distinction without a difference. In fact, both build muscle and both drive plastic changes in the brain. The distinction is in the focus. Repetitive practice paradigms focus on driving changes in the motor and sensory cortices of the brain, not specifically in changes in muscle strength. Sure, muscles will build. But focusing on strengthening is like climbing a ladder to the top only to find the ladder is leaning against the wrong building. Stroke is brain damage. And, unlike most other forms of acquired brain injury, stroke involves just one part of the brain. So if a survivor is, say, 2 years post-stroke and they can’t open their hand and then, later they can, that is not a reflection of muscular strength. It is a clear indication of a change in the brain. The muscles have been there all along. Muscle strengthening is the easy part.
Clinicians often sweat the fact that survivors have limited energy for therapy. But does it need to be very strenuous to be beneficial? No! The ability to open the hand (or lift the foot or straighten the elbow or move the mouth) can be done while sitting in a comfy chair. Each attempt should be focused and deliberate. The very ends of the movement should be the point of focus. Each attest is measured as a success if it is just beyond the previous attempt.