Perceptual effects and efficacy of intermittent or continuous blood flow restriction resistance training

P J Fitschen, B M Kistler, J H Jeong, H R Chung, P T Wu, M J Walsh, K R Wilund
Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging 2014, 34 (5): 356-63
Blood flow restriction (BFR) exercise may be an alternative form of resistance training; however, a side of effect of BFR resistance exercise is acute muscle pain. Typically, BFR exercise studies restrict blood flow with a cuff continuously during the exercise bout, including rest periods. However, others have used intermittent BFR where the cuff is inflated only during sets. We performed two studies to compare intermittent and continuous BFR exercise. In study one, eleven subjects randomly proceeded through three treatments of unilateral leg extensions to failure: (i) continuous BFR, (ii) intermittent BFR and (iii) control (exercise without BFR). Pain measurements were taken immediately after each set. In study two, subjects (n = 32) underwent a 5-week resistance training programme after random assignment to one of the three conditions. Lean mass and strength were assessed at baseline and after training. Continuous BFR resulted in significantly greater pain than intermittent BFR or control. Both BFR conditions resulted in significantly fewer repetitions to failure than control. This suggests that an acute bout of intermittent BFR exercise may produce as much muscle fatigue as an acute bout of continuous BFR exercise, but with less pain. With training, maximal knee extension (P = 0·033) and maximum knee flexion (P = 0·007) strength increased among all groups. There were no significant differences between groups in strength or lean mass. These results suggest that short-term low-load resistance training increases muscle strength to a similar extent as low-load resistance training without BFR.

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