Skip navigation

Northumbria University scientists find looking in the mirror makes you stronger

19th April 2016

Experts at Northumbria University, Newcastle are working with Newcastle Clinic to explore how innovative new research on muscular strength in healthy adults could be applied to accelerate recovery from strokes and limb fractures.

Mirror Research - To EmbedResearchers within the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria have gained valuable insight into the way muscles are strengthened and in doing so, have partnered together with Newcastle Clinic with the aim to apply this work in athlete injury management.

The research found that when a person exercises a muscle on one side of their body in front of a mirror, the muscle on the opposite side can also get stronger due to the reflection stimulating a specific areas the brain. Through the illusion of the stationary hand moving and its muscles contracting during strength training, the excitability of the untrained muscle on the opposite side is stimulated and as a result, strengthened.

This new research has the potential to be crucial in the future of stroke rehabilitation, fractures or other unilateral clinical injuries and in collaboration with Newcastle Clinic, experts will be able to analyse sports injuries with speedy access to state of the art MRI equipment.

Explaining the next stage of the research, Professor Glyn Howatson, a Sport and Exercise Physiologist from Northumbria, said: “Volunteer participants will be immobilised in a wrist cast for 1 week and we will measure, with an MRI scanner, how the muscle structure changes with and without resistance training on the opposite side.

We are very excited at the potential application of this work in athlete injury management and perhaps more importantly in clinical populations, such as stroke and fractures, that require rehabilitation.”

Northumbria has been delivering Sport degrees for over 30 years and is one of the original providers in UK Higher Education and graduates from our Sports programmes have included successful medal winning athletes such as Olympic Cyclist Victoria Pendleton. With access to £30 million Sport Central facility, the University is committed to delivering excellent care for athletes, providing a world class service. For more information on the Sports programmes Northumbria offer, visit:

comments powered by Disqus


a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

a person sitting at a table

Order your prospectus

If you would like to know more about our courses, or life in general as a student at Northumbria, then we can help you.

Latest News and Features

From l-r: Bookbinder Alexandra Marsden, Dr Claudine Van Hensbergen and Dr Gareth Roddy at the Books as Treasures event at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
Northumbria student to represent Great Britain in Goalball World Championships
a black and white image of hands young and old
Professor Katy Shaw
Image of the Baltic
an undular bore on the River Severn river near Gloucester - a series of waves on the river which people are surfing on

Back to top