Purpose: This study tested the safety and the effects of circuit resistance training (CRT) on peak upper extremity cardiorespiratory endurance and muscle strength in chronic survivors of paraplegia due to spinal cord injury.
Methods: Ten men with chronic neurologically complete paraplegia at the T5-L1 levels participated in the study. Subjects completed 12 wk of CRT, using a series of alternating isoinertial resistance exercises on a multi-station gym and high-speed, low-resistance arm ergometry. Peak arm ergometry tests, upper extremity isoinertial strength testing, and testing of upper extremity isokinetic strength were all performed before and after training.
Results: None of the subjects suffered injury from exercise training. Significant increases were observed in peak oxygen consumption (29.7%, P < 0.01), time to fatigue (P < 0.01), and peak power output during arm testing (P < 0.05). Significant increases in isoinertial strength for the training maneuvers ranged from 11.9% to 30% (Ps < 0.01). Significant increases in isokinetic strength were experienced for shoulder joint internal rotation, extension, abduction, adduction, and horizontal adduction (Ps < 0.05).
Conclusion: Chronic survivors of paraplegia safely improve their upper extremity cardiorespiratory endurance and muscle strength when undergoing a short-term circuit resistance training program. Gains in fitness and strength exceeded those usually reported after either arm endurance exercise conditioning or strength training in this subject population.