05 Dec 2021

Resistance training improves health and function in Parkinson’s patients

Dr. James L. Nuzzo
Head of Exercise Science Research at Vitruvian
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
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Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition of the nervous system that negatively impacts muscle strength and the ability to perform activities of daily living. Resistance exercise improves muscle strength and function in healthy older adults, so a recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology explored if resistance exercise also improves these outcomes (and more) in Parkinson’s patients. 

Twenty-two patients with Parkinson’s disease were randomised to undertake either conventional treatment or heavy resistance exercise treatment. Conventional treatment consisted of leg press and chest press exercise at resistances equal to 50% of maximum as well as various body weight and stretching exercises. Heavy resistance exercise consisted of leg press and chest press exercise with resistances equal to 90% of maximum. For the heavy resistance exercise, 4 sets of 4 repetitions were completed, and each repetition was performed with a slow eccentric phase and a maximal-velocity concentric phase. Heavy resistance exercise was completed 5 times per week for 4 weeks. Before and after the 4-week intervention, patients were measured on muscle strength, rate of force development, perceived health and function, and others tests of motor function.

Heavy resistance exercise improved muscle strength more than conventional treatment. Patients who completed heavy resistance exercise increased their leg press and chest press, on average, by 20% and 25%, respectively, whereas no strength improvements occurred in patients who completed the conventional training. Patients who participated in heavy resistance exercise also improved their rate of force development, stair climbing ability, and their performance on the timed up-and-go test. No improvements in these measures occurred, on average, for patients in the conventional treatment group. Patients who participated in heavy resistance exercise also experienced slightly more improvement in social activities function and perceived health. No adverse events were experienced by the patients as a result of the exercise programs.

Results from the study indicate that heavy resistance exercise is safe and effective in Parkinson’s patients. The group of patients who completed the heavy resistance exercise started with lower levels of function than the patients who completed the conventional treatment. This might have biased the results in favour of heavy resistance exercise, but it also indicates that heavy resistance exercise is a viable treatment for patients who have the largest decrements in motor function.


Multi-joint exercises of the upper- and lower-body, such as those used in the study, can be found in the Vitruvian app. To apply the results from the study to your Vitruvian training:

1) attach the bar or handles to your V-Form or Trainer+

2) select the “squat” exercise (similar to the leg press in the study)

3) select “focused” mode

4) select 4 repetitions

5) select a personal maximal resistance

6) set the movement range of motion in the first 3 calibration repetitions

7) let the entire resistance stack on at the top of the squat (standing position)

8) squat down slowly, controlling the resistance 

9) try to stand back up as quickly as possible

10) let the resistance stack on again while in the standing position then do the second eccentric repetition

11) continue for 4 repetitions 

12) take a 3-minute rest and complete three more sets

13) select the “bench press” exercise (similar to the chest press in the study) and repeat all of the above steps


Helgerud J, et al. Maximal strength training patients with Parkinson’s disease: impact on efferent neural drive, force-generating capacity, and functional performanceJournal of Applied Physiology 129: 683-690, 2021. DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00208.2020.

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