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Endurance Training – Upper Limb

Mode | Intensity | Duration | Frequency | Type


The training prescription for unsupported arm exercise is not well defined.  Details regarding intensity for endurance arm exercises are not always stated in published research.

The intensity for upper limb endurance exercise may be prescribed based on:

A. Weights and repetitions.
B. Dyspnoea score.


A. Prescribing intensity based on weights and repetitions

To elicit an endurance training effect, use the upper limb endurance exercises, and prescribe low weights with high repetition.

  • Start with a weight that the patient can use to perform at least 15 repetitions of the chosen arm exercise (for some patients, the weight of their arms is sufficient as a ‘starting weight’).
  • After the patient can perform 15 repetitions of each exercise (one set) then increase to three sets of each exercise.
  • After the patient can perform three sets of each exercise, the weight held can be increased by 0.5 kg.


Tip: For home training, the exercises might begin with ‘no weight’, progressed to a 0.5 kg weight (eg 0.5 kg bag of rice) and then increased to a 1 kg weight (eg 1 kg bag of rice).


B. Prescribing intensity based on dyspnoea score

A dyspnoea score of 2 (“slight”) corresponds to 75% VO2 peak on an unsupported incremental arm exercise test.

Therefore, patients could be encouraged to exercise at this level of dyspnoea or slightly higher (i.e. dyspnoea scores of 2 to 3 – “slight” to “moderate).10