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01.12.2016 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 1/2016

Maximal strength training as physical rehabilitation for patients with substance use disorder; a randomized controlled trial

BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation > Ausgabe 1/2016
Runar Unhjem, Grete Flemmen, Jan Hoff, Eivind Wang
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

RU has contributed as main author of the paper as well as physical testing. GF has contributed with subject recruitment, training and physical testing. JH has contributed with study design and writing of the paper. EW has contributed with study design and writing of the paper. All authors have read and approved the final version of the manuscript.



Patients with substance use disorder (SUD) suffer from multiple health and psychosocial problems. Because poor physical capacities following an inactive lifestyle may indeed contribute to these problems, physical training is often suggested as an attractive supplement to conventional SUD treatment. Strength training is shown to increase muscle strength and effectively improve health and longevity. Therefore we investigated the feasibility and effect of a maximal strength training intervention for SUD patients in clinical treatment.


16 males and 8 females were randomized into a training group (TG) and a control group (CG). The TG performed lower extremities maximal strength training (85-90 % of 1 repetition maximum (1RM)) 3 times a week for 8 weeks, while the CG participated in conventional clinical activities.


The TG increased hack squat 1RM (88 ± 54 %), plantar flexion 1RM (26 ± 20 %), hack squat rate of force development (82 ± 29 %) and peak force (11 ± 5 %). Additionally, the TG improved neural function, expressed as voluntary V-wave (88 ± 83 %). The CG displayed no change in any physical parameters. The TG also reduced anxiety and insomnia, while the CG reduced anxiety.


Maximal strength training was feasible for SUD patients in treatment, and improved multiple risk factors for falls, fractures and lifestyle related diseases. As conventional treatment appears to have no effect on muscle strength, systematic strength training should be implemented as part of clinical practice.

Trial registration Identifier: NCT02218970 (August 14, 2014).
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