Maximal Strength Training Enhances Strength and Functional Performance in Chronic Stroke Survivors

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Hill TR, Gjellesvik TI, Moen PMR, Tørhaug T, Fimland MS, Helgerud J, Hoff J

Strength training after stroke is widely acknowledged as an important partof a rehabilitation program. Muscle strength has been shown to be a significant contributor to physical disability after stroke,  which in turn hasan immense impact on the reintegration of patients into society, affecting their quality-of-life. Currently, a wide range of training regimens are used, and a consensus on the optimal training program is yet to be found.

Maximal strength training (MST) involves three to five sets of one to five repetitions of nearly maximal weights (85%-95% one repetition maximum [1RM]), with emphasis on the maximal mobilization of force. The efficacy of strength training programs is measured not only by improvements in strength but also by improvements transferred into functional tasks. During the last decade, this training regimen has demonstrated large increases in strength and increase in central commands to the muscles among patients but has not yet been used with patients with stroke.

Ten patients acted as their own controls for 4 weeks, before an 8-week training intervention. The included patients were between 22 and 61 yrs, more than 6 months since stroke, and on stable medication. Patients trained 3 days/wk, with four sets of four repetitions at 85%-95% one repetition maximum in one-leg press and plantarflexion with an emphasis on maximal mobilization of force in the concentric phase.

Conclusion: Maximal strength training improved muscle strength in stroke survivors in both the most affected leg and the least or not affected leg and improved Timed-Up-And -Go time and 6-min walk distance. The study demonstrates that with the necessary safety precautions, it is effective in both time and results to train strength at maximal intensities among chronic stroke survivors.


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