Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 30, Issue 7, pp 819–828 | Cite as

Feasibility of a machine vs free weight strength training program and its effects on physical performance in nursing home residents: a pilot study

Original Article



Resistance training holds promise for nursing home residents to prevent further disabilities, falls, and fractures. Free weight as well as machine training may offer an efficient option to improve physical performance, but the feasibility of these training regimes among elderly who require continuous institutional care is still open.


(1) To examine the feasibility of a 3-month machine vs. free weight strength training program in institutionalized older adults, and (2) to determine the effects on physical performance.


This study is a two-arm, single-blind, randomized controlled feasibility study within a nursing home. 45 institutionalized elderly men and women (aged 83.8 ± 8.0, 12 men, 33 women) were randomly divided into two groups. The two groups completed either a free weight (FWT) or machine training (MT) for 12 weeks, twice per week, 45–60 min per session, in an individually supervised format. Performance was assessed with the 11-step stair-climbing test, 10-m walk test, Timed Up and Go Test (TUG), 30-s Chair Rising Test (CRT), grip strength, body mass index.


Indices of feasibility showed a recruitment and adherence rate of 53.6 and 87.5%, respectively. 35.6% of the participants dropped out after several weeks for personal reasons, illness, medical visits, or hospital stays. After the program no significant differences on motor performance were found between MT and FWT. However, there were significant improvements for both training groups on the TUG and the CRT.


The present pilot study showed that it is feasible to conduct a strength training program in institutionalized participants. The more robust changes in motor function could serve as a basis for large randomized clinical trials.


Resistance training Muscle strength Elderly Nursing home 



The authors would like to acknowledge Boris Troll for his assistance with the supervision of the participants. Furthermore, we would like to thank the residents of the nursing home for their assistance and participation in this project.

Author contributions

BJ and NS contributed to the conception and the design of the experiment. Both authors analyzed and interpreted the data and prepared the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of human and animal rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


No commercial party having a direct financial interest in the results of the research supporting this article has or will confer a benefit on the author(s) or on any organization with which the author(s) is/are associated.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sport and Exercise ScienceUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

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