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Strength Training – Lower Limb

Mode | Intensity | Protocol | Duration | Frequency | Type

Skeletal muscle weakness is present in patients with COPD and this weakness can affect lower limb strength. Strengthening the muscles in the lower limbs is important as these muscles are used on an everyday basis.  A relationship has been shown between lower limb strength and lower limb work capacity.

Strength training can improve muscle strength, peak work capacity and endurance time. A combination of strength and endurance training results in greater increases in both strength and endurance than either form of training alone. Having stronger lower limb muscles may help patients to perform short bursts of activity (such as getting on a bus), and may also reduce falls.

An adequate lower limb strengthening program can be devised with or without weight equipment.

Exercises should be performed slowly and smoothly.

  • Strength training with weights:
  • Leg press.
  • Quadriceps extension.

Strength training without weights:

  • Squats.
  • Straight leg raise.
  • Step-ups or stair climbing
  • Sit-to-stand from progressively lower chairs.

Examples of lower limb strengthening exercises without weights are shown below.

Lower Limb Strength Exercises

(high weight and low repetition)

Exercise #1

Knee extensions in sitting
  • Sit in a chair.

  • Straighten your knee.

  • Hold the knee straight for five seconds, and then relax.

  • Repeat for other leg.

  • Progression:
    • Add weights to legs.

Exercise #2
  • Lean your back against a wall.

  • Squat down until your thighs are parallel with floor.

  • Slide up the wall to a standing position.

  • Start with only sliding down a short way.

  • Progression:
    • Increase depth of slide down.

Exercise #3

Climbing stairs or use a stepping box
  • Your instructor can help you with this exercise.

  • Progression:
    • Increase the number of steps.

    • Increase the height of the step (or walk up two steps at a time).

    • Carry a weight on your back.

Tip: It is often advisable to perform lower limb endurance training as a “warm-up” before strength training.